Braves vs. Phillies Odds, Picks, Betting Predictions: Back Division Champs on Opening Day (April 1, 2021)
Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images. Pictured: Freddie Freeman.
- Braves vs. Phillies is virtually a pick'em on MLB Opening Day, meaning the betting market sees these teams as dead-even in this contest.
- The Braves will need Max Fried to be on his game on Opening Day as he will be squaring off against Cy Young contender Aaron Nola.
- Matthew Trebby likes Atlanta and gives his full Braves vs. Phillies pick and preview below.
Braves vs. Phillies Odds
|Time||Thursday, 3:05 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Wednesday and via BetMGM|
The Braves were a few innings away from a trip to the World Series last season, while the Phillies knew they’d be watching the postseason from home for most of the second half of the season.
So why is this National League East matchup a pick’em on Opening Day?
Two aces from 2020 will face off as Atlanta’s Max Fried will toe the rubber opposite Phillies stalwart Aaron Nola. While the matchup on the mound may seem like it goes Philly’s way, pretty much every other part of these teams’ rosters gives the Braves an advantage.
Let’s dig in ahead of Opening Day 2021 to find the betting value:
The Braves got to the NLCS last season with a starting rotation that registered a 5.51 ERA last season, which was 28th in MLB. A fourth-ranked bullpen helped out, as did having three MVP-caliber hitters in the lineup.
Atlanta was third in MLB last season in Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+), according to FanGraphs, behind MVP winner Freddie Freeman (1.102 OPS), Marcell Ozuna (1.067) and Ronald Acuña Jr. (.987). Catcher Travis d’Arnaud thrived with a .919 OPS, as well.
The Braves are going to hit. That is not a concern. Defense could be a concern with Ozuna moving back to left field full-time after serving as the designated hitter in 2020, but Cristian Pache in center field and Acuña moving to right will ease those concerns a bit.
The bullpen is mostly intact with the trio of Chris Martin, A.J. Minter and Will Smith leading the way, and there’s optimism for the rotation, as well.
Knowing they’d be relying on Fried and Ian Anderson, as well as a recovering Mike Soroka, Atlanta made the shrewd acquisition of Charlie Morton, whose velocity has been up in spring.
Fried will get the nod in the opener after taking a big step forward in 2020. After making 30 starts in 2019 with a 4.02 ERA, Fried lowered his batting average against from .270 that year to .211 in 2020. He ranked 39th of 81 pitchers who threw at least 50 innings last season in xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching), according to FanGraphs, which indicates he might be due for some regression, although that’s not to say he won’t be a very reliable starter again.
The Phillies’ offense last season was good but not great in any major metric. They ranked seventh in OPS, ninth in wRC+ and 11th in home runs.
The good news for Philadelphia is the core of the lineup is quite strong. With some combination of Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, JT Realmuto and Alec Bohm in the lineup, runs will be scored. Whether the likes of Andrew McCutchen and Didi Gregorius can keep Father Time from intervening, as he did for McCutchen in 2020, remains to be seen, though.
The reason that the Phillies were so far out of playoff contention last season was a 5.14 ERA that ranked 27th in MLB. Aaron Nola (3.28 ERA in 12 starts) and Zack Wheeler (2.92, 11 starts) held up their end of the bargain, and a solid showing from Zach Eflin was a nice surprise (3.97 ERA in 11 appearances, 10 starts).
Those three gave the Phils’ rotation a 4.08 ERA on the season and while having the likes of Matt Moore, Chase Anderson and Vince Velasquez fill out the other two rotation spots to start the season is uninspiring, the hope is that young right-hander Spencer Howard steps in and thrives this season.
The real disaster was a 7.06 ERA from the Phillies’ bullpen. (You didn’t misread that.) That number obviously was dead last in MLB.
Philadelphia’s relief corps fell apart as its closer, Héctor Neris, did in 2020. The top three this season will be Archie Bradley, Neris and José Alvarado, which should inspire too much confidence.
Nola gets the start in this one and enters 2021 as one of the best pitchers in MLB. Assuming his arm doesn’t give him any problems, expect him to compete for the NL Cy Young, as he will most years in his career.
The Phillies are getting 52% of the bets but the Braves have 85% of the money coming in on them with reason. The lineup is fantastic and has great familiarity with Nola, who I won’t expect goes any longer than six innings in his season debut.
I’ll back Atlanta to keep this one close with Fried on the hill and take advantage of a shaky Phillies ‘pen, if necessary, late. It could be a long 2021 for the Phillies if pitching staffs are handled delicately throughout the season, as many are predicting will be the case.
Pick: Braves -105