MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Monday, September 4
Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images. Pictured: Pablo Lopez
After a week off last week, let's get back into the swing of these picks for the home stretch of the MLB season.
With September call-ups, there will be a handful of pitchers without sample sizes large enough to project most days.
As such, expect a smaller volume of picks — just three for the Labor Day slate.
The process is relatively simple. First, I start by assuming that the full game (implied) run totals for either team are roughly efficient. As mentioned above, that tends to be the case more often than not. This saves me the trouble of trying to predict the total runs scored in the game — and allows me to focus strictly on the "when" rather than "how many."
Next, I built a database of pitchers performance the first time through the order, relative to their overall stats. Since the latter is presumably baked into the full game total, I wanted to figure out if those runs are more likely to come early or late. Most — but not all — MLB starters do somewhat better early in games, but with some variance in just how much. The model uses xFIP (expected Fielding Independent Pitching) as the ERA predictor of choice.
That's only half of the equation, though, with the offenses making up the other half. To do this, I looked at what percentage of a team's total runs is produced by the top three batters in the lineup. While a first inning run scored, by definition, needs at least four hitters to come to the plate, one of the first three has to actually score it. The metric of choice here is wRC+, based on the projected lineup for the day from each team.
This is a bit of a tradeoff, as lineups (and run totals) can shift throughout the day, especially if significant contributors miss time. However, in my experience the inefficiency of the morning lines more than makes up for the leakage in the model. With that said, exercise caution if, say, Mike Trout is listed as questionable for the nights game.
With all of the picks below, I'll include the pick, the best line and the threshold I'd bet it to. These will go up in the morning, so if any major news breaks between publishing and when you read it, be sure to consider that.
Infrequently, rather than betting on the traditional YRFI/NRFI, the pick will be on one team or the other specifically to score a run, which as of this writing is only a betting option at DraftKings. Since the model handles each team individually, sometimes one team is projecting for a greater proportion of the "run equity" in the first inning than the betting lines are accounting for.
NRFI Odds, Picks for Monday, September 4
Kansas City Royals vs. Chicago White Sox YRFI: This is a tough one to project, as it features two poor offenses facing two very hittable pitchers. The 9.5-run total is a hint at what's likely to happen, though, and this line is in the -140 range at most other books, so we'll pick off the outlier when we can.
Texas Rangers vs. Houston Astros YRFI: Far better offenses at play here, with Houston ranking second in MLB against lefties and Texas fourth against righties. While the pitching is better than in the White Sox game, it's not nearly enough to cancel out these lineups.
Minnesota Twins vs. Cleveland Guardians NRFI: This one checks all the boxes: an eight run total, unimpressive offenses, and two solid starting pitchers. Lucas Gioltio and Pablo Lopez average a 3.33 ERA the first time through the order on the season.