MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Thursday, June 22
Denis Poroy/Getty Images. Pictured: Blake Snell
After a profitable Wednesday, we're back at it on Thursday's smaller slate. A few of these picks are for the early window, so be sure to get your bets in on time.
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 22
Braves vs. Phillies NRFI: I'm not quite sure why we're getting plus-money on this one at DraftKings. The no runs side is at least -115 everywhere else, and I'd even take it at those odds. Neither team is especially top heavy, and both pitchers have strong first time through the order splits this season.
Diamondbacks vs. Nationals YRFI: Another game where one sportsbook is considerably off the market, though less drastic than the example above. This game has a 9.5-run total with the over favored, making the -125 yes runs a solid pick on FanDuel. Neither pitcher is especially strong their first time through the order, and Arizona is a top-10 team in terms of the proportion of production from the top of the lineup.
Padres vs. Giants NRFI: This is a bit of a strength-on-strength matchup, with two top-heavy teams facing two starters with solid first time through the order splits. Good pitching beats good hitting more often than not though, and I'm willing to make that bet here at a low-juice price.