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We had a strong start to the week yesterday, going 3-1 plus one pick voided due to a rain out.

Hopefully all five of our picks for today are played on a busy Tuesday in baseball.

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 Tuesday, August 8

Detroit Tigers vs. Minnesota Twins NRFI: Two bad offenses meet in this one, with the Twins as the rare team with significantly worse splits against left-handed pitching. They face lefty Eduardo Rodriguez today, who has excellent first-time-through-the-order splits as well.

Tampa Bay Rays vs. St. Louis Cardinals YRFI: On the opposite end of the spectrum, this game features two pitchers with slightly worse numbers their first time through the order than overall. The Rays are also one of the more “top heavy” teams in baseball, which adds to this projection.

Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Atlanta Braves NRFI: I’m usually not in the business of taking NRFIs in games with a 10-run total, but this one has a chance. Both teams are average or below in production from their top three hitters (in the case of Atlanta, that’s as a share of total runs rather than overall).

More importantly, both pitchers have excellent first-time-through-the-order numbers, so the runs are likelier to come late. I’d play this one at half of your usual unit, as it’s about a 50/50 bet but with solidly plus-money.

Boston Red Sox vs. Kansas City Royals YRFI: Another game with a 10-run total, but this time we’re on the YRFI. The high total does most of the work here, but it helps that both pitchers are well below average in their first-time-through-the-order splits.

Cleveland Guardians vs. Toronto Blue Jays NRFI: There’s a bit of risk on the Blue Jays’ side, but I generally like NRFIs where only one team has much chance of scoring. It also helps that Toronto is a very balanced offense, with its runs nearly as likely to be produced by the bottom of its lineup.

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