MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Thursday, May 25

MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Thursday, May 25 article feature image

Alika Jenner/Getty Images. Pictured: Logan Gilbert

We had a rather quiet 2-2 day yesterday, booking a slight loss for the first time on the week.

Variance worked against us, as the Dodgers got their first two hitters on in a game where we had the YRFI, but failed to get either across the plate.

Lets get back to winning today, with three picks on the smaller MLB 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 nights 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, May 25th

Cincinnati Reds vs. St. Louis Cardinals YRFI: I'm pretty surprised by this line given the 10-run game total today, since logically you'd expect more innings than not will have at least one run scored. Especially the first inning, since both teams rank in the top-12 in terms of production from their first three hitters.

Toronto Blue Jays vs. Tampa Bay Rays YRFI: This game doesn't project quite as strongly as the one above — but we're getting a better price. Two more above-average teams in terms of the share of their production generated by the top of the lineup, facing off against two pitchers with below-average first time through the order splits.

Seattle Mariners vs. Oakland Athletics NRFI: The NRFI lines are very generous today considering the 7.5-run total on the game. Both teams involved also rank near the bottom in the chunk of their production from the top three hitters, as well as Oakland's lineup just being bad in general.

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