Football season has begun, the leaves are starting to change and you can even smell the pumpkin spice in the air. That means October has arrived, and with it, playoff baseball. Let’s dive right into the MLB playoff bracket and World Series odds to identify the sharpest picks and predictions for this year’s playoff action. Are the Atlanta Braves for real? I think so, but let’s talk about why.
MLB Playoff & World Series Odds, Picks & Predictions | October 3
MLB Playoff Bracket
MLB playoff matchups are officially set 🍿 pic.twitter.com/kst6Yj6l7O
— ESPN (@espn) October 1, 2023
MLB World Series Odds
Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook
Atlanta Braves: +310
Los Angeles Dodgers: +450
Houston Astros: +450
Baltimore Orioles: +700
Tampa Bay Rays: +1000
Philadelphia Phillies: +1300
Toronto Blue Jays: +1600
Texas Rangers: +1600
Milwaukee Brewers: +1700
Minnesota Twins: +2000
Arizona D-backs: +3000
Miami Marlins: +3500
MLB Playoff Picks & Predictions
Don’t Over Think It: Buy the Braves
The Atlanta Braves are the best team in baseball. Their electric offense leads the league in expected weighted on-base average, or xwOBA, by 0.02 over the next-best Los Angeles Dodgers. That’s a bigger gap than the one the Dodgers hold over the 14th-ranked New York Mets. The pitching staff leaves something to be desired, but the difference between Atlanta’s xwOBA and xwOBA allowed is still +0.05, which is still .002 better than the rest of the MLB.
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Atlanta’s path to the World Series includes an NLDS matchup with an NL East foe, either the Philadelphia Phillies or the Miami Marlins, followed by a likely NLCS matchup with the second-best team in baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers. As for the first matchup, Atlanta went a dominant 35-17 in NL East play this year, going 8-5 against the Phillies and 9-4 against the Marlins. However, the Braves lost the season series to the Dodgers, 5-2.
But unfortunately for the Dodgers, their playoff pitching rotation is pretty awful. LHP Clayton Kershaw (3.79 xERA) is still here, but LHP Julio Urias (4.16 xERA) is gone. Other members of their Opening Day rotation, namely RHP Noah Syndergaard and RHP Dustin May, flamed out or got hurt. They’re left with RHP Bobby Miller (3.43 xERA), RHP Lance Lynn (4.83 xERA) and likely RHP Emmet Sheehan (3.48 xERA) to fill out the rotation.
Atlanta’s rotation has dealt with injuries all year, but the unit is getting healthy at the right time. The Braves will likely roll with RHP Spencer Strider (3.02 xERA), LHP Max Fried (2.73 xERA) and RHP Bryce Elder (4.51 xERA). RHP Charlie Morton (4.67 xERA) may also return in time for the best-of-seven NLCS. Atlanta’s bullpen could use some work, but the high-powered offense should bail the Braves out of some jams.
MLB Playoff Pick: Atlanta NL +145 at DraftKings & World Series +310 at DraftKings
Sell the Astros & Orioles — Buy the Rays
The NL may feature two cut-and-dry favorites, but the AL does not. The two teams to receive a bye, the Baltimore Orioles and Houston Astros, are outperforming expectations. The O’s net xwOBA differential of 0 is the worst of any AL playoff team. But because Baltimore’s pitching staff recorded a wOBA allowed of only .305, which ranked eighth, despite their xwOBA allowed of .318, which ranked 15th, Baltimore secured a bye. The Stros’ .01 in the metric is the third-worst of all AL playoff teams.
Enter the Tampa Bay Rays. Although they’re only a Wild Card team, the Rays were the fourth-winningest team in baseball this season, missing the 100-win cutoff by a single game. They’ll have home-field advantage for the three-game series against the Texas Rangers, which means a lot — Tampa went an MLB-best 53-28 at home this year, while Texas went only 40-41 on the road. The Rays then draw the Orioles, who they went only 5-8 against in the regular season, but Baltimore’s lack of playoff experience could prove costly.
Tampa Bay’s elite pitching staff makes them a better-equipped playoff team than any of their AL rivals. The club’s playoff rotation of RHP Tyler Glasnow (3.61 xERA), RHP Zach Eflin (3.09 xERA) RHP Aaron Civale (3.69 xERA). Either RHP Zack Littell (4.16 xERA) or RHP Taj Bradley (4.51 xERA) would make a more-than-capable fourth starter. With odds as long as +550 to win the AL this season, the Rays are a sharp bet to make the World Series. Lock this one in before they inevitably wax a regressing RHP Nathan Eovaldi and the Rangers in the Wild Card round.
MLB Playoff Pick: Tampa Bay AL +550 at FanDuel
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