MLB Playoffs: Phillies vs. Braves NLDS prediction and preview

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Philadelphia Phillies vs. Atlanta Braves NLDS Preview

The reward for being the best team in baseball is to play your archnemesis in the NLDS. Major League Baseball could use this as an opportunity to take a look at reseeding the playoffs, but the Atlanta Braves draw the Philadelphia Phillies and the Los Angeles Dodgers get the 84-win Arizona Diamondbacks.

 

Of course, having the big-market Dodgers with a great chance of making the NLCS is something that has to make the networks and the league very happy, but it seems like a downer to the team that won a league-high 104 games to have to play a Phillies team that is the reigning NL champs instead of a Diamondbacks team that backed into the playoffs despite four straight losses to end the regular season.

But, I digress!

This is a rematch of last year’s NLDS when the Phillies beat up on the Braves. Philadelphia won 7-6, 9-1, and 8-3 with a 3-0 loss in Game 2 to keep them from a sweep. The two games in Philadelphia were blowouts from the early innings on and many have felt this season like the Phillies match up well with Atlanta yet again.

MLB Odds | MLB Betting Splits | MLB Matchups

MLB Playoffs Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

Phillies +145 / Braves -170

Phillies vs. Braves schedule and how to watch

Game 1 (@ ATL): Saturday October 7, 6 p.m. ET (TBS)
Game 2 (@ ATL): Monday October 9, 6 p.m. ET (TBS)
Game 3 (@ PHI): Wednesday October 11, TBD ET (TBS)
Game 4 (@ PHI): Thursday October 12, TBD (TBS) (if necessary)
Game 5 (@ ATL): Saturday October 14, TBD (TBS) (if necessary)

Pitching Matchups

(based on announcements and my guesses)

Game 1: Ranger Suarez vs. Spencer Strider
Game 2: Zack Wheeler vs. Max Fried
Game 3: Bryce Elder vs. Aaron Nola
Game 4: Spencer Strider vs. Ranger Suarez
Game 5: Zack Wheeler vs. Max Fried

Fried is on track to return from a blister and start Game 2, despite missing the end of the regular season. If this series goes five games, the Braves can get two starts each from Strider and Fried, but they have enormous depth concerns with a subpar starter in Elder to go with other options like AJ Smith-Shawver or Allan Winans. This is the clear weak link of the team.

Phillies vs. Braves series preview

The Braves may have won the division and finished with the best record in baseball, but Atlanta was 44-29 in the second half and Philadelphia was 42-31, so there wasn’t a whole lot of difference between the two teams. In fact, the Phillies were substantially better in the ERA department (3.98 to 4.76) and also stronger in FIP (4.18 to 4.35).

The Braves were the better offense, though, leading the league with a 129 wRC+ that ranked 16 points higher than the Phillies. What makes Atlanta’s offense so scary is that the Braves put up all kinds of insane numbers, but have also gone to great lengths to cut down on their strikeouts. This has been one of the league’s premier offenses for a while now, but Atlanta’s bats went from a 24.6% K% last season down to a 20.6% K% this season. Their 19.7% K% in the second half was the fifth-best mark in baseball. The Phillies were 19th at 23.8%.

The Phillies did hit 121 homers in the second half, second only to Atlanta’s 138. For Philadelphia, this year’s bullpen is a better version than last season’s, but I would argue that the team is largely the same otherwise. This version of the Braves offense is better, but the pitching staff is a little bit of an unknown. The bullpen is largely the same, but the rotation depth is non-existent, so there are a lot of eggs in the Fried basket.

Also, Strider, whose advanced metrics were way better than his 3.86 ERA, has kind of fallen out of favor in the betting markets. Strider had a 3.02 xERA and a 2.85 FIP, but he definitely had some subpar starts in the second half. He had a 5.67 ERA in his final six starts, despite a 3.20 FIP. He had a 58.8% LOB% from not being able to work out of jams. He only allowed four homers, but gave up 21 runs in 33.1 innings.

While I can save most of this for the Game 1 write-up, the point I’m making here is that Strider needs to perform closer to his advanced metrics and less to his traditional ones to give the Braves the best shot. Frankly, the Braves need to win Game 1, otherwise things get really dicey. The Braves have been among the best in the league against lefties all season long, but the Phillies have made some noise as well. Atlanta has to beat Suarez because Wheeler vs. Fried in Game 2 looks like a much more difficult assignment, especially with the Elder game looming.

While I’m on record as saying anything other than a Braves/Dodgers NLCS would shock me, the Braves ran into the one team that can upset that apple cart. The thing I wrestle with is whether or not a series price at +145 is worth it. The Phillies are +170 in Game 1 and a loss there would shoot their series price north of +200. I think that might be the spot to buy. Wheeler is a playoff boss and a 1-1 series heading back to Philly swings the balance of power.

So, that’s what I’ll be waiting to see. I could do something with Phillies 3-1 at +450 or Phillies 3-2 at +475, but the Braves are a deservingly big Game 1 favorite and I think the series truly starts with Game 2.

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