Best bets for Brewers-Braves NLDS

By VSiN Staff  (VSiN.com) 

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On Friday, two NL Division winners square off in Game 1.  The Atlanta Braves are by all estimates the underdogs, coming from behind to win baseball’s weakest division despite finishing with just the 12th-best record.  Still, they do hold some advantages over the Milwaukee Brewers, which should make this a competitive series.

Here are our best bets for the Braves-Brewers NLDS from Adam Burke and Derek Carty.

Milwaukee Brewers (-140) vs. Atlanta Braves (+ 120)

Burke: The Braves were able to survive the weakest division in baseball and punch another ticket to the postseason, despite losing Ronald Acuna Jr. right before the All-Star Break. There were probably some very uncomfortable front office talks about trading Freddie Freeman at the trade deadline to maximize his value as a rental for a contender.

Mike Soroka never threw an inning. Marcell Ozuna missed most of the season with an injury and legal issues. A bunch of different players were forced to step up and they did so, showcasing the strength of the Braves’ organization.

Their prize is to face Corbin Burnes twice and maybe even Brandon Woodruff twice in the NLDS. Burnes led all of baseball in fWAR and did so in only 28 starts and 167 innings. Woodruff was ninth and somehow finished with a 9-10 record, showing yet again why you need to look past a pitcher’s win-loss record when evaluating his effectiveness.

What makes the Brewers good is also what makes the Braves a live dog in this series. Milwaukee is very top-heavy. Burnes and Woodruff are elite. Freddy Peralta, who was limited to 144.1 innings, may be on his way, though durability will always be the question. He only pitched 46.1 innings after the All-Star Break. The Brewers also have dominant reliever Josh Hader.

Milwaukee usually has fellow dominant reliever Devin Williams, but he broke his hand punching a wall, so the Brewers are missing one of their two key cogs in the bullpen at the worst possible time. It is a little unfair to call Milwaukee’s pitching staff a “stars and scrubs” unit, but Burnes, Woodruff, Peralta and Hader amassed 18.8 of the staff’s 23.5 fWAR. Williams was good for another 1.4.

The Brewers were not a good offensive ballclub. They finished with a 91 wRC+ , which ranks 23rd in baseball, and their .310 wOBA was 19th. They got better as the season went along after a terrible start in April and May, but this is still the weakest offense of any playoff team.

The Braves underperformed offensively, but still finished ninth in wOBA. They were punished by the hitter-friendly conditions of Truist Park in the wRC+ department to finish 13th.

Atlanta’s spread of talent is a little bit wider than Milwaukee’s on the offensive side. Milwaukee’s top-end talent on the pitching side is significantly higher, though Max Fried and Charlie Morton were both really solid this season. Ian Anderson and Huascar Ynoa are good options in the middle of this series and one could go against Burnes on short rest.

The problem for the Braves here is that they will have to beat Burnes and Woodruff at least one time each in order to win the series, unless they beat Burnes or Woodruff twice. The Brewers will miss Williams, but a short series does benefit a team with top-end starting pitching. Milwaukee would be up against it more in long series, but for now, they should advance.

As a side note, I would also expect some low-scoring games in this series, so pregame unders or first five unders might be worthwhile.

Pick: Milwaukee Brewers -140

Carty:

Offense

Neither of these teams have especially powerful offense, but the edge does go to the Braves.  They finished the season with the 13th-best wRC+ (a measure of observed offensive quality adjusted for ballpark) and did about as good a job as anyone could have expected to mitigate the loss of Acuna.  The trade deadline acquisitions of Jorge Soler, Adam Duvall and Eddie Rosario have made this offense considerably more potent.

The Brewers finished just 23rd in wRC+ , but they dealt with a number of injuries to keep players throughout the year and only had Willy Adames for roughly half the year.  They are essentially at full health now and don’t trail too far behind Atlanta in terms of their bats.

Starting Pitching

Where Milwaukee really shines is with its pitching.  Especially if they were to employ a four-man playoff rotation and avoid a start by Brett Anderson or Eric Lauer, no team in baseball could match what the Brewers bring to the table.  Burnes projects via my projection system, THE BAT, as the best pitcher in baseball not named Jacob deGrom;  Woodruff is No. 6 and Freddy Peralta is 13th.  They have three pitchers who would be the ace on the majority of major league teams.

Atlanta’s rotation is no slouch, with their ace Charlie Morton checking in at No. 10, Max Fried at 28 and Ian Anderson at 50.  But the overall pitching disparity is going to make it difficult for Atlanta to overcome Milwaukee in this series, especially if they can’t pick up a win Game 1 or 2.

Bullpen

The Brewers bullpen is also elite, albeit top-heavy.  If anything, though, that may play to their advantage over shorter series’ where they can ride their best pitchers more often.  Even with the loss of Williams, the trio of Hader, Aaron Ashby and Brent Suter is fantastic.  Hader is the best reliever in baseball, and Suter can offer length.  Even if the Brewers did decide to run out Anderson or Lauer in a possible Game 5, they could let them go once through the order, avoid the penalty of further times through and rely on the bullpen to pick up the slack.

The Braves bullpen is wholly mediocre, with closer Will Smith the only arm checking in as much above average.  Youngsters Spencer Strider and Dylan Lee project well and may actually be among their best options, but they don’t seem to be the types of arms a team would rely on much in a playoff scenario.  We’re more likely to see the steady mediocrity of Luke Jackson and Tyler Matzek types.

Speed, defense and baserunning

The Brewers are also a bit more athletic in the field and on the basepaths.  The Braves improving their offense with guys like Duvall and Soler is absolutely worth the tradeoff, but it does hamper them a bit in this regard.  These tertiary factors generally play a small role in a team’s ability to win games, but they do matter, and Milwaukee has an ever-so-slight edge here.

Final Report Card

 

Brewers

Braves

Offense

C

B

Rotation

A+

B-

Bullpen

A

C

Defense

C

C

Baserunning

B+

C+

Best bet

All told, the quality of the Brewers’ pitching makes them superior team -- as the betting lines indicate -- but it’s not such a run-away that a Braves win would be a surprise.  That said, the value is on Milwaukee for Game 1.  The best line for Milwaukee is -135, which implies a 57.5% breakeven point, and THE BAT X projects a 59% chance of winning.  That’s not a massive difference, on a normal slate of games there would usually be several better choices, but it’s enough value where you can make the bet if you’re looking for something to root for while watching the game.

Pick: Milwaukee Game 1 ML -135

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Betting Splits: Percentage of handle & tickets from DraftKings for every game on the board, updated every 10 minutes. GO HERE.

NFL Power Ratings3 sets of numbers from Steve MakinenGO HERE.

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