Sunday MLB Odds, Picks, Prediction: Phillies vs. Braves Sunday Night Baseball Betting Preview (May 9)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images. Pictured: Freddie Freeman.
- The Atlanta Braves will take on the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday Night Baseball tonight.
- The Phillies hold a 1.5-game lead over the Braves in the NL East, so Atlanta will be looking to gain a step. Sean Zerillo breaks down the game and shares a betting pick based on his analysis below.
Phillies vs. Braves Odds
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More than 20% of the way through the 2021 regular season, the Phillies (18-16) have a share of the lead in the NL East, while the reigning divisional champion Braves sit 1.5 games back of both the Phillies and Mets.
Philadelphia has improved its playoff chances since the start of the season (per FanGraphs), increasing its divisional odds to 8.7% (from 4.7%) and its playoff chances to 24.7% (from 16.1%).
Meanwhile, the Braves have only harmed their playoff chances to date, with their divisional odds declining to 14.2% (from 30.5%) and their playoff chances decreasing to 35.5% (from 63.8%)
FanGraphs now projects the Braves to finish with 83.4 wins and the Phillies with 81.8 wins at the end of the season. PECOTA is a bit more optimistic about the Phillies, pegging them for 85 wins (and Atlanta for 82) by the end of the campaign.
PECOTA places the Phillies’ playoff and divisional chances at 44% and 16.7%, respectively. It projects Atlanta at 20.5% and 7.3% under the same system.
Can the Braves reassert their status as preseason divisional favorites (per oddsmakers), or does this Phillies squad — which is stuck between two eras — have a chance to make a postseason run?
Offensively, the Phillies have been a bit unfortunate to date. They rank 20th in MLB with a .301 wOBA, but their expected wOBA or “xwOBA” ranks 18th (.325). On the pitching side, the Phillies rank 19th in wOBA allowed (.315) and 15th in xwOBA against (.325).
The Philadelphia bullpen (3.74 FIP, 4.13 xFIP, 14.3% K-BB%) is both significantly better and luckier than the group they trotted out last season (5.56 FIP, 4.61 xFIP 13.1% K-BB percentage) — which suffered from a league-worst .376 BABIP and 29th-ranked strand rate (65.1% LOB percentage).
A new pair of flamethrowers have helped to lead the charge this year. Jose Alvarado (99 mph average fastball, 2.89 xERA) was a massive acquisition from the Rays, and Sam Coonrod (98 mph average fastball, 3.08 xFIP, 2.33 xERA) has been pleasantly surprising after altering his secondary mix (more cutters, fewer changeups).
Defensively, the Phillies have continued to struggle after ranking 28th in Defensive Runs Saved and 29th per Outs Above Average last season. Through a small 2021 sample, they rank 24th and 26th by those same defensive metrics.
It always helps to have your ace on the mound, however, and Aaron Nola’s early-season indicators (2.44 FIP, 3.37 xFIP, 2.89 xERA) are amongst the best of his career.
Nola has made a slight alteration to his pitch mix this season, increasing his rate of four-seam fastballs to their highest usage (39.4%) since 2015 (30.7% career) while throwing fewer sinkers and changeups.
That switch should help to complement his dominant curveball further. Since joining the bigs in 2015, only Corey Kluber (101.2 pitch value) has had a better curveball than Nola (77.7 pitch value). On a per-pitch basis, Nola ranks seventh (behind a few relievers, including Shane Greene, Daniel Hudson, and Mark Melancon).
Aaron Nola, 93mph Fastball and 81mph Knuckle Curve, individual pitches + overlay (with a stop) pic.twitter.com/nAygJSGBct
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 7, 2021
Like the Phillies, the Braves have also been a bit unfortunate on offense to date, ranking ninth in wOBA (.317) but fourth in xwOBA (.346). Their pitching has been nearly as bad as advertised, ranking 28th by wOBA (.336) and 21st per xwOBA (.339).
Atlanta’s starting pitching ranks 26th with a 4.87 xFIP and 28th with a 4.97 SIERA, but its bullpen (4.41, 4.05) has been closer to league average.
Mike Soroka was recently cleared for baseball activities, but it seems like he won’t return until after the All-Star break, at the earliest. Max Fried (5.54 xERA) dealt with an IL stint, and free-agent signing Drew Smyly (6.17 xERA, 5.50 xFIP) has severely underperformed.
That pins a lot of pressure on Sunday’s starter, Huascar Ynoa, who has produced a 2.36 ERA and 3.48 FIP through seven appearances this season. But I’m not hyper-confident in Ynoa’s future as a starter until he develops a third pitch.
Batted ball data (4.61 xERA) indicates Ynoa has been a bit lucky to date. He generates groundballs at a high clip (49.4% career), but his .225 BABIP and 87.5% strand rate this season are both unsustainable.
Furthermore, batters don’t have to work too hard to game plan for Ynoa. He either throws his fastball (average 96.6 mph, 48.9% usage) or slider (85 mph, 45.4% usage) with a very rare changeup (88.1 mph, 5.6% usage). You do have to give credit to Ynoa for bumping his fastball velocity by 1.7 mph over last season’s average — he found a way to translate his high-octane velocity to the rotation.
Still, there’s significant concern regarding both statistical regression and an actual true talent for any starter with a limited arsenal.
Huascar Ynoa, Disgusting Sliders (5th, 6th and 7th Ks) pic.twitter.com/VemVIFhO1I
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 13, 2021
Chris Archer carved out some nice seasons for the Rays (3.40 xERA in 2015) while relying on a fastball-slider mix more than 90% of the time. However, Ynoa is still an outlier relative to his peers, and he would be an exception if he can continue to turn over lineups multiple times with just two pitches.
As of writing, I don’t see value on either side of the moneyline in either the first five innings (F5) or over the full game.
However, I do project value on the bver both for the F5 and full game.
I would consider a small bet on the F5 over 4 at -112 or better and a larger bet on the full-game over up to 8 (-105). Alternatively, you can play over 7.5 up to -120.
An offense-leaning umpire like Marvin Hudson (career 52.3% over) behind the dish is a welcome addition.
Pick: Over 7.5 (bet to -120 or Over 8 to -105) | F5 Over 4 (bet to -112)