MLB NRFI Picks | Saturday Model Predictions

MLB NRFI Picks | Saturday Model Predictions article feature image

Elsa/Getty Images. Pictured: Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole.

  • With day and night games on Saturday's MLB slate, we have plenty of action to look forward to.
  • Billy Ward came through with seven NRFI/YRFI picks for Saturday's MLB games, beginning in the afternoon and rolling through the night.
  • Check out all seven first-inning MLB bets for Saturday, June 3, below.

Friday was a bit of a down day for the model, going 3-3 and paying the juice on our six-pack of MLB bets. Still, if that's a bad day, we're doing pretty well.

We're showing a ton of value on Saturday's 16-game slate, and be sure to get the bets in early — there's a mix of day and night games today.

The Model

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 night's game.

The Picks

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 Saturday, June 3

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox (Game 1) YRFI: The YRFI lines on this game are far cheaper than I expected given the strength of both offenses. Both teams rank top seven overall against right-handed pitching, and Tampa is also one of the more "top-heavy" offenses this season.

Chicago White Sox vs. Detroit Tigers YRFI: I'm playing the line more than the game here, as FanDuel is nearly 15 cents off any other book on the YRFI side. The model has this around 55% to score a run, with the majority of the equity on the White Sox side of the coin.

Washington Nationals vs. Philadelphia Phillies NRFI: These are the two lowest-ranked teams in baseball in terms of the percentage of their scoring produced by the top three hitters, which is why we're showing NRFI value for a second straight day. We got burned (surprisingly) by Washington yesterday, but in theory, more of the risk is on the Phillies side.

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates YRFI: There's likely to be some rain around game time, though a delay is far more likely than a PPD here. I haven't looked into how that could potentially impact the odds of a first-inning run, but my intuition is that disrupting the pitcher's routine is a boost to the YRFI. Regardless, this game has a 9.5-run total and is showing as a strong value relative to the BetMGM line, weather concerns aside.

Houston Astros vs. Los Angles Angels YRFI: Two of the better YRFI teams square off today, with the Astros as the most "top-heavy" offense in the league. I foolishly trusted the model instead of my gut yesterday and went with the NRFI, but Houston got to Ohtani in the first inning. I'm not making that mistake again today. We could also/instead bet the Astros-specific line at +190 on DraftKings.

Minnesota Twins vs. Cleveland Guardians NRFI: The Twins offense is fairly bad at the top (or "balanced," to put it nicely), while the Guardians offense is just plain bad. This game has a 7.5-run total for a reason.

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. New York Yankees YRFI: The Yankees have both Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge back in the top of their lineup, making them a better YRFI team than their numbers to date would imply. Those numbers still said this game is a YRFI value, thanks to a solid game total and the Dodgers starting Michael Grove.

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