MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Friday, August 18

We took the day off yesterday, with no games showing enough value to be worth playing on what ended up being a five-game slate.

We’re back at it today with four picks, including one for BetMGM’s NRFI Fridays promo.

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 Friday, August 18

Detroit Tigers vs. Cleveland Guardians Game 1 NRFI: The aforementioned BetMGM Friday NRFI pick, this game has an eight-run implied total and two pitchers with excellent numbers their first time through the order. If you have access to the promo, the “insurance” is well worth paying for the slightly worse line there.

Houston Astros vs. Seattle Mariners NRFI: Another game where both pitchers do their best work at the start of games. This one has a slightly higher total at 8.5, but that’s made up for by the less juicy line on the NRFI.

Los Angeles Angels vs. Tampa Bay Rays YRFI: This is a solid line considering the 9.5-run total, as well as the top-heavy nature of both offenses. They’re both within the top-six in production share from their first three hitters, even when only using data from after Mike Trout’s injury. It’s a pretty small sample size on Rays starter Erasmo Ramirez, but everything else is pointing in the right direction which makes it worth the risk.

Oakland Athletics vs. Baltimore Orioles NRFI: Oakland is yet to officially name a starter, with my projections based on Luis Medina’s numbers. I’m showing a value here, despite him having below-average splits his first time through the order. In theory, at least, an opener in front of him would only increase the value on the NRFI side here.

Pick: Orioles-Athletics NRFI

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