The MLB playoffs begin in two weeks and, while the races for the second Wild Card sports will come down to the final weekend, the bulk of the postseason field is already locked in. Hopefully the incredible start by the LA Dodgers or the record-breaking win streak for the Cleveland Indians helped keep you engaged during the 162-game regular season, because the pennant races were anything but dramatic.
With eight of ten postseason berths all but set in stone, is there betting value in wagering on the playoffs now? Let’s breakdown the NL today, and we’ll check on the AL next week. Head on over to Bovada or one of our other top-rated betting sites to make your wagers.
The Dodgers are massive 7/5 favorites to win the National League playoffs. They built themselves such a big lead in the the regular season that not even an 11-game losing streak put their home-field advantage in jeopardy. They remain 5.5 games up on the Nationals and will be the top seed in the NL, meaning they’ll face the winner of the Wild Card game, while the Nats and Cubs square off in the other best-of-five NLDS.
Arizona will host the one-game Wild Card playoff, likely against Colorado, with the winner heading to Southern California. The Diamondbacks went 11-8 against LA this season, but picking a Wild Card to win the pennant is crazy since they have roughly a 50/50 shot of going home after one game.
The Dodgers have been penciled in as the NL champs for months, and all summer long, I have preferred Chicago.
Simply put, 7/5 is a ridiculous number compared to the Nats at 33/10 and the Cubs at 7/2. The Dodgers have been in the playoffs each of the last four years and the best they’ve done is win two games in the NLCS. Clayton Kershaw is 4-7 over 18 career postseason appearances with a 4.55 ERA. Rich Hill gave up five runs in 13 innings during last season’s playoffs, his first shot at the postseason since 2007. Yu Darvish is 0-2 in two career playoff games, allowing eight runs in 11.2 innings.
LA ranks fifth in the NL in scoring, and 11th in batting average. They must win on the mound. Their arms are terrific in the regular season, but based on track-record are vulnerable in the postseason.
The next time the Nats win a playoff series will also be the first. Washington has fallen in the Division Series three times in the past five years, and when the franchise was in Montreal, the Expos lone postseason appearance resulted in a five-game loss to the Dodgers in 1981. This year’s Nationals feature aces Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. Scherzer is an average 4-4 with a 3.74 career postseason mark. His last two trips to the postseason have seen three starts, no wins, two losses, and 10 runs in 19.1 innings. Strasburg lost his only postseason start, but pitched well in 2014.
Unlike LA and Washington, who each have checkered recent playoff performances, the Cubs were the best team all of last season, overcame adversity in the playoffs, and brought the franchise their first World Series title in a century. Chicago has not been great for much of this year, but like the Cleveland Cavaliers, they haven’t needed to be. Their weak division gave them time to get over a World Series hangover, and since August 12, they sport a .666 winning percentage. Their run differential since the All Star Break is over +100, and they offense is getting hot at the right time, scoring 55 runs in six games last week.
Come the Division series, Strasburg and Scherzer will face Jon Lester (9-7, 2.63ERA in 22 playoff appearances) and Jake Arrieta (4-2, 3.64 in seven playoff starts) in DC. It is hard to imagine the Nats winning both games. That means the series heads to Chicago even. Game 3 of the Division Series will be the Cubs first playoff game at Wrigley Field since winning the World Series. The atmosphere will be incredible, and the vulnerable Gio Gonzalez (4-4, 3.93 postseason ERA), who has slumped of late will likely go for the Nats, against either Kyle Hendricks (1-1, 2.38 ERA in the playoffs), John Lackey (8-6, 3.27 ERA in the playoffs), or Jose Quintana (no playoff appearances). If the Cubs win and go up 2-1, the Nats will turn to the average Tanner Roark or Scherzer on short rest (which doesn’t bode well). Chicago has a serious edge.
As for the NLCS, if the Dodgers advance, and that is a major if, the Cubs have a deep rotation filled with guys who have been there and done that, while LA’s postseason track record is shaky. Chicago has been the much better team of late, and depending upon how many games the Division Series takes, Lester and Arrieta could start four (or even five) of seven games, if the series goes that far.
Chicago is no lock to win the the National League, but their odds make them worthy of a wager. Betting on the champ is rarely a bad idea particularly when value is present and the other contenders have come up small in the past.
Featured photo: Arturo Pardavila III [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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