MLB Braves vs. Astros Betting Odds, Projections: World Series Game 1 Preview & Series Props

MLB Braves vs. Astros Betting Odds, Projections: World Series Game 1 Preview & Series Props article feature image
Credit:

Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Carlos Correa.

For Sean Zerillo’s breakdown of Game 2, click here.

Throughout the MLB postseason, I will provide a daily breakdown summarizing my thoughts on futures and individual games.

I will also address betting these playoff series, whether on the series moneyline or a game-by-game basis while using my daily MLB Model projections.

Let’s talk series prices and World Series prop bets before digging into Game 1 between the Astros and Braves.

Series Moneyline Corner

Here are my updated ML projections for the 2021 World Series:

Though I may get involved in individual games, I likely won’t be betting on the series moneyline or ML in the World Series, personally.

I have preseason futures on the Astros (1 unit at +2500 and 0.25u at +3000). Additionally, I added a future on Atlanta (0.5u at +255) before Game 6 of the NLCS.

If Houston wins the World Series, I’ll add 32u to my bottom line for the season. If Atlanta wins, I’ll essentially break even (+0.03u) on my two remaining future tickets.

I don’t anticipate hedging my Houston ticket further, but if you are in that position, make sure you utilize The Action Network’s Hedging Calculator:

I also gave out Atlanta to win the NL Pennant (0.5u at +700) before the playoffs started. That pennant ticket (+3.5u of profit) covered the losses on my other World Series futures (-3.25u) – leaving me with a current profit margin of +0.25u (or +0.30u if you include playoff series ML tickets).

Either way, we’ll finish in the black for season-long futures (adding 10+ units of profit on divisional and win total bets) and put ourselves in a position to both maximize profit and limit losses with our overall portfolio.

Before Game 1, I would need -113 (53% implied) to bet Houston at a two percent edge compared to my projection. Conversely, I would need +133 (43% implied) to bet Atlanta at a comparative advantage.

As a refresher, here’s how my World Series projections have evolved throughout the season:

World Series Props

In addition to the series ML, or the ML and totals for the individual games, there are numerous ways to bet the World Series from an exotic or prop perspective, including exact series outcomes, the total number of games, and series MVP.

Below I’ll detail some of my favorite prop bet markets for the 2021 World Series:

Exact Result

Exotic prop markets – like futures markets – have a relatively high hold at most books.

For example, the Game 1 moneyline at DraftKings (currently -130 for Houston, +110 for Atlanta) has a four percent hold, meaning the combined odds imply a win rate in the game of 104.1%.

That’s why you should look for books that offer a ten-cent moneyline (+120 on an underdog with a favorite listed at -130) which is closer to a two percent hold.

The hold on an exact result market for the World Series will be higher than 10% at most books. Using DraftKings odds, it’s closer to a 12% hold – but I still show slight value on one prop.

That said, “Braves in 7” or “Braves win 4-3” is a minimal edge – I would typically look for an advantage higher than two percent (+669, or 13% implied) to play such a prop – but if you want to dabble, that would be my lean, and +600 is a reasonable cutoff point:

Total Games and Series Over/Under

Using the above exact result projections, we can easily configure how many games the series might last.

Not to be the fun police here, but I don’t show any value relative to the listed prop odds at FanDuel (for Total Games) or DraftKings (for Over/Unders).

Betting the “7” total games is the closest thing that I can offer to a lean.  As you’ll notice on the odds, that is a superior play (+210) at FanDuel relative to the Over/Under 6.5 Games (+200) at DraftKings.

However, betting Atlanta to win in 7 games is the superior angle, as discussed in the previous section. And if the series does make it to game 7, you can always hedge your +600 ticket.

Series Spread

Some of the series spread bets are intuitive. For example, Astros -3.5 games or Braves -3.5 games are the same as betting those teams to win 4-0 in the exact result market.

The plus or minus +1.5 and 2.5 game bets require reconfiguring the numbers I have already provided above.

Here, we find our second and third potential value prop bets on Atlanta – either to win the series or to lose in Games 6 or 7.

I would bet Atlanta’s series spread, +1.5 games, up to -155. 

That’s my favorite bet among the series props.

Most Valuable Player

Of the 68 World Series MVP winners, 39 (57%) were hitters, and 29 (43%) were pitchers, including three closers. However, 12 of the first 14 winners were pitchers – and the rate has declined since.

Many Hall of Famers have won the award, including Sandy Koufax (x2), Bob Gibson (x2), Brooks Robinson, Reggie Jackson, Roberto Clemente, Johnny Bench, Mike Schmidt, Paul Molitor, Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, and Randy Johnson.

More recent winners have included perennial All-Stars like Stephen Strasburg, Corey Seager, George Springer, Salvador Perez, and Madison Bumgarner. Typically, name-brand talent takes home the honors.

Still, there are several “off the radar” World Series MVPs throughout history, including Steve Pearce (2018), David Freese (2011), Scott Brosius (1998), Pat Borders (1992), Ray Knight (1986), etc.

I don’t have a way to model the World Series MVP – so these are purely my thoughts based on reading the market, but I suspect that these four players – two from each team – are worthy MVP stabs at long odds:

Ozzie Albies, ATL (+2000): Albies is priced well behind his offensive teammates like Freddie Freeman (+850), Eddie Rosario (+1000, and Austin Riley (+1100).

Albies is struggling in the postseason (.629 OPS), but he quietly became the youngest 30-100 second basemen in MLB history this season while posting 77 extra-base hits and 20 steals. He regularly hits second or third in the Atlanta batting order and will have plenty of opportunities to rack up counting stats.

Yuli Gurriel, HOU (+2700): Gurriel is priced well behind his offensive teammates like Yordan Alvarez (+800), Jose Altuve (+1000), Carlos Correa (+1100), Kyle Tucker (+1200), and Michael Brantley (+1500). Gurriel led the AL in batting average, but he ranked third on Houston in wRC+ (134, tied with Carlos Correa).

The lefties, Tucker (147) and Alvarez (138), are the driving force on this Astros squad but could get neutralized by Max Fried, Drew Smyly, Ian Anderson’s changeup, and Atlanta’s four southpaw relievers. Gurriel (career 122 wRC+ vs. LHP, 115 vs. RHP; 152 vs. 125 in 2021) had solid at-bats against all types of pitching and pitch types, consistently puts the ball in play, and is generally underpriced considering his guaranteed playing time.

Jorge Soler, ATL (+3400): A wild card since his player usage under NL rules in Games 3-5 in Atlanta could be limited – the club seemingly has to choose between Soler and Joc Pederson. Still, at minimum, Soler should serve as the DH in Games 1-2 in Houston and slotted as Atlanta’s leadoff hitter in the NLDS against Milwaukee before his COVID-19 diagnosis.

If Soler’s bat is hot early in the series, Brian Snitker will undoubtedly keep him in the lineup – but the playing time is far from guaranteed. After being traded to Atlanta, Soler posted a 131 wRC+, with 14 homers in 236 PA (full-season pace of 38 HR).

Framber Valdez, HOU (+2000): Seemingly the only starter who may pitch three times in this series – since the Astros’ pitching rotation is incredibly thin. Atlanta’s offense was much less effective against lefties than righties, both on the season (25th in wRC+) and after the trade deadline (19th in wRC+).

The Braves struggled against the fastball, particularly after the deadline (21st on a per-pitch basis). Valdez can grind their offense to a halt (70.3% groundball rate) and eat a ton of innings in this seven-game series.

Braves at Astros, Game 1

8:09 p.m. ET start

On paper, I would expect to see a competitive World Series between the NL East and AL West champions; I projected every possible matchup in this series between 53.4% for Atlanta and 57.4% for Houston.

You won’t see the Braves go off at +190 (34.5% implied) as they closed for Game 4 in Los Angeles, for example, nor will you be able to bet them three times as home underdogs – which was also the case in the NLCS.

Both the series moneyline and the Game 1 odds align with my projected odds, and unfortunately, I don’t currently show actionable value on either side of the moneyline or the total:

I would need odds of -110 (52.4% implied) to bet the Houston ML or +129 (43.6% implied) to back Atlanta.

For the First Five Innings (F5), I would set those F5 price targets at -115 and +135, respectively.

Concerning totals, I would bet an Over 8 (to -102), an Under 8.5 (to +102), or an Under 9 (to -116).

For F5 totals, I would wait for an F5 Over 4 (to -103) or an Under 4.5 (to +100).

Game 1 seems like a solid spot for Framber Valdez and the Astros in terms of the stylistic matchup.

As I mentioned above – under Framber’s MVP blurb – Atlanta’s offense was much less effective against lefties than righties, both on the season (25th in wRC+) and after the trade deadline (19th in wRC+). And they struggled against the fastball, particularly after the deadline (21st on a per-pitch basis).

Every Braves’ hitter except for Adam Duvall (+5), Eddie Rosario (+5), and Ozzie Albies (0) returned a negative run value against sinkers this season. Valdez goes to his sinker 53% of the time, but he increased that usage to 66% in his most recent start against Boston.

The Red Sox weren’t offering at breaking pitches early in the series, so the Astros went with a fastball-heavy approach over the final three games, which helped to shut down one of the most potent offenses in the league.

It would be in Valdez’s best interest to stay with that fastball-heavy approach because Atlanta ranked first after the trade deadline against both curveballs and changeups – his other two pitch types. It appears that the Braves may be focusing on secondary stuff, and their struggles against the fastball are somewhat intentional in that respect.

Valdez threw only one changeup in Game 5 against Boston (12.1% usage on the season) at the expense of additional sinkers – and he shouldn’t modify that game plan. Still, his curveball usage (career 32.1%) presents some cause for concern.

Adam Duvall (+18 run value) was twice as good against curveballs this season as any hitter in baseball. The NL RBI leader struggled against lefties in 2021 (64 wRC+) but performed better against southpaws than same-sided pitching in three of the past four seasons. Considering his dual success against both sinkers and curveballs, Duvall seems like a prime candidate for an Over 1.5 Total Bases (+150) play.

Ozzie Albies (career 94 wRC+ vs. RHP; 146 vs. LHP; average or better against sinkers and curveballs) and Austin Riley (+8 run value vs. Curveballs) are some alternative prop candidates, at Over 1.5 (+120) and Over 1.5 (+140), respectively.

I wouldn’t bet any of those batters to hit a home run, however. Valdez ranked 11th amongst starting pitchers in home run rate (0.80 HR/9).

In a regular-season game, I would project Valdez for roughly 5.8 strikeouts. And while we have seen Dusty Baker show a quick hook with his pitchers, Houston needs innings from Valdez in this series.

As a result, depending on the book, I would look to bet Valdez Over 3.5 strikeouts (-160) or Over 4.5 (+110). I like that prop up to 5 at plus money.

8 innings with 1 run. He did it in 93 pitches – 67% were strikes.

Framber Valdez was a machine. A start like this was needed by the starting pitchers. It was an incredible night. pic.twitter.com/T2DngfelIn

— Michael Schwab (@michaelschwab13) October 21, 2021

Charlie Morton (0.78 HR/9) ranks just ahead of Valdez in home run rate – so I wouldn’t look to go betting any Astros’ home run props for Game 1.

Still, they have some hitters with potential advantages against “Big Game Morton,” – which makes sense, considering the Astros finished with the top offense against both right and left-handed pitching this season.

Houston ranked in the top ten against virtually every pitch type, including first against cutters and second against changeups – which Morton throws a combined 13.8% of the time. Otherwise, he’s throwing a four-seam fastball (49.5%) or a curveball (36.7%) – and Houston ranked 10th and ninth against those pitch types on a per-pitch basis this season.

The Astros’ best hitters against right-handed pitching were their three regular lefties, Michael Brantley (157 wRC+), Kyle Tucker, and Yordan Alvarez (137) – though Jose Altuve (136), Carlos Correa (133), and Yuli Gurriel (125) weren’t far behind.

I’m not exceptionally high on Brantley in this series. He struggles against lefties (59 wRC+ in 2021; 91 career), and the Braves have several left-handed pitchers (Max Fried, Tyler Matzek, A.J. Minter, Will Smith) to get him out.

Alvarez and Tucker offer comparable career splits against righties and lefties, making them a pair of matchup nightmares.

Altuve (+20 run value), Tucker (+11), Brantley (+6), and Correa have crushed four-seam fastballs this season. Tucker (+7), Bregman (+3), Altuve (+3), and Correa (+2) have positive contributions against curveballs.

Given the splits, Tucker Over 1.5 Bases (+130), Altuve Over 1.5 (+120), or Correa Over 1.5 (+130) seem like viable prop plays.

Houston makes more contact (80.6%) than any team in baseball, both inside and outside of the strike zone. They also swing and miss (8.8%) less frequently than any team, but they will take more called strikes than any opponent (18% called strike rate) too.

That’s good news for Morton, who relies upon called strikes (14th amongst 129 qualified pitchers) moreso than swinging strikes (35th).

I would project Morton for 5.6 strikeouts in a regular-season game, and I would consider betting the Over 4.5 (-125).

However, I will likely pass given the overall difficulty of this matchup – Houston’s offense ranked first with a 19.4% strikeout rate. Additionally, Morton won’t have a pitcher hitting ninth to generate free punchouts.

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Summary

I will update this post immediately after tracking plays in the Action Network App. If you want bet notifications right away, make sure to follow me there.

The Bets

Game 1 Bets

  • Adam Duvall, Over 1.5 Total Bases (+150)
  • Framber Valdez, Over 3.5 Strikeouts (-160)
  • Jose Altuve, Over 1.5 Total Bases (+120)
  • Kyle Tucker, Over 1.5 Total Bases (+130)

Series Bets

  • World Series MVP — Ozzie Albies (+3000 at BetMGM)
  • World Series MVP — Yuli Gurriel (+2700 at FanDuel)
  • World Series MVP — Jorge Soler (+3500 at BetMGM)
  • World Series MVP — Framber Valdez (+2200 at PointsBet)

Watching

Game 1 Sides and Totals

  • Atlanta ML (wait for +129)
  • Atlanta F5 ML (wait for +135)
  • Houston ML (wait for -110)
  • Houston F5 ML (wait for -115)
  • Over 8 (to -102), Under 8.5 (to +102), or Under 9 (to -116)
  • F5 Over 4 (to -103) or Under 4.5 (to +100)

Game 1 Props

  • Austin Riley, Over 1.5 Total Bases (+140)
  • Carlos Correa, Over 1.5 Total Bases (+130)
  • Charlie Morton, Over 4.5 Strikeouts (-125)
  • Ozzie Albies, Over 1.5 Total Bases (+120)

Series Props

  • Atlanta — +1.5 Games (value to -155)
  • Atlanta — Series ML (value to +133)
  • Atlanta — Win Series 4-3 (value to +600)
  • Houston — Series ML (value to -113)
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