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MLB Playoff Predictions | Expert Projections for World Series, Pennant and More

MLB Playoff Predictions | Expert Projections for World Series, Pennant and More article feature image
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Logan Riely/Getty Images. Pictured: The Phillies celebrate after clinching a playoff berth.

The 2022 MLB playoffs are here. And if you have followed me since the beginning of the season, you should have several World Series and pennant futures spread around the playoff bracket at juicy prices.

My goal each season is to build a portfolio of futures where — although I may not win a tremendous amount on any individual bet — I maximize my chances to turn a profit by betting into multiple markets.

I’m going to eat a loss on win totals (-0.32u), divisional futures (-2.28u), and stat leaders (-3.6u) for the first time in the four years that I provided my process publicly. However, we stand to profit +11.7u on player awards, provided Sandy Alcantara, Aaron Judge and Julio Rodriguez take home hardware next month.

After accounting for a slight loss on our Brewers futures (-0.75u) and our remaining portfolio of 4.3u allocated to remaining pennant and World Series futures, our worst-case scenario for futures — before any other additions — is a +0.45u profit for the season.

While we had preseason World Series positions on the Blue Jays (+1200) and Phillies (+4000), my midseason additions on the Braves (+600 pennant and +1000 World Series) and Padres (+1500 pennant) in the National League, and the Mariners (+3000 pennant, +7500 World Series) and Jays (+2500 World Series) in the American League each show substantial value at the start of the postseason.

If you aren’t already on the baseball futures train and are just tuning in now — that’s OK too. There is still some value left in the MLB playoff betting market.

Let’s find out where.

Performance to Date

Before diving into my projections, I like to look at how the remaining teams stack up in all three phases. Still, it’s worth noting that this data captures the full-season picture and may not represent the construct of their current rosters after accounting for injuries, trades and prospect promotions.

The adage that “pitching wins championships” may not necessarily be accurate, but one thing is clear: pitchers drive betting odds.

And the difference between starting pitching and bullpen quality can cause massive fluctuations between betting odds for the first five innings compared to the whole game.

The remaining teams ordered by pitching effectiveness (per expected FIP or xFIP) this season isn’t all that surprising if you follow the sport closely, but it still paints an interesting picture as to how these teams stack up on the mound:

Aside from the Cardinals (17th), every playoff team ranked in the league’s upper half in combined xFIP between their starting pitchers and bullpens.

You may find more actionable value betting against the Guardians and Mariners in the first five innings, as opposed to the whole game, given the drastic increase in effectiveness from their bullpens relative to their starters. Conversely, both those teams could offer value in the live betting markets since they are difficult to score against in the late innings.

In terms of offense and defense, the below graphic combines weighted runs created plus (or wRC+) — where 100 is league average — with Defensive Runs Saved or (DRS).

Cleveland is the only below-average offense to make the playoffs this season, standing in stark contrast to 2021 when three of the 10 playoff teams finished with below-average offensive metrics.

Nine of the top-10 offenses made the playoffs this year, with Minnesota (107 wrC+, 9th) the only exception. Eight of the top-10 offenses made the dance last season.

The top five defensive teams made the playoffs this season, compared to three of five last season. On average, playoff teams last year ranked 11.8 in Defensive Runs Saved. This season, the average ranking is 9.7.

It’s worth noting that Philadelphia has drastically improved its defensive projection throughout the season and now rates an above-average unit in my model.

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Wild Card Round Projections

Below are my projected series prices for the Wild Card Round compared to updated projections, per FanGraphs:

Tampa Bay at Cleveland

I favor Tampa Bay in all three games against Cleveland, given the Rays‘ ability to toss a pair of left-handed starters against an offense with far superior splits against righties.

Moreover, their bullpen improved dramatically in the second half, and I model these two bullpens as relative equals, despite what the season-long metrics might indicate.

My projection is even less aggressive than the FanGraphs number, and you can bet the Rays’ series price down to even money.

Philadelphia at St. Louis

I set the Phillies as fairly substantial favorites in the first two games against the Cardinals, who don’t have the starting pitching quality to match Zack Wheeler or Aaron Nola.

Like the Tampa-Cleveland series, my projection here is even less optimistic on the Phillies’ chances than the FanGraphs projection. Yet, I still show value in betting against another Central division champion, which has been an extremely profitable strategy in recent playoff memory.

You can bet the Phillies series price down to -105.

Seattle at Toronto

I’m not far from showing actionable value on the Mariners, though I would want something closer to +145 — relative to current odds at +140 — to justify a bet on their series price.

Seattle might offer substantial value at current odds if you’re willing to buy into the FanGraphs projection. Still, I’m much more closely aligned with the market.

San Diego at New York

While the Padres’ series price is bettable before Game 1, at +131 or better than my number, FanGraphs has a less optimistic outlook on their chances.

Moreover, San Diego should have an ideal matchup in Game 2, with Blake Snell facing a Mets offense that ranks as the No. 1 team against right-handed pitching but is closer to league average against lefties.

As a result, I only placed a small wager on San Diego before Game 1, with the expectation of adding more on the series price before Game 2; and likely at a better number.

Pennant Projections

Four teams— the Astros, Braves, Dodgers, and Phillies — offer value to win their respective pennants.

You can bet Houston at +175 at DraftKings – which would be my cutoff price target. I would need slightly better odds to play either the Yankees (+210 at FanDuel) or Rays (+1000 at Caesars) in the American League. The FanGraphs projection would target Tampa Bay.

The Dodgers (+175 at DraftKings) may offer a solid hedge relative to my current position on Atlanta; however, I can wait until that anticipated NLCS to bet the Dodgers’ series price; and the FanGraphs projection is far lower on the Dodgers’ chances, relative to the other half of the bracket. Either the Mets or Padres are legitimate challengers in a five-game divisional series.

I show a slightly more substantial edge on the Braves (+260 at Caesars) than the Dodgers. And the FanGraphs projection agrees with that assessment too. If you don’t have a future on the Braves, consider betting their pennant odds down to +240.

The Phillies (+2000 at Caesars) are the best value bet on the board, and I’m four percent lower on them than the FanGraphs projection. You can play Philadelphia down to +1625, at a two percent edge compared to my number.

In addition to the Braves or Phillies, FanGraphs would recommend betting either the Mets (+500 at DraftKings) or the Padres (+1500 at Caesars). They see flaws in this Dodgers club. However, I’m definitively lower on those teams, and I already hold a pennant ticket on the Padres at the same number.

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World Series Projections

Four teams— the Braves, Dodgers, Rays, and Phillies  — offer value to win the World Series. 

The Blue Jays (+1800 at Caesars) align with my projection but fall shy in the composite projection. The Mariners (+3000 at FanDuel) are actionable based upon the composite projection, but not my own.

Tampa Bay (+3000 at Caesars) aligns with all three projections and could be worth a sprinkle. However, I’d prefer to take them series to series, given the potential injury concerns and limitations for Shane McClanahan and Tyler Glasnow.

Both the Dodgers (+360 at PointsBet) and Braves (+600 at Caesars) are actionable relative to my number but not compared to the composite projection. To reiterate, I would consider betting on Atlanta if I didn’t already have their futures; but I wouldn’t go past +600. And I need +350 or better to back the Dodgers.

Like their pennant odds, the Mets (+1100 at BetMGM) or Padres (+2800 at Caesars) are actionable according to the public projections, but not my own.

And the Phillies (+4000 at BetMGM) still show value relative to all three projections but a more substantial edge compared to the composite number than my own. I would consider betting on them now if I didn’t have a preseason position on the Phillies at the same number.

Considering my current portfolio, the only bet here that I’m interested in adding is the Dodgers.

World Series Matchups

Based on my pennant odds, here are my projected percentages and implied odds for exact World Series matchups:

And comparing my projections to the Odds at BetMGM, the following matchups — all of which involve either the Rays or the Phillies or both — are potentially worth betting on:

  • Rays vs. Dodgers (+2800)
  • Astros vs. Phillies (+4000)
  • Rays vs. Braves (+4000)
  • Yankees vs. Phillies (+5000)
  • Blue Jays vs. Phillies (+15000)
  • Rays vs. Padres (+20000)
  • Rays vs. Phillies (+25000)

As I mentioned earlier, I’m a bit concerned about the ability of Tampa Bay’s staff to stay intact for a long playoff run. I may sprinkle the Phillies’ matchups vs. the Astros (+4000), Yankees (+5000), and Blue Jays (+15000).

However, those will be unofficial plays, and I wouldn’t recommend more than a tenth of a unit (0.1u) on any of those wagers.

Bets

  • AL Pennant: Houston Astros (+175 at DraftKings, 1u)
  • NL Pennant: Philadelphia Phillies (+2000 at Caesars, 0.25u)
  • Wild Card Series Price: Philadelphia Phillies (+120, 1.25u at Caesars)
  • Wild Card Series Price: San Diego Padres (+150, 0.5u at BetMGM)
  • Wild Card Series Price: Tampa Bay Rays (+110, 1u at BetMGM)

Value Recommendations

  • NL Pennant: Atlanta Braves (+260 at Caesars)
  • NL Pennant: Los Angeles Dodgers (+175 at DraftKings)
  • World Series: Atlanta Braves (+600 at Caesars)
  • World Series: Los Angeles Dodgers (+360 at PointsBet)
  • World Series: Philadelphia Phillies (+4000 at Caesars)
  • World Series: Tampa Bay Rays (+3000 at Caesars)
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