MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Thursday, August 3
Kyle Rivas/Getty Images. Pictured: Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias.
We had a solid Wednesday, going 4-2, including a win on the single-team YRFI. We have four more picks on Thursday, and hopefully, we can end up with a similar result.
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.
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, August 3
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Baltimore Orioles NRFI: Kevin Gausman and new Oriole Jack Flaherty are two of the league's better pitchers, with solid stats the first time through the order, particularly for Flaherty. With an eight-run total, this is a solid line on the NRFI.
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Minnesota Twins NRFI: The Twins are starting Sonny Gray, a rock-solid overall pitcher with even better numbers early in the game. Cardinals starter Matthew Liberatore is far less impressive, but Minnesota is one of the few teams in baseball with considerably worse numbers against left-handed pitching (wRC+ of 83 compared to 108 against righties).
Los Angeles Angels vs. Seattle Mariners NRFI: While we tend to lean toward YRFI bets with the Angels, the low total in this game and excellent splits the first time through the order from both pitchers have us going the other direction.
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Oakland A's YRFI: The vast majority of the value is on the Dodgers' side of this one, but that's been appropriately priced into their team-specific line. Dodgers starter Julio Urias has a 6.90 ERA his first time through the order, so I prefer the full-game YRFI on the off chance the A's get on the board at home.