MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Thursday, April 20

MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Thursday, April 20 article feature image

Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images. Pictured: Kodai Senga

Thursday's are traditionally on the quieter side for MLB, and today is no exception. There's just seven games on the slate, but fortunately we're showing a value on first inning bets in three of them.

Take some extra caution with the pair of YRFI bets, as there's an increased chance that some of the star hitters at the tops of their respective lineups will get the day off.

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 nights 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 Thursday, April 20th

Minnesota Twins vs. Boston Red Sox YRFI: This game has a total of nine and features two of the more top-heavy lineups in the league. Twins starter Kenta Maeda was out of baseball in 2022 so we're primarily working with 2021 stats, but he has been one of the rare pitchers who actually performs slightly worse the first time through the order compared to his overall numbers. This one still shows as a slight value even if we give him league-average numbers though.

New York Yankees vs. Los Angeles Angels YRFI: We've bet and won the YRFI in both games of this series so far, and are getting an even better line today. The Angels are a borderline auto-bet YRFI team at this line unless they're facing an opponent's ace, with the Yankees providing a lot of equity here, too.

San Francisco Giants vs. New York Mets NRFI: This one is projecting as a solid value, though a bit fragile thanks to limited data on Mets starter Kodai Sengai. Still, we have an 8.5-run total, two above-average starters and solid weather for pitchers, making this worth the risk.

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