Unlike the American League Wild-Card round, which started yesterday, there is very little value to be had on the National League side. Lines appear to be set quite fairly, but we still squeeze a bit of value out of them, and I’ve unearthed a long-shot league-winner bet that’s worth placing.
Series bets I like
San Diego Padres (-210) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (+ 176)
The series prices are all set quite fairly, but if I was going to pick one to bet on, it would likely be the Cardinals here. The NL Wild Card starting a day later than the American League may be something of a blessing in disguise for a team that was extremely tired and struggling down the stretch. Because of their COVID-19 outbreak in August, the team was afforded just two days off the entire month of September and played seven double-headers. Two days between the end of the regular season and the start of the playoffs isn’t enormous, but when it’s equal to all the time off the team had for the entire month prior, it’s bound to help a bit. Still, the fatigue could linger, and it’s so unprecedented and extremely difficult to account for mathematically. That could make the Cardinals a bit worse than my projections think, but there’s also the potential to gain some extra edge on the other side.
The Padres’ top two starters, Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger, are both injured and questionable to play in this series. If both miss, the Cards would certainly gain an added advantage, as the Pads would have to turn to someone like Adrian Morejon in Game 3. Game 2 will already be challenging enough with the mediocre Zach Davies on tap.
As great as the Padres offense was this year, were we playing a full 162-game season they would surely be due for some regression over the final two-thirds of the season, and we should now project that regression in the playoffs. The odds imply the Cardinals will win 36% of the time and my projections say 39%, so the edge is quite small and isn’t baking in that fatigue factor (it is assuming Lamet returns, however). But when other games in this series (most notably LA vs. Milwaukee) are entirely -EV bets on both sides, we have to take what we can get if we’re looking to bet on an NL series.
Pick: Cardinals moneyline (+ 176)
NL title bet I like
Cincinnati Reds (+ 1400)
This is a bet you should shop around for the best line on and do it quickly, because it’s been rapidly moving. You could’ve gotten it at close to 20-1 a couple days ago, now some books (like FanDuel) have it as low as 10-1. If you can get it between 12-1 and 16-1, I’d take it. While there is little action worth betting on in Cincinnati’s Wild-Card series against Atlanta, the odds and projections for that series can shed some light on why there’s value here.
The Reds 118 moneyline for the series implies a 46% chance to win, and my projections put them a hair under 48%. Despite that series being close to a pick ‘em, Atlanta’s odds to win the NL Championship are + 550. It doesn’t make sense for the Reds’ odds to win the pennant to be two-to-three times worse than the Braves’ when both have a nearly equal chance of advancing out of the first round. It’s still a long-shot bet, with four teams more likely to advance to the World Series overall, but it’s worthwhile given the odds.
Pick: Reds to win NL outright (+ 1400)
Game 1 bets I like
Los Angeles Dodgers (-235) vs. Milwaukee Brewers (+ 215)
Even when looking at the individual games on the NL side, there’s just not a lot of value to be had. If you’re looking for some action, though, the Brewers may be your best bet. Seeing Brent Suter listed as a team’s No. 1 postseason starter will surely have many locking the Dodgers in, but the Brewers are a progressive organization that understand how to manage a pitching staff. Suter will likely only pitch a couple innings and then be followed by the best bullpen in baseball.
This is still the Dodgers we’re talking about, and they ought to be a heavy favorite, but the reality of Suter plus the bullpen is much stronger than the public’s perception of Suter alone. The chances of Milwaukee pulling this out are implied at 31% by the moneyline, but the true odds are more like 35%.
Pick: Brewers ML (+ 215)