MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Thursday, May 18
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images. Pictured: Julio Urias
We turned a nice profit on Wednesday going 2-1 with the only loss being a long shot team-specific bet.
Let’s keep the momentum going today with three more picks on a smaller travel day slate.
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.
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, May 18
Baltimore Orioles vs. Los Angeles Angels NRFI: I don’t love playing NRFIs on either of these teams, but the FanDuel line is good enough to take a swing today. I have this one at around 45% chance of a first inning run, so the even-money odds are a reasonable value.
Toronto Blue Jays vs. New York Yankees YRFI: The Yankees’ offense is a bit disappointing, ranking league-average in wRC+ on the season. However, their top three hitters account for more than 44% of their production, third highest in the league. Paired with Toronto’s solid platoon splits against lefties and a nine run total, and this one projects well better than the current line.
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers YRFI: This one projects even better than the Yankees game, with both teams ranking top-seven in proportion of production from the top three hitters.
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