MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Wednesday, June 28
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images. Pictured: Yankees pitcher Domingo German.
Well, Tuesday didn't go our way, with a scratched starter in one game and plenty of second-inning runs in games where we took the YRFI.
Predicting scoring in a specific inning is always a volatile bet, so let's hope the variance swings back on Wednesday.
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 Wednesday, June 28
Baltimore Orioles vs. Cincinnati Reds YRFI: Both pitchers have solid splits the first time through the order, but that's more than accounted for by the 9.5-run implied total and strong offenses. Both lineups rank inside the top 10 in production from their first three hitters — plus, Elly De La Cruz batting fourth certainly helps as well.
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Houston Astros YRFI: While this game features two solid starters, both have poor splits their first time through the order. We've also got two of the better offenses in the league — both overall and in terms of the top of their lineups. This is projecting a bit better than the Reds/Orioles game, so getting a better line is a gift.
Chicago Cubs vs. Philadelphia Phillies NRFI: Aaron Nola has excellent early game splits, and the Cubs are starting lefty Drew Smyly. That's a boost to the NRFI, as the Phillies are one of a handful of teams who hit lefties worse than righties. Both of their left-handed hitters are also in the top four of their lineup, which also helps.
Oakland A's vs. New York Yankees YRFI: I've been avoiding Yankee YRFIs without Aaron Judge, but this one is too good to pass up. They're far better against left-handed pitching than right-handed, especially at the top of the lineup. Oakland also provides a reasonable threat to score here, as New York starter Domingo German has bad splits the first time through the order .