Handicapping MLB Playoff Races
This week has been pivotal for a lot of teams chasing playoff hopes, and the MLB playoffs have a bunch of intriguing storylines that have only grown more intense in the last month or so. Let’s break down what is going on in each race and who I like to win each based on their current odds.
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NL East Race
It’s been clear that the NL East would come down to the wire for a while now, and no team has been willing to take the opportunity and run with it. The Phillies are the healthiest team of the 3, but they are now 3.5 games back of the Braves and 1 game up on the Mets. The Phillies have the easiest schedule left in all of baseball, and their stars need to show up in a big way for them to make the playoffs against ailing Braves and Mets teams that are both missing their best players.
The Braves were trading wins and losses for a while before going on 9-1 in their last ten and trying to make a move in the division. With the Phillies and Mets both 4-6 in their last ten, they’ve made a major move, and their schedule is nothing too difficult moving forward. While the Braves have the lead right now, I’m going to take the Phillies at +165 with the schedule and health advantage here.
The Yankees have gained 11.5 games on the Red Sox since July 6th and now move into second place in the AL East after a 2-day, 3-game sweep of the Red Sox in Yankee Stadium. The Yankees are getting healthier, and we should expect a fully healthy lineup by next week and a rotation that adds back Domingo German and Corey Kluber in the near future.
The Rays are still heavy favorites here, but I absolutely love the Yankees at +330 here. I threw a bet on New York at +700 weeks ago, and this number is still just not giving enough respect to the lineup. If you told me I had to pick a day that the Yankees won’t be favored the rest of the season, I would struggle to do so.
Their schedule isn’t that easy, but this offense and pitching staff would be favorites in every series except one vs the Dodgers if they are at full health, and that’s where I expect them to be. Take the odds and run here, especially with the Rays having a very tough schedule down the stretch.
This isn’t as exciting as the first 2 races to me because I think that you have to roll with the favorite here with the Astros at -550. The Astros have the easiest schedule in the AL the rest of the way, and the A’s have the toughest, which includes their next 3 series vs the Giants, Mariners, and Yankees in the next week or so.
AL Wild Card
The Red Sox are collapsing, and they do not have the pitching staff to catch themselves. I expect them to continue to struggle relative to their hot start, and that means that I expect someone else to jump up and catch them. Heck, I think that the A’s are vulnerable too with their tough schedule.
The Blue Jays are the best roster not named the Yankees in the wildcard picture, and they are the bet here at +200 to make the 10-team playoff field. The Jays have the pitching and the hitting to go on a tear at any point, and I cannot say that about the Athletics, Red Sox, or Mariners.
We are simply betting on talent here 3 games back of the Giants. The Dodgers have one of the most impressive rosters in major league history based on name value, and while they are not running on all cylinders right now, they have more than enough in the tank to overtake the Giants in the division. The Giants have the second hardest schedule of any NL playoff teams outside of the Padres, and this is a team that I could see getting cold at any point.
They have had good contributions from the entire roster, making them a great team, but I cannot sit here today and suggest that the Giants are the best team in baseball from a roster standpoint, even if their record suggests otherwise. Take the Dodgers at -120.
NL Wild Card
This one is very interesting because there are teams lurking like the Cardinals, Phillies, and Mets that could all make a run. We could also see the Braves end up here if the Phillies overtake them in the NL East.
The Padres have the toughest schedule of any playoff-hopeful team, and the Reds have one of the easier schedules to conclude the season. That being said, I like sprinkling on a long shot here with the Cardinals. This lineup is scarier than most realize, and the pitching is getting a bit healthier with Jack Flaherty returning and Miles Mikolas on his way back. If they can solidify the starting pitching, I won’t hate getting +900 on a team just 4 games back with over a month to play. I love those odds for St. Louis.
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