MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Tuesday, July 4
Via Tim Warner/Getty Images. Pictured: Lucas Giolito #27 of the Chicago White Sox pitches in the first inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on April 01, 2023 in Houston, Texas.
We had a frustrating start to the week on Monday, going 2-3 with all of our losses coming on YRFI bets. All three of those games featured a run in the second inning, so we were close to a massive day considering the +195 win on the Padres. Such is the nature of the beast with a high-variance bet like this — let's hope that variance swings back our way today.
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 Tuesday, July 4
New York Yankees vs. Baltimore Orioles NRFI: This one is projecting a hair under 50%, but we can continue to mentally adjust the Yankees down a bit until the return of Aaron Judge. That gives us a bit more edge here, especially considering the plus-money at DraftKings.
Miami Marlins vs. St. Louis Cardinals NRFI: While Adam Wainwright has been bad overall this season, he generally has a couple of strong innings in him. His ERA is 3.92 his first time through the order, giving him some of the more drastic splits of any pitcher. Jesus Luzardo on the other side has similar splits and much better overall numbers.
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Philadelphia Phillies NRFI: Rays-Phillies is another matchup with two solid starting pitchers. Aaron Nola hasn't been great overall, but like Wainwright, he can usually get through the order at least once without much issue — and the game has just an eight-run total.
Houston Astros vs. Colorado Rockies YRFI: Our lone YRFI play of the day features the Astros on the right side of their platoon splits against a bad pitcher in Kyle Freeland. They provide most of the value here, so going Astros team-specific at +175 would make sense as well, though the math slightly prefers the full-game line at Caesars.
San Diego Padres vs. Los Angeles Angels NRFI: It's a little scary taking a NRFI when we know we have to get through at-bats from Mike Trout and Shoehei Ohtani. Still, we've got two top pitchers on the hill today in Joe Musgrove and Ohtani, both of whom have excellent first time through the order splits to go with their strong overall numbers.
Chicago White Sox vs. Toronto Blue Jays NRFI: Toronto has been a disappointment this year offensively, both overall and at the top of their lineup. With strong first time through the order splits from both starters, that's enough to take the NRFI today.