This article is part of our MLB Picks series.
MLB Playoff Betting: 2022 World Series Picks and Pennant Bets
The MLB playoffs are finally here, and it's shaping up to be quite an exciting tournament. For one, it's the first year of the expanded, 12-team playoffs, something that I'm particularly looking forward to. Watering down the postseason and de-emphasizing the regular season is something I'm generally wary of, but the fact that a 12-team setup gives a real reward (in the form of a bye) to the teams that dominated throughout the last 162 games means that this system allows more fanbases to see their teams play postseason baseball while still keeping the regular season as meaningful as before, if not moreso.
This year's playoff field is a mix of the new and the familiar. On the one hand, the Mariners ended major American sports' longest postseason drought, reaching the tournament for the first time since 2001, while the Phillies ended the National League's longest drought, making the playoffs for the first time since Ryan Howard tore his Achilles on the final play of a pitchers' duel between Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter in the 2011 NLDS. On the other hand, the Yankees, Astros, Braves and Dodgers are all here for at least the fifth consecutive year, with the Dodgers participating in their tenth straight postseason.
I'll be breaking down each series as the postseason progresses, offering a pick for the overall winner as well as at least one other interesting bet per matchup. The Wild Card version of that exercise is coming up tomorrow, but first I wanted to take a look at the overall field and offer some thoughts on the most interesting picks to both reach and win the World Series. The following table shows the friendliest odds on each team to win both the AL or NL pennant and the title alongside the percentages provided by the FanGraphs' Playoff Odds, my go-to among the publicly-available computer-based projection systems. Outcomes that the projections think are more likely to occur than the oddsmakers do are highlighted in bold.
Note: The numbers below are taken from Wednesday afternoon, when the playoff field was set but the season not quite officially over. They'll be updated again before the postseason officially begins.
|Team||Best Pennant Odds||Implied Probability||FanGraphs Pennant||Best World Series Odds||Implied Probability||FanGraphs World Series|
While we certainly don't want to take projections as gospel, we can't ignore the fact that five teams leap off the page. It's no coincidence that the five teams that the projections mark as underrated by the books are all stuck in the Wild Card round, as this round is new to baseball, and bettors may not have fully wrapped their minds around its implications.
One primary thing to keep in mind regarding postseason baseball betting is that one given baseball game is far closer to a coin flip than we might intuitively think. There's a reason they play 162 games to determine the playoff field, and it's just not at all unusual to see a good team lose two out of three, three out of five, or even four out of seven over a given stretch. That becomes even more true when considering that every team in the postseason is at minimum decent. It shouldn't shock us when the Astros randomly drop a series to the Athletics, something that happened twice this season, and it's even less shocking when they drop one to a team like the Blue Jays or Mariners.
That means that while teams stuck in the Wild Card round can't be considered to have all that much better than a 50/50 chance to advance to the Division Series, their odds of advancing further should they be lucky enough to get there won't be that much worse than the odds of the four favorites who received first-round byes. We should therefore expect the odds of the bottom eight teams to be not much worse than half as good as the odds of the top four, yet that's clearly not the case. For example, FanGraphs pegs the Braves as 2.5 times more likely than the Phillies to lift the trophy, but the oddsmakers think Atlanta is six times more likely to get the job done. That's a massive gap.
With that in mind, here are my three favorite teams to bet on this postseason, featuring one favorite, one team in the middle and one underdog.
MLB Playoffs Picks and Predictions
Houston Astros: AL Pennant +175 (DraftKings), World Series +425 (DraftKings)
None of the four top teams looks like a good deal per FanGraphs' playoff odds, but the Astros get the closest, which is something I can get behind. They'll only have to win two series to claim the AL pennant, and they'll be favored in both of them. Two keys to postseason success are being strong at the front of the rotation and in the bullpen, and the Astros have both covered. Justin Verlander is on course to claim the AL Cy Young, while Framber Valdez, Lance McCullers and Cristian Javier round out a rotation that has four starters with sub-3.00 ERAs. The Astros also lead the league in bullpen ERA with a mark of 2.89. Houston's offense isn't quite as elite, but when your "weakness" is that you rank sixth in team wRC+, you're in pretty good shape. The Astros hit plenty of home runs, but they don't have to rely purely on the long ball, as they rank second in team strikeout rate (19.5 percent), giving them plenty of chances to string singles together.
Sign up at the DraftKings Sportsbook using RotoWire's DraftKings Promo Code for $200 in free bets.
New York Mets: NL Pennant +550 (FanDuel), World Series +950 (FanDuel)
Judging by team winning percentage, there's a clear tier of five teams who have separated themselves at the top of the league. The Mets had the misfortune of playing in the same division as another team in that tier, and they wound up finishing a hair behind Atlanta, so they're the only team from that group that will be stuck playing one extra round. As such, there's every chance they get bounced by the Padres in two or three games, making this pick look stupid. They'll be favored in that matchup and are every bit as good as the four teams with first-round byes, however, so it seems wrong for them to be considered less than half as likely as most of the top tier to reach or win the World Series. As with the Astros above, the Mets are strong in the places you need strength if you're looking to win it all. No team can match the one-two punch of Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer, and it's not hard to argue that Edwin Diaz and his absurd 50.2 percent strikeout rate make for the toughest closer in the league. The team's lineup is strong and deep as well, ranking third in team wRC+.
If you're not yet signed up at FanDuel Sportsbook, use RotoWire's FanDuel Promo Code to take advantage of a $1,000 no-sweat first bet offer.
Philadelphia Phillies: NL Pennant +1600 (BetMGM), World Series +3500 (BetMGM)
I promise this isn't a homer pick from this long-suffering Phillies fan. The oddsmakers have the Phillies firmly in the bottom tier, giving the team the longest odds to reach the World Series and the second-longest odds to win it, but the projections disagree, giving the Phillies some of the best chances among the teams stuck playing an extra round. Some of that comes from the fact that the Phillies' first-round matchup will be against the Cardinals, one of the least intimidating opponents in the postseason. FanGraphs actually gives Philadelphia a 55 percent chance of making it through that three-game series. The Phillies' flaws in their defense and bullpen are well-documented, and their odds are long for good reason, but they at least have a pair of aces in Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler who are on par with any top two outside of Queens. It's going to be tough for Philadelphia to go all the way, but if those two are on their respective games, it won't be as tough as the books make it seem for the Phillies to become the third underdog from the NL East to lift the trophy in the last four years.
Try the BetMGM Bonus Code for a risk-free bet up to $1,000 when you sign up at BetMGM.
Visit RotoWire all season long for exclusive sports betting picks from our group of handicappers with their expert MLB picks each day of the campaign and all through the postseason. Remember that betting apps vary in terms of odds and available player props, so we have an easy-to-use odds page that allows you to shop for the best lines at DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM and PointsBet. Stay up to date on the MLB futures market throughout the postseason with the latest World Series odds and pennant odds.