MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Tuesday, August 22
Orlando Ramirez/Getty Images. Pictured: Zac Gallen
With one of our picks canceled due to a rainout, we ended up 1-1 with our NRFI picks on Monday.
Tuesday is a bigger slate, though, with four total bets and every MLB team in action.
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 Tuesday, August 22
New York Yankees vs. Washington Nationals YRFI: Yankees starter Carlos Rodon has been awful this year, with an overall ERA of 7.33 and a first-time-through-the-order ERA of 9.00. Additionally, the Nationals are much better against left-handed pitching than righties. Of course, the bigger value is on the other side, with the Yankees' powerful top of the lineup.
Cleveland Guardians vs. Los Angeles Dodgers YRFI: Similar to the Yankees game, we have a team in the Dodgers that is always somewhat likely to score early thanks to a star-studded top of the lineup. Just like that game, the less-heralded offense has a reasonable shot as well, thanks to a matchup with the Dodgers' Bobby Miller and his underwhelming first time through the order splits.
Chicago White Sox vs. Seattle Mariners NRFI: We lost this pick yesterday, in what was a mistake in retrospect based on limited sample sizes from the starters. That's not the case today, with both Bryan Woo and Mike Clevinger having solid early game splits – and a sample size we can feel good about.
Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Texas Rangers YRFI: While the 8.5-run total isn't especially high, both teams rank in the top third in terms of production share from the first three hitters, while both pitchers rank slightly below average in first-time-through-the-order splits. That's enough for me given the low-juice line on offer.