MLB NRFI Picks Today | Sunday’s Model Predictions

MLB NRFI Picks Today | Sunday’s Model Predictions article feature image

Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images. Pictured: Tyler Wells of the Baltimore Orioles, who takes the mound in one of our best NRFI bets for Sunday, June 4 against the San Francisco Giants.

Despite the full slate of games we have just two bets for Sunday, as there's a slew of starting pitchers without enough data to feel comfortable enough projecting their first inning splits for our MLB NRFI picks today and Sunday's model prjections.

Make sure to jump on these early though, as one is from the 11:30 am Eastern game.

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 Sunday, June 4

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates YRFI: This one doesn't have a huge projection, but both pitchers have been below average the first time through the order and both teams are in the top half of the league in terms of the proportion of their offense provided from the first three hitters. Two of the Cardinals first four hitters (Arenado and Goldschmidt) also have excellent platoon splits against lefties. Getting this at plus-money feels like a bit of a gift.

San Francisco Giants vs. Baltimore Orioles NRFI: An eight run total and two arms with solid first time through the order splits. That's more than enough to make up for the fact that both offenses are above-average.

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