MLB NRFI Picks & Model Predictions for Wednesday

MLB NRFI Picks & Model Predictions for Wednesday article feature image

Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images. Pictured: Luis Castillo (Mariners)

We had a tough break yesterday, as Oakland got the leadoff runner to third but failed to get him home even with no outs.

That turned a winning day into a losing one.

Sometimes those breaks go our way instead of against us, so let's hope today falls into that category with five more picks.

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 Wednesday, July 19

Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Cleveland Guardians YRFI: Guardians starter Aaron Civale has one of the worst first time through-the-order splits in the majors, which is enough to push the value towards the YRFI even with two middling teams in offensive splits.

Baltimore Orioles vs. Los Angeles Dodgers YRFI: I thought we'd have to pay a lot more juice to get the YRFI in this game. We have a total that's 9.5 on some books, two pitchers who are worse their first time through the order and the best lineup in baseball in terms of production from the first three hitters.

Houston Astros Team Specific YRFI: The full-game YRFI is juiced enough to be unplayable. However, the Astros are actually a better price than the Rockies, despite having a higher implied total and far better projections in my model. Houston is a top-five offense in terms of production from its first three hitters. As always with the team-specific lines, bet it at half of your usual unit.

Atlanta Braves vs. Arizona Diamondbacks NRFI: These teams combined for 29 total runs — including seven in the first inning — yesterday. Books seem to have overcorrected a bit, with big plus-money on the NRFI today. I have this one as a bit over 50% for a run — but with a solid value at the current odds. Play this one for half of a unit, as well.

Seattle Mariners vs. Minnesota Twins NRFI: We're getting a pretty solid line considering the 7.5-run total in this game. Both offenses rank near the bottom of the league in terms of production from their first three hitters, and both starters have good-not-great early-game splits.

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