Before the 2019 baseball campaign began, betting markets had posted Regular Season Win Totals of 86.5 for the Atlanta Braves, and 85.5 for the New York Mets. Both were supposed to finish behind the Philadelphia Phillies in a tightly contested National League East, who were up on the board at 89.5.
Handicapping Sunday night’s nationally televised battle between the Braves and the Mets (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET), you realize that’s no longer the case.
William Hill sports books now have Atlanta as prohibitive favorites to claim the division, -475 on the futures board (risk $475 to win $100). That’s an 83% win equivalent. New York has plummeted to a distant 25/1 longshot (risk $100 to win $2,500), a mere 4%.
Philadelphia isn’t out of range yet. The Phils are 5/1 to win the NL East, a 17% win equivalent (sports books build a universe larger than 100% to create a house edge).
Atlanta’s resurgence hasn’t received much media play nationally or in betting market coverage. They were off the radar to start the season because many figured their 2018 playoff run was a fluke. A slow start, 21-21 as recently as May 14, kept them off the radar.
Since May 14, the Braves have won series against St. Louis, Milwaukee, San Francisco, St. Louis again, Detroit, Miami (sweep), Pittsburgh (sweep), Philadelphia, the NY Mets, and Washington.
Not a murderer’s row, but not all cupcakes either. Atlanta is clearly playing “playoff caliber” baseball. VSiN has already talked this week about how the Mets and Phils have not. Let’s get caught up with the Braves! What are they doing right? What has the market been missing?
First, Atlanta’s pitching staff has done a good job of denying home runs. This is partly hidden because SunTrust Park has been a hitter’s paradise this season. It’s been commonly ranked #2 for offense behind Coors Field a mile high in Colorado, increasing scoring about 20%, home runs about 30%. (Coors has increased scoring near 60%, dingers 35%).
On the road in normal conditions, Atlanta’s staff has been among the best in the league at preventing homers (the Mets among the worst, by the way).
Counting all games, Atlanta had out-homered its opponents 128-104 entering the Mets series. That’s at the heart of Atlanta’s division-leading run differential.
Second, leading that staff excellence has been a bullpen that’s graded out in the top three of the NL all season. This is a big deal the way the game is evolving. Bullpens are getting more innings than ever (the Braves bullpen was second in the NL in innings pitched entering the weekend).
In short: current-day strategies are focused on home runs and bullpens, and Atlanta’s put together a team that shines in those two categories.
Can the Braves keep it up? The bottom line for gamblers is that Atlanta is playing smart, so backing the Braves is likely betting smart until daily money lines reflect their performance level.