MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Thursday, June 1
Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images. Pictured: Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale.
Our busy Wednesday paid off in a big way, with a 5-2 overall record and a successful team-specific YRFI bet. Thursday has just three picks on a lighter slate but still gives us some chances to keep the ball rolling.
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, June 1
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Milwaukee Brewers YRFI: Most of the value is on the Blue Jays side here since Brewers starter Freddy Peralta has been bad this year and Toronto is implied for more than five runs. However, Milwaukee is projected for a surprising amount of equity too. While Toronto starter Kevin Gausman is awesome, he's actually been slightly worse his first time through the order relative to his overall numbers.
Still, if this line moves much from the even money it's listed at this morning, I'd pivot to the Blue Jays-specific line on DraftKings.
Miami Marlins vs. San Diego Padres NRFI: I fudged the numbers a bit toward the YRFI side and still am showing massive value on the NRFI in this game. Both pitchers have been lights-out their first time through the order, and Miami's top of the lineup is worse than the full-season stats imply since it's without star Jazz Chisholm for the foreseeable future.
Boston Red Sox vs. Cincinnati Reds NRFI: Reds starter Hunter Greene is a case study in what my model is trying to project. He has a 4.18 ERA overall this season, but that mark sits at 1.96 his first time through the order. With Boston starter Chris Sale settling in nicely following a rocky start to the season, this one is a solid value despite the nine-run total.