MLB Series Picks: Atlanta Braves vs Los Angeles Dodgers Odds and Predictions
After 163 games of regular-season baseball, the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers will meet at Dodger Stadium in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Thursday. From the Dodgers' perspective, they expected to be in this series. From the viewpoint of the Braves' clubhouse, well, this season was a long time in the making and it makes this breakthrough much more meaningful.
Before we get into breaking down the pitching and hitting lineups, let's take a look at what each team brings into this postseason. For starters, this will be the first meeting between the Dodgers and Braves in the NLDS since 2013, when LA won the series by a score of 3-1. The pair also met in the NLDS in 1996, a series in which the Braves won 3-0.
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As a franchise, the Dodgers have won five World Series in their franchises' history, and that number would be six if you include the World Series they won as the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1955. They have been to the postseason every year since 2013, including last year when they fell short in the World Series to the Houston Astros.
The Braves have won just one world series under the current franchise name, and that was in 1995 when Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine dominated the league. They also lost four World Series between 1991 and 1999, which may mean positive regression could be on the way. The Braves have not won a playoff series since beating the Astros in the 2001 NLDS, which brings that tally to seven straight National League Division Series losses.
As of writing this, the Dodgers are +175 to win the NL Pennant, while the Braves check in at +400. For the series, the Dodgers are -200 with the Braves sitting at +175.
The Atlanta Braves' pitching rotation was among the best 10 teams in the league in several key pitching categories. They posted an ERA of 3.75, which ranked seventh, they ranked 10th in quality starts with 85 and seventh in earned runs with just 607. They checked in 10th overall in strikeouts with 1,423 and held their opponents to just a .229 batting average, which was good enough for second overall.
The Braves rotation features a good mix of youth and veteran presence. Julio Teheran, Sean Newcomb, Kevin Gausman and Mike Foltynewicz are all under the age of 28, while veteran Anibal Sanchez is pushing 35. From a statistical standpoint, Sanchez led the team in ERA with a 2.83 mark, but he also pitched 10 less games than Foltynewicz, who posted a 2.85 ERA and led the team in strikeouts with 202, did.
I like the Braves rotation and what they can throw at an experienced Dodgers team, but the one main concern I have is the fact that both Teheran and Gausman gave up 26 home runs, while Newcomb and Foltynewicz gave up 17 and 18 dingers, respectively. With the Dodgers power littered throughout the lineup, giving up the longball could be the reason the Braves are sent packing once again.
The Dodgers pitching rotation has been solid all year long, led once again by Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw led the team in innings pitched at 161.1 and was second on the team in ERA at 2.73. Behind Kershaw, Alex Wood, Wade Buehler, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu form a formidable group of pitchers, and it will be a tall task for the Braves bats to overcome.
Much like the Braves, The Dodgers rank in the Top 10 in most pitching categories, including batting average (fourth), strikeouts, quality starts, ERA and earned runs (second). Given the fact that the Dodgers have home-field for this series, I like the Dodgers pitching staff more than I like the Braves rotation.
The Braves lineup is one of the most exciting young lineups in the Majors today. They are led by leadoff man Ronald Acuna Jr. who is also the front-runner for the NL ROY award. Acuna had a solid season, posting a .293 batting average with 26 home runs, 64 RBIs and 78 runs. He was relied on the get on base and let the big bats behind him do the damage. Those big bats include Ozzie Albies -- 24 home runs and 40 doubles, Nick Markakis - 14 dingers, 43 doubles and 93 RBIs, Freddie Freeman - 23 home runs, 44 doubles and 98 RBIs and Johan Camargo - 19 dingers and 27 doubles. While these names may not be household names like that of the Dodgers lineup, this lineup is talented and could give any rotation a lot of problems when they are in a groove.
The Dodgers lineup is chock-full of household names, including the recently-acquired Manny Machado and the polarizing figure of Yasiel Puig. Machado led the team in batting average this year at .297 despite playing the majority of games on a bad Baltimore club. He also hit 37 dingers to lead the team and drove in 107 runs, which is most on the team by 20+. However, the Dodgers feature a very deep lineup and have four other players that drove in more than 70 runs and three more that drove in more than 60. This lineup could also give opposing pitching staffs fits on their day, and it wouldn't be a shock to see higher-scoring games throughout the series.
Who Has the Edge
Pedigree suggests the Dodgers have the edge as they know what it takes to win in the postseason. However, the Braves have been building for this moment for the last handful of years and have finally put together a talent-filled roster. Given what we know about playoff baseball, and the fact that anything can happen and pitchers can turn into superheroes when called upon, give me the Braves to upset the Dodgers in five games and enjoy a coming-out party for Teheran and Newcomb.
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