The Major League Baseball playoffs commence Tuesday with four wild-card round games. And if last year’s postseason results indicate what’s to come, fans/bettors should expect the unexpected in the expanded 12-team field that includes three wild cards in National and American leagues.
In those 2022 playoffs, the first year with the new format, the Philadelphia Phillies stunned much of the baseball world by winning the National League pennant after narrowly earning the sixth seed.
2023 World Series odds and predictions
Equally surprising was seeing the 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers get vanquished by San Diego in the divisional round.
Anyway, this year’s team to beat, according to oddsboards at DraftKings, FanDuel, and PointsBet, among others, is the Atlanta Braves, whose 104-58 record was the best in the majors. The preseason favorite Los Angeles Dodgers and the defending world champion Houston Astros are close behind.
The Baltimore Orioles (101-61) are the upstart top seed in the AL. They exceeded its win expectancy number of 77.5 (BetMGM, March 1) by Aug. 23.
Now for a look at the playoffs field, with team records and World Series odds.
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World Series Favorites
NL No. 1 seed Atlanta Braves (104-58; +310 DraftKings)
The Braves packed an offensive wallop, tying the MLB record with 307 homers and having a league-leading .276 batting average.
Ronald Acuna Jr., who almost surely will win the NL MVP award, became the sole member of the 40/70 club with 41 homers and an MLB-best 73 stolen bases to go with a .337 batting average that was second in all of baseball.
And let’s not overlook first baseman Matt Olson, who in virtually any other season would be the MVP with his MLB-tops 54 homers and 139 RBIs.
And on the mound, Spencer Strider (20-5) was baseball’s only 20-game winner.
NL No. 2 seed LA Dodgers (100-62; +500 BetRivers)
The Dodgers reached the 100-victory plateau for the 10th time in team history. Yet they never won seven world titles in one of those 100-win seasons.
Second baseman Mookie Betts and first baseman Freddie Freeman, a pair of previous MVP winners, headline the lineup.
Betts ranked in the MLB top seven in average (.307), homers (39) and RBIs (107). Freddie Freeman had a league-high 59 doubles and was third on average at .331 with 29 homers and 102 RBIs.
On the mound, the Dodgers are led by lefty Clayton Kershaw, who sat much of the summer with a shoulder injury. He went 13-5, and his 2.46 ERA would have ranked second in the majors if he had enough innings to qualify.
AL No. 3 seed Houston Astros (90-72; +525 Bet365)
Just a few days ago, there was the possibility of the Astros not even making the playoffs. Still, their sweep of Arizona over the weekend and Texas’ late collapse vaulted the Astros to the division crown and a first-round bye.
Houston has a potent lineup (tied for fourth in hitting and seventh in homers) to go with a stellar 1-2 punch on the mound with Justin Verlander and Framber Valdez.
AL No. 1 seed Baltimore Orioles (101-61; +700 FanDuel, DraftKings)
The Orioles, who had odds of +10000 (FanDuel) in late March, benefited from 48 come-from-behind victories, tied for the MLB lead, and a well-rounded attack to earn their first division title since 2016.
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It’s been an incredible turnaround for a team that was 52-110 two seasons ago when its bullpen had a 5.71 ERA, one of the worst in league history. This year their relievers’ ERA was 3.55, which ranked fifth best.
MLB Postseason Semi-Longshots
AL No. 4 seed Tampa Bay Rays (99-63; +1200 BetMGM, PointsBet, Caesars, FanDuel)
After getting off to a 13-0 start and eventually holding a 6.5-game lead in the East, the Rays went through a mid-summer stretch in which they lost 12 of 15 games and eventually dropped behind Baltimore.
Tampa Bay has baseball’s third-best team batting average and ranked fifth in ERA,
NL No. 4 seed Philadelphia Phillies (90-72; +1400 CaesarsSportsbook)
The Phillies rallied from 4.5 games back in the wild-card race in early June to go 65-40 and earn a berth by seven games.
They were led by inspirational Bryce Harper, last year’s NLCS MVP, and RHP Zack Wheeler, among the top Cy Young candidates all season.
AL No. 5 seed Texas Rangers (90-72; +2000 FanDuel,)
Entering the last day of the season Sunday, the Rangers held a one-game lead in the AL West over Houston and were on the way to winning the division and earning a first-round bye. Their WS odds were +1000.
But a loss in the finale at Seattle, their third in four games against the Mariners to end the season, and with Houston completing its sweep of Arizona dropped the Rangers into a tie with Houston and losing out for the division crown via tiebreaker.
Texas’ odds promptly ballooned by double overnight as it was relegated to the wild-card round.
AL No. 3 seed Minnesota Twins (87-75; +2000 Caesars, BetRivers, PointsBet, DraftKings)
The Twins have the worst record among the 12 postseason squads (Philadelphia had the same mark last season and did pretty well in the playoffs) yet won the Central Division by nine games.
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What could hurt the Twins is their injury issues in the infield. Plus, they strike out a lot.
NL No. 3 seed Milwaukee Brewers (92-70; +2000 BetMGM)
The Brewers coasted to the Central title by nine games, largely thanks to the leage’s top pitching staff (based on their 3.71 ERA).
But at the plate, they might have the weakest lineup in the playoff field, ranking 23rd in average and tied for 24th in homers.
AL No. 6 seed Toronto Blue Jays (89-73; +2000 FanDuel, BetMGM)
The Blue Jays landed in a great spot as the sixth seed and got to meet Minnesota in the wild-card round instead of Tampa Bay.
Their starting staff is strong behind Kevin Gausman and Chris Bassitt.
World Series Longshots
NL No. 5 seed Miami Marlins (84-78; +5000 BetMGM)
The Marlins and Arizona were the first teams to qualify for the postseason with a record as bad as 84-78 since the Dodgers won the NL West with the same mark in 2008.
Miami, which had +12000 Series odds at FanDuel before the season, was led by MLB batting champion Luis Arraez (.354). But the Marlins are at a great loss on the mound with last year’s Cy Young winner, Sandy Alcantara, out for the rest of the year.
NL No. 6 seed Arizona Diamondbacks (84-78; +5000 BetMGM)
The Diamondbacks will be relying heavily on Cy Young candidate RHP Zac Gallen in the playoffs after the team nose-dived 34-44 the second half ot the season.
2023 MLB Playoff Predictions
MLB Wild-Card Prediction
Blue Jays over Twins: Can Minnesota end its 18-game playoff losing streak? It may be hard with key Twins currently on IR, including hot-hitting shortstop Royce Lewis (.309).
Rangers over Rays: Texas went all out over the weekend while Minnesota prepped for the postseason. Not only is Rangers’ No. 1 starter, Nathan Eovaldi, scheduled to pitch Tuesday on three days rest but he’s had an ERA of 10.13 his past three starts.
Brewers over Diamondbacks: Like Texas, the Diamondbacks needed to use their ace, Gallen, in a high-leverage situation in Friday’s start that will result in him not being scheduled to start in this series till Game 2. And even worse, Merrill Kelly might not get to pitch if the Brewers win the first two.
Phillies over Marlins: A pair of lefties, Jesus Lazardo and Braxton Garrett, will start for Miami in the first two games, and analysts have mentioned that the Marlins were 4-0 against the Phillies when they pitched. But those two had a combined ERA of 4.43 — hardly impressive.
MLB Division Round Prediction
Orioles over Rays: Baltimore was 8-5 against Tampa Bay this season and should benefit from not facing current Rays ace Tyler Glasnow in the opener since he was scheduled to work Tuesday vs. Texas.
Astros over Blue Jays: Verlander and Valdez, plus a vaunted lineup headed by Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez, among many others, likely will overwhelm Toronto.
Braves over Phillies: Atlanta’s Strider owns the Phillies, going 8-0 with a 1.90 ERA the past two regular seasons. The Braves should then roll after that first-game victory.
Brewers over Dodgers: This isn’t the same Milwaukee team the Dodgers swept three games in LA in mid-August. The Brewers then went on to finish out 27-13, the best record in baseball since Aug. 18.
MLB LCS Round Prediction
Astros over Orioles: Baltimore will really miss their bullpen ace, Felix Bautista (33 saves, 1.48 ERA), who is to undergo Tommy John surgery this month.
Braves over Brewers: Although the Brewers had the best ERA in the league, Atlanta still could overpower Milwaukee in their season series 5-1, averaging seven runs a game.
World Series Prediction
Astros over Braves: Manager Dusty Baker’s Astros win second straight.
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