MLB Playoff Betting Picks, Predictions: Astros vs. Rays, Dodgers vs. Braves (Oct. 16)
Kelly Gavin/MLB Photos via Getty Images. Pictured: Marcell Ozuna
- Looking for betting picks for Friday's MLB games? You're in the right place.
- The Rays are slight favorites over the Astros as they try to close out the ALCS, and the Braves will look to end the NLCS in five games as significant underdogs to the Dodgers.
- Check out all of our staff's favorite bets below.
Following back-to-back 4-3 victories, the Astros are on the brink of pushing the ALCS to 3-3 this evening. They’ll be followed by the Braves attempt to push baseball’s best team out of the Postseason, though Atlanta has yet to name a starter at the time of writing.
As such, our experts are focusing on tonight’s first matchup to find betting value. Check out the Astros-Rays plays below, and stay tuned as this post will be updated as any further bets come in once tonight’s later matchup is set.
Advanced Stats Glossary
FIP or Fielding Independent Pitching measures what a pitcher’s ERA would look like if the pitcher experienced league-average defense and luck. xFIP is a regressed version of FIP that adjusts or “normalizes’ the home run component based on park factors.
wRC+ or Weighted Runs Created Plus takes the statistic Runs Created and adjusts that number to account for critical external factors — like ballpark or era. It’s adjusted, so a wRC+ of 100 is league average, and 150 would be 50 percent above league average.
wOBA or Weighted On-Base Average is a catch-all hitting metric with more predictive value than on-base percentage. An average MLB hitter can be expected to post a .320 wOBA. xwOBA is a regressed version of wOBA that accounts for variables like park factors.
BJ Cunningham: Astros F5 Moneyline (+130) vs. Rays
Framber Valdez has been Houston’s best pitcher this year. The 26-year-old lefty has posted a 3.57 ERA and a 2.94 xFIP. He’s been stellar so far in the playoffs as well, tossing 12 innings and only allowing two earned runs. In Game 1, he allowed only two runs on four hits and struck out eight batters. He did have issues with his control, walking four batters, so that is something he will have to clean up if the Astros are going to push this series to a seventh game.
Valdez is mainly a sinker-ball guy, throwing the pitch over 50% of time. He’s been a little suspect with it this year, allowing a .326 average and .338 wOBA to opponents this season. Where he’s really excelled is with his curveball, as it’s been responsible for 60 of his 76 strikeouts and is producing a 41.9% whiff rate.
Tampa Bay’s offense has cooled off the last two games of this series, posting a .212 average with just five extra-base hits. The Rays are an interesting team, due to the fact they rank 24th against sinkers, but tend to crush off-speed pitches. Valdez is mainly a sinker-ball pitcher, and Tampa was only able to get four hits off of him in Game 1, so they could be in for another tough day at the plate in Game 6.
Snell has been a strikeout machine in 2020, posting a 11.34 K/9, which ranks 10th among MLB starters. That has led to an xFIP of 3.03, which is second on the team to Tyler Glasnow. Snell shut down the Astros in Game 1, allowing only one run on six hits.
Snell is predominantly a fastball pitcher, but he’s been struggling with it this year. He averages just over 95 mph with the heater, but his location has been off, allowing a .444 wOBA to opponents. In fact, eight of the 10 home runs that he’s surrendered have come against his fastball. That may become an issue against this Astros lineup that has been crushing fastballs during the postseason.
I think Game 1 showed us this pitching matchup is a lot closer than the odds suggest. So I’ll take the Astros for the first five Innings at +130.
Michael Arinze: Astros vs. Rays Under 8 (-115)
The Houston Astros aren’t ready to go home just yet. After losing the first three games of the series, Houston has come back to win the next two games with identical 4-3 score lines. That makes it back-to-back games in which Houston has staved off elimination and lived to fight another day.
No matter which team you root for, the pitching in this series has been phenomenal. But perhaps we should have seen this coming all along. After all, the Astros and Rays have similar traits with how they assemble their pitching staffs and the type of players they covet. It’s no surprise that Tampa Bay pursued Charlie Morton after his two-year stint in Houston.
And while I still think Houston’s lineup is better than Tampa Bay’s, it’s been the Astros pitching that has kept them in the series.
Tonight’s pitching matchup is a rematch of the series opener that Tampa Bay won, 2-1. Houston’s Framber Valdez will once again be opposed by Blake Snell of the Rays. Valdez finished the regular season at 5-3 with a 3.57 ERA and a 2.85 FIP. His lower FIP suggested the southpaw’s numbers could be even better as the season wore on, and he’s shown exactly that through his 2-1 postseason record, 2.00 ERA and 1.00 WHIP. Batters are hitting just .183 with a .200 BABIP against the Dominican native.
As for Snell, he finished the year with a 4-2 record, 2.87 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. While his 4.35 FIP suggested he was due for some regression, he’s been able to put together a 2-1 record this postseason with an even better 2.87 ERA. What’s remarkable is that in six combined starts, both pitchers have stranded 100% of the runners that reached base meaning that the only runs they’ve given up have been via the long ball.
The saying goes that good pitching generally beats good hitting in the postseason. One thing that may have gone unnoticed is the start time of some of these games. With this series being played on the West Coast in San Diego, first pitch has generally been in the late afternoon and it wouldn’t surprise me if that has contributed to the lower scoring we’re seeing in the series, particularly when you factor in that stadium shadows tend to creep onto the field in the late afternoon and players’ body clock are more used to playing games at nighttime. How else do we explain how the total is 5-0 to the under in this series?
Here’s a few other things to keep in mind going into this matchup:
- Valdez is 4-0 to the under in his last four starts on grass and Snell is 4-0 to the under in his last four as a favorite.
- When facing Houston, Snell’s last six games have gone under.
- Head-to-head, historically when these two teams have met, the total is 41-22-4 to the under for +16 units.
I think we’re in for another white-knuckler in Game 6 and I like this one to also stay under the total.
Michael Arinze: Braves Moneyline (+170) vs. Dodgers
The Atlanta Braves are just one game away from their first World Series since 1999. Atlanta scored six runs in the sixth inning to put Game 4 out of reach and take a 3-1 lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Atlanta will use an opener tonight as they’ve opted to go with left-hander, A.J. Minter, in Game 5. Los Angeles will counter with Dustin May who has yet to allow a run in 4.2 innings of work this postseason.
The Braves are going with Minter likely to keep Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts at bay. Betts had a .200 AVG / .313 OBP / .218 SLG slash line against left-handers in the regular season and his .200 AVG / .333 OBP / .333 SLG playoff numbers are strikingly similar. It’ll be interesting to see how long the Braves go with Minter as he hasn’t pitched more than 1.1 innings this season.
Atlanta certainly has the luxury to play matchups with its bullpen given its two-game lead in the series. In fact, its bullpen has really out-dueled the Dodgers for the entire series.
Nothing seems to make sense with the Dodgers right now. Any criticism Dave Roberts receives is likely warranted as it’s hard to explain why Dustin May has yet to pitch more than two innings this postseason.
May made 14 starts in the regular season and averaged over 6 innings per outing. While it’s unclear how long he’ll be allowed to go for the Dodgers, the fact that he’s been somewhat limited this postseason could turn out to be a regrettable decision for Los Angeles. We’ve seen examples in the postseason where some managers bypassed their bullpen altogether and went to a starter during the critical moments for three innings in a game. Right now, I’m not sure we can trust anyone coming out of the Dodger bullpen.
If we look at the postseason numbers, Braves relievers have a 3.63 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and a .212 BAA while the Dodgers have a 4.06 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and .250 BAA. With both bullpens likely to be involved tonight, the Dodgers are largely overvalued as a 2-to-1 favorite.
Outside of one game in this series, the Dodgers offense really hasn’t gotten going. Atlanta has a .275 AVG / .362 OBP / .514 slash line while Los Angeles has a .236 AVG / .341 OBP / .479 SLG.
Since opening as -200 favorites, the Dodgers have been bet down to as low as -175. My model has the odds even closer as it also projects the expected bullpen usage of each team, so I’m happy to take a +170 price.
Mike Vitanza: Braves Moneyline (+170) vs. Dodgers
In a game that will come down to bullpen arms from the very start, this is much closer than the Dodgers as -200 favorites. While they have the advantage from a bullpen perspective, the edge is not as pronounced as the odds imply. Both bullpens were top-six during the regular season in team FIP and each has had success (and failure) during this series.
Both offenses are prolific and have proven throughout this series that they can come alive at any time. In fact, during the regular season, these offenses were nearly identical in team wOBA (Dodgers .350, Braves .355) and wRC+ (Dodgers 122, Braves 121).
In this series, it’s been the Braves offense that’s been better, averaging 6.5 runs over the first four games. With home field advantage negated and a relatively even matchup on both sides, there is value on the Braves at +170.
There are clear paths to victory for the Braves in this one and, as a result, I’m taking the underdog at plus-money in this one. I’m comfortable with them all the way down to +145.