Best bets for Astros-Braves World Series

By VSiN Staff  (VSiN.com) 

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The World Series has arrived and it will be the Atlanta Braves against the Houston Astros. This is familiar territory for the Astros, who are making their second Fall Classic appearance in the last five years. The Braves are the NL Champs for the first time since 1999.

Atlanta topped the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers to get here, while Houston knocked out the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox.

Which team has the upper hand in this series? Where does the value lie in the series price? Be sure to shop around for the best odds, as there are some differences out there in the betting markets.

Here are our best World Series bets from Derek Carty and Adam Burke:

Atlanta Braves (+ 120) vs. Houston Astros (-140)

 

Carty: It should be no surprise the American League favorite Astros are sitting on the cusp of a World Series title, but the Braves shocked the world by handily defeating the best team in baseball, perhaps the best team we’ve seen in many years.  Injuries and bad variance ultimately did the Dodgers in and, luckily for the Braves, they might not need as much good luck in this series facing a much easier opponent.

Offense

The Astros gain most of their advantage on the offensive side.  Outside of the Dodgers, no team in the playoffs this year can claim a better collection of hitters than Houston.  They have star power, they have depth, and if they are to take home a championship, it will likely be on the back of their offense.

The Astros led Major League Baseball with a 116 wRC + (a measure of observed offensive quality adjusted for ballpark) this season, and they have 5 hitters that project via THE BAT X projections among the top 50 in baseball (Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, and Carlos Correa).  The Braves counter with just two (Freddie Freeman and Jorge Soler).

To their credit, the Braves lost Ronald Acuna to injury mid-way through the season and made some great moves at the trade deadline with acquisitions of Jorge Soler, Adam Duvall, and Eddie Rosario to try to account for that loss.  The Braves do have a good offense themselves; it’s just not at the same level of Houston.

Starting Pitching

If Atlanta is to win this series, they’re likely to do it based on the relative strength of their pitching.  With Lance McCullers set to miss the World Series, the Astros have just one true ace in Framber Valdez and nobody who would qualify as a firm number-two-caliber starter.  Luis Garcia just sneaks into the top-100 pitchers in baseball according to THE BAT projections, while Jose Urquidy and Zack Greinke are basically high-end number-four starters.  For a team hoping to win the World Series, that’s not very good. 

The Braves, meanwhile, have one elite arm in Charlie Morton (No. 9) and a second ace in Max Fried (No. 29).  They add another front-end arm with Ian Anderson (No. 48), and their fourth starter (Huascar Ynoa) is better than Houston’s third and fourth starters and not much worse than their second.  If their rotation can manage Houston’s elite bats, the Braves would stand a good chance of taking this series down.

Bullpen

Neither of these teams count their bullpen among their greatest strengths, but Houston does hold the advantage here.  Ryan Pressly is the closest thing they have to a high-quality late-inning reliever, but their real strength lies in their depth.  They have a bullpen full of serviceable relievers without any truly bad ones.  The Braves counter Pressly with Will Smith, who is close to elite, but the quality of their bullpen falls off quite a bit behind him.  While Smith is the best arm in this series, the Braves have a bunch of mediocre or worse arms filling out the rest of their ‘pen.

Speed, Defense, and Baserunning

Houston’s defense is one of the best units in baseball.   They finished second in baseball in Statcast’s Outs Above Average this year and ranked among the top 10 in UZR.  The Braves defense is firmly average in just about any regard, and both teams are basically average on the basepaths.

Final Report Card

 

Astros

Braves

Offense

A

B

Rotation

C-

B-

Bullpen

B

C

Defense

A

C

Baserunning

C-

C

 

How to Bet

The Astros are the better team and deserve to be the favorite, but the Braves are likely the better bet to win the series when you factor in the odds.  THE BAT X projections have Houston as a 58/42 favorite in Game 1, while the Vegas odds imply a 56.5 percent chance for Houston and 47.5 percent for Atlanta.  Game 1 is Framber Valdez, though, which as we’ve established, is the only good pitcher Houston has.  This is the game they ought to have the best chance, and the odds still seem to be underrating them.  Betting them Game 1 makes sense, but given that Atlanta should hold a great advantage in subsequent games, THE BAT is likely to project them as greater than 42 percent in some of them.  Their to-win-series odds give them just a 43 percent chance to win, so hitting the Braves there seems like the sharper option.

Picks: Houston Game 1 Moneyline -130 and Atlanta to Win Series + 130

 

Burke: Before I get into my breakdown of the series, I have to give serious props to the Braves for making it to this point. They have overcome a lot this season, most notably the Acuna Jr. injury, to be the NL champion. There is a “team of destiny” feeling with this ballclub, but I don’t really want to let those kinds of unquantifiable elements get in the way of my handicap.

The Dodgers are loaded with name value and high-priced talent, but the Braves pitching staff will step up in class here against the Astros. Houston had the lowest strikeout percentage in baseball by far and ranked first in runs and second in slugging percentage. Houston’s lineup has one huge hole in Martin Maldonado, whose value behind the plate more than outweighs his offensive shortcomings. Otherwise, this is the most formidable unit in baseball.

The Braves have a .725 OPS as a team this postseason, but it is worth noting that their pitchers account for 13 at bats without a hit, so the offensive divide between these two teams isn’t as big as it seems for the playoffs. However, it is from a personnel standpoint. The Braves get to add an extra hitter to the lineup in Houston and the Astros will lose one, potentially Alvarez, in the games in Georgia. If Alvarez is forced into the field, that will weaken Houston’s defense in a noticeable way.

One advantage that the Braves will not have in this series is one that they had in the NLCS. The Dodgers had to spend a lot of energy to beat the Giants and then had to travel cross-country for Game 1. The series opener was there for the taking and the Braves took it. Getting a win in Game 2 also set the stage for the outcome that we saw. No such advantage exists against Houston here.

One particularly interesting element to this series is that the Braves led baseball in curveball usage at 18.9 percent. That was 2.7 percent higher than any other team in baseball, due in large part to Morton, the Game 1 starter that the Astros are quite familiar with from his time with the ballclub.

According to FanGraphs’ pitch values, Houston was 10th against curveballs. If the Braves want to win this series, they’ll have to win Game 1 in all likelihood because it will be very hard to hold this Astros offense down for long. The Morton game is a huge key to the series, especially against Valdez, who is a highly underrated ace with an extreme ground ball rate and more strikeout upside than we saw this season.

It does appear to me that the Braves have a modest bullpen advantage here, which could certainly come in handy, especially with the additional pitching changes that will be required from the Astros with NL ground rules.

The prevailing line in the market is Astros -140, which implies about a 58 percent probability that Houston wins the World Series. I’d probably have it closer to 60 percent, so -150, so we aren't talking about much line value.

You have to give Atlanta some credit for beating the Dodgers, but these also were not the regular season Dodgers. Max Scherzer couldn’t pitch Game 6. There was no Dustin May. No Clayton Kershaw. Walker Buehler on short rest. Julio Urias with the highest workload of his career.

I have to look at the Astros to take this down and win the World Series. Their offense is just too good and the advantages that Atlanta has simply aren’t big enough in my opinion.

Pick: Houston Astros -140

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