We don’t have too many baseball weekends left, so settle in for another Saturday of ballgames across the nation, including some pivotal ones as playoff races finally hurtle to a conclusion. There’s tons of value on the board in Saturday’s 16- game slate- yes, you read that right- 16 games, every team is action and two will enjoy a doubleheader- so let’s go find some value in No Run First Inning (NRFI) and Yes Run First Inning (YRFI) props in the games on 9/16/2023 and make some predictions.
Atlanta Braves vs. Miami Marlins YRFI (-120)
Starting Pitchers: LHP Jared Shuster (4-3, 5.26 ERA) vs. RHP Bryan Hoeing (2-2, 4.04 ERA)
Let’s dive right into an offense-heavy slate with a YRFI that I feel excellent about. This one features the Atlanta Braves, the best team in the league by most accounts, and absolutely the league’s best first inning offense. The top of their lineup is positively stacked, featuring MVP frontrunner Ronald Acuña Jr., MLB home run leader Matt Olson, who has already slugged 51, and an additional two players beyond those two who have gone deep over 34 times, not to mention Ozzie Albies close by with 29.
They will be facing Bryan Hoeing, a rookie who has shown some good flashes at times for the Marlins, but has tossed an 8.53 ERA in the first inning, not exactly what you want to see when facing this Atlanta juggernaut. Atlanta’s own pitcher, Jared Shuster, is also a rookie who is still settling into the majors. He’s been less effective than Hoeing overall, but slightly less of a disaster to start games off with a 7.20 first inning ERA. Of course, that still isn’t a good figure, and while the Marlins lineup has not been a first-inning juggernaut, he gives them a good chance to score some runs in their half of the inning too.
New York Yankees vs. Pittsburgh Pirates YRFI (-120)
Starting Pitchers: RHP Luke Weaver (2-5, 6.77 ERA) vs. RHP Luis Ortiz (4-4, 4.66 ERA)
This matchup doesn’t feature a lineup that has been consistently strong like Atlanta’s, but the Yankees’ best few bats have been heating up. Aaron Judge just broke out of a slump with a huge grand slam in Fenway Park, followed by a three-hit outing in PIttsburgh, DJ LeMahieu is rounding back into form in a big way, and Gleyber Torres has been ripping the cover off the ball since the start of August en route to another quietly strong season. The other good news for a YRFI here is that this starting pitching matchup features two of the least-effective early game arms in the majors.
The Yankees will be trotting out Luke Weaver who will be making his team debut. He’s been terrible so far this year, mostly with the Reds, and has been especially brutal in the first inning where he’s earned an almost-unbelievable 11.86 ERA across more than 20 starts. He’s going up against Luis Ortiz, who has been better in the first inning but very far from good with a 7.62 ERA, and that mark gets even worse in the second, so he struggles mightily getting settled into games. These offenses aren’t among the league’s best in the first inning, but with two pitchers who have been all over the place to open games, the YRFI here is some excellent value.
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Baltimore Orioles NRFI (-130)
Starting Pitchers: RHP Tyler Glasnow (9-5, 3.15 ERA) vs. RHP Grayson Rodriguez (5-4, 4.88 ERA)
Ironically enough, the sole NRFI in our slate actually comes in a very solid offensive matchup, between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Baltimore Orioles. Of course, it also happens to be an outstanding starting pitching matchup, at least in terms of first inning performance, and great pitching almost outweighs great hitting. Tampa will be throwing Tyler Glasnow, who came back strong after missing some time with an injury. He’s been especially strong to start games off, as he has a clean 2.00 ERA across 18 first innings. He’ll be facing an Orioles lineup that has been just about league average in the first inning, and has been cooling down a bit of late.
Tampa’s first inning offense is also trending down a bit, and has an interesting test in facing Orioles rookie Grayson Rodriguez. The advanced metrics are a bit split on the youngster, his fastball has great velocity but not the best run value, while his off-speed pitches do better in the latter category. He’s also struggled with getting length, as he starts to have a tough time starting in the fourth inning, but he’s been very solid with a 3.60 ERA in the first inning, and similar figures in the second and third. He might not throw a shutout, but I believe in him to get those first three outs against Tampa.
Washington Nationals vs. Milwaukee Brewers YRFI (-120)
Starting Pitchers: RHP Trevor Williams (6-10, 5.44 ERA) vs. RHP Corbin Burnes (9-8, 3.47 ERA)
Our final play of the day will be one you might not expect, as it features perennial Cy Young candidate Corbin Burnes in a YRFI, but he’s been secretly shaky in the first inning with a 4.66 ERA, even as he’s had a pretty good season overall. Interestingly enough, even post-trade deadline, the Nationals have retained their positioning as a premier first-inning offense in the majors, as they currently sit sixth on the list, with almost no drop off when going on the road.
The Brewers have had a pretty good first inning offense themselves, 12th in all of baseball. They’re pushing hard right now to seal the NL Central as they’ve begun to pull away from the Cubs, but still have yet to completely shut the door. They’ll be facing Trevor Williams, who has had a really tough year and has been even worse in the first with a 6.75 ERA. This one is a pretty classic, simple play; two offenses that can rip in the first innings, and two pitchers who are woefully under equipped to stop them from doing so, it’s pretty good YRFI value at -120 and rounds out a nice slate for us this Saturday.