(1) LA Dodgers -420 vs (8) Milwaukee Brewers +310
YELI VS BELI! THE 2018 MVP VS THE 2019 MVP! They battled each other for MVP votes in one of the most publicized races in MLB history and now they’re going head-to-head on the diamond in a postseason series. This series should produce fireworks, right? RIGHT?!?!? Nah, probably not. There really isn’t much to say here. In a shortened regular season the 2020 Dodgers have been a well-oiled machine, completely dominate in every facet of the game. I look for them to continue that dominance against a sub .500 Brewers squad who squeaked into an expanded postseason with a negative run differential, which hasn’t been done since 2007. Some might call it luck that Milwaukee secured a postseason berth after such a mediocre regular season, but they’re about to run into a buzz saw, so how lucky can they be? I know, I know. The line is enormous. But I can’t bring myself to pick against the Dodgers.
Take Los Angeles -420.
(2) Atlanta Braves -140 vs (7) Cincinnati Reds +120
This series has been giving me fits. Coming into this season, like many other people, I considered the Braves to be the 2nd best team in the National League. That opinion appears to have held up, with the Braves earning the appropriate #2 seed in the NL. Braves fans can thank the bats in their lineup for that. This team can rake. Plain & simple. After losing ace Mike Soroka to a season ending injury after only his 3rd start, the pitching staff didn’t quite live up to expectations, finishing the season with a 4.41 ERA. Which isn’t bad. The league average ERA is 4.44. But it is a regression from last season when they finished with an ERA of 4.19. Not that this mattered. The bats loomed large, blasting their way to a 35-25 record and their 3rd straight NL East title. The thing that I love most about their hitting is their craftsmanship in the batter’s box. In an era with an unprecedented amount of home runs, we have been seeing many teams trading their batting average for homers. Swinging for the fence on every pitch, resulting in more home runs, but fewer hits. The Braves have been able to beat that trend, as they are at the top of each major batting category across the board with 5.8 R/gm (2nd), .268 AVG (2nd), .482 Slugging % (2nd), .349 OBP (1st), .831 OPS (1st), 103 HRs (2nd). How can you not marvel at that consistency? Despite all of that, there’s a distinct possibility that they get bounced in the first round. Led by the vocal Trevor Bauer, who is a strong Cy young contender, the Reds appear to be a team on a mission. After going 11-3 over their last 14 games, Cincinnati is hitting their stride at the right time. The pitching staff has been leading the way, holding opponents to a batting average of .215. The bats haven’t been quite as productive however. Cincinnati is one of the teams who seems to be embracing the “all or nothing” approach at the plate. While hitting 90 HR’s this season, the team is only batting .211. Which is dead last in the majors. The production has been there over the final stretch of the season, however. While I think this series is close to a toss up, which makes the underdog enticing, I believe Atlanta’s lineup will get to Cincinnati’s pitching.
Take Atlanta -140.
(3) Chicago Cubs -180 vs (6) Miami Marlins +155
Wow. The Miami Marlins are a playoff team. I don’t think that has sunk in yet. The team’s mantra over this 60-game season was “Why not us?”. Well, there were a few reasons. They were only given a 0.2% chance at a playoff berth before the season started. Rightfully so. After all this is a team that lost 105 games last year and plays in a division that features 4 other teams who had playoff hopes at the beginning of the season. The Marlins didn’t get the memo. They surprised the baseball world going 31-29 and will make their first postseason appearance since 2003. Maybe even more surprising, they did so with a run differential of -41. The Cubs on the other hand didn’t surprise anyone. They did what they were supposed to do. Led by a veteran pitching staff, they won their 3rd NL Central title since 2016, securing a spot in the playoffs for the 5th time in the past 6 years. While the Marlins are a young team that has a lot to look forward to in the future after what they were able to do this year, they may have to hold off on any hopes of a postseason run. For the Cubs this is business as usual.
Take Chicago -180.
(4) San Diego Padres -205 vs (5) St. Louis Cardinals +175
Well, well, well. The Padres have finally broken through. With a farm system that has been stocked like a trout pond, it seems like every season there are a handful of people who say “This is the year San Diego breaks out”. Well, they’ve done it. After finishing with a winning record for the first time in a decade, the Padres will be making their first playoff appearance since 2006. Utilizing a very balanced roster, San Diego was able to win 37 games, finishing 2nd behind Los Angeles in the NL West. They will no doubt be getting a lot of attention due to Fernando Tatis Jr. rapidly becoming one of the faces of the MLB. Their future is bright. Blinding perhaps. This team will undoubtedly make a postseason run within the next 5 years. Could they do it this year? Certainly. It wouldn’t be surprising in the least. The Cardinals stand in their way, however. While St. Louis’ batting hasn’t been what we’ve come to expect from them, their pitching has been on par. With the emergence of Jack Flaherty, the Cardinals once again field a top 10 pitching staff. With a mix of veteran experience and promising young players, St. Louis clawed their way back into the playoffs after missing out in 3 of the past 4 seasons, despite having a winning record in each of those campaigns. I’m sure for some veterans like Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright, this shortened season will be viewed as a unique opportunity for a last gasp at another title. Let me be clear here, I believe that San Diego fields the better team. But with a favorable line I like the chances of St. Louis’ rotation to steal 2 games from a young San Diego team.
Take St. Louis +175 for a value play.
*All odds via Bovada