We went 1-2 on Thursday‘s smaller slate, our first day this week with more losses than wins.
We have three more bets on Friday, but because a fair number of rookies and openers are featured on today’s slate, we don’t have large enough sample sizes to comfortably project many of today’s starters in the models.
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.
Kansas City Royals vs. Washington Nationals YRFI: The Nationals are starting Patrick Corbin tonight, who’s been better in his past few starts. I’m not buying it, though, and the Royals have hit left-handed pitching considerably better this year. This is a case of bad offense vs. bad pitching, but the nine-run total is a hint at what side is likeliest to win out.
Los Angeles Angels vs. Miami Marlins YRFI: This is another nine-run total, with two of the top teams in terms of the proportion of their offense supplied by the first three hitters. This game also has two lefty starters, and both teams are top-10 overall offenses against southpaws by wRC+.
Oakland A’s vs. Houston Astros YRFI: The top of the Astros’ lineup is a brutal matchup for any pitcher, with Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez all guaranteed first-inning at-bats. Oakland provides a bit of value here as well, with Houston starter Hunter Brown struggling a bit his first time through the order despite strong overall numbers.
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