MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Tuesday, April 18
Ben Ludeman/Texas Rangers/Getty Images. Pictured: Nathan Eovaldi
It’s an incredibly busy day in Major League Baseball on Tuesday. Thanks to a pair out postponements on Monday, we have a whopping 17 games on the slate, and my model is showing value on five different games in the Runs First Inning market.
Continue reading for a breakdown of how my model works, and at the bottom you’ll find recommended bets on those five games today, as well as my price targets for each.
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 DAY, DATE
San Francisco Giants vs. Miami Marlins NRFI: This is one of the lower total games on the slate at eight runs, with two pitchers who are solid the first time through the order. Two of the Marlins’ better top-of-the-order hitters (Jazz Chisholm Jr. and Luis Arraez) are on the wrong side of their platoon splits against Giants lefty starter Alex Wood.
Baltimore Orioles vs. Washington Nationals YRFI: Baltimore is one of the more top-heavy lineups in baseball, with most of their production coming from the first four hitters. Additionally, two of the weaker starting pitchers on the slate are in this game.
New York Yankees vs. Los Angeles Angels YRFI: Two of my favorite YRFI teams squaring off, with guaranteed at bats from Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and Aaron Judge, among others.
Minnesota Twins vs. Boston Red Sox YRFI: Chris Sale is starting for Boston, and he’s allowed first inning runs in two of three appearances so far. The only exception is the awful Tigers lineup — which got to him in the second. Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa hit lefties well, plus we have a solid projection on the Red Sox lineup as well.
Texas Rangers vs. Kansas City Royals YRFI: Not a huge edge, but this game has a nine-run total (juiced to the over) and even money on one of those to happen in the first inning.
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