MLB NRFI Odds & Picks: Predictions, Projections for 4 Thursday Games

MLB NRFI Odds & Picks: Predictions, Projections for 4 Thursday Games article feature image

Bailey Hillesheim/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: White Sox Dylan Cease.

  • There are only five games on Thursday's MLB slate, but Billy Ward's model likes an NRFI/YRFI pick for four of them.
  • Ward has NRFI/YRFI picks for White Sox vs. Guardians, Mets vs. Nationals and both Tigers vs. Angels games.
  • Check out all four of Ward's NRFI/YRFI picks for Thursday's MLB games below.

We cooled off a bit on Wednesday, going 2-2 for a slight loss for our first down day in a while. Let's get back in the profitable column today, with bets on nearly every game on Thursday's light slate.

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 Thursday, July 27

Los Angeles Angels (Game 1) YRFI: The Angels are starting Shohei Ohtani on the mound in Game 1, which gives the Tigers a fairly meager projection. The Angels, though, have over a 33% chance of scoring a run in the first frame against Michael Lorenzen, giving this value down to +200.

Los Angeles Angels vs. Detroit Tigers (Game 2) YRFI: Both teams are projecting better for the second game, as Detroit is much better against southpaws and is facing left-hander Patrick Sandoval. The Angels have a strong projection here as well against Matt Manning. Manning has been one of the luckiest pitchers in baseball so far, with a 3.19 ERA but a 5.49 xFIP.

New York Mets vs. Washington Nationals YRFI: The Mets are implied for over five runs here, which bolsters their side of the projections. They're also starting Kodai Senga, who has some of the worst splits the first time through the order in baseball, giving the Nats a decent chance of scoring here, too.

Chicago White Sox vs. Cleveland Guardians NRFI: We have two bottom-10 offensive units against righties, taking on right-handed pitchers with strong splits the first time through the order. We couldn't ask for much more on an NRFI pick.

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