NRFI Picks Today, MLB Model Predictions for Thursday, May 4

NRFI Picks Today, MLB Model Predictions for Thursday, May 4 article feature image

Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images. Pictured: Twins pitcher Pablo Lopez.

Wednesday was a rough one, with Atlanta and Miami combining for nine runs through two innings in a game we took the YRFI — with none of them coming in the first. The Tigers also burned our NRFI in that game, a surprising result from one of the league's worst offenses.

Let's turn it around today, with three picks on a lighter 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 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, May 4

Washington Nationals vs. Chicago Cubs NRFI: Similar to the Mariners-A's game yesterday, this one projects as a decent edge but with the risk concentrated on one team. This time, it's the Cubs, who are roughly twice as likely to score in the first inning as Washington. It would make sense to hedge this bet with a sprinkle on the Cubs-specific YRFI on DraftKings at +220.

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Angels YRFI: Two of our favorite YRFI teams in one game — a contest that has an 8.5-run total. Both pitchers involved have been slightly below average the first time through the order, and both offenses rank inside the top 10 in proportion of their scoring produced by the first three hitters.

Chicago White Sox vs. Minnesota Twins NRFI: This is the inverse of the above — two pitchers with above-average splits their first time through the order and two offenses near the bottom in proportion of their runs produced by the top of the order.

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