Why Dodgers Might Be On Upset Alert Against Braves Despite 2021 NLCS Odds

Written By Eli Hershkovich on October 16, 2021

After an egregious strikeout call that advanced the Dodgers, let’s break down the 2021 NLCS odds between LA and Atlanta.

Below you can find the best championship series and World Series odds, respectively.

2021 MLB Futures Odds

2021 NLCS Odds: Can Braves  Rectify Last Season’s Disappointment?

After notching a 3-1 series lead in the 2020 NLCS, Atlanta possessed an 87.0% probability to knock out LA. But Dave Roberts’ club won three straight games and subsequently clinched its first title since 1988.

Why will the rematch have a disparate outcome? Let’s compare the Braves’ arms, through the second half of the season and into the playoffs, to last year’s team. Even with the sample-size differential (72 to 60 games), it’s worth the juxtaposition.

The two metrics below are fielding expected independent pitching (xFIP) and barrel rate, which determine the variables that pitchers solely control and how often an opposing batter produced an exit velocity of at least 98 mph, respectively.

2020 BravesxFIPOpponents' Barrel Rate
Rotation4.87 (No. 26)8.4% (t-23rd)
Bullpen4.41 (No. 13)6.3% (No. 5)
2021 BravesxFIPOpponents' Barrel Rate
Rotation3.80 (No. 5)7.7% (t-9th)
Bullpen4.31 (t-14th)6.0% (No. 5)

Starting Rotation

Evidently, Atlanta’s staff is vastly improved. Since the All-Star break, Max Fried has accumulated the fifth-lowest xFIP (3.08) and 22nd-highest strikeout rate (24.5%) among qualifying starters. Moreover, the southpaw’s average fastball velocity (93.9 mph) is the highest mark of his five-year career.

Fried was stellar in the Braves’ Game 2 NLDS win over the Brewers, tossing six innings of no-run ball.

Then, there’s the 37-year-old Charlie Morton, who’s accrued a 3.18 xFIP with a 29.7% strikeout rate. The savvy right-hander has reverted back to a higher curveball usage (36.7%) and lowered his fastball employment (49.5%) in the process.

Ian Anderson‘s return from shoulder inflammation has also delivered Brian Snitker a reliable No. 3 starter (3.96 xFIP) for the Braves to continue their postseason run.

Bullpen And Defense

Although the overall numbers appear immensely similar, Atlanta’s setup man Luke Jackson saw his second-half xFIP dip 0.83 points from a season ago. The Braves lack the backend dependability that Mark Melancon provided in 2020, but now-closer Will Smith has yielded just two earned runs over his last 16 innings pitched.

Couple that with Atlanta’s defensive metrics improving 11 slots from last season (via FanGraphs), and Snitker’s group is much more adept towards handling the Dodgers’ seventh-ranked weighted runs created-plus (wRC+). That statistic measures runs created with the inclusion of ballpark factors and opponents’ ERA.

Do Braves’ 2021 NLCS Odds Present Enough Value?

There’s no debating Los Angeles’ dominant pitching staff, tallying the second-lowest bullpen xFIP (3.88) and tenth-lowest starting rotation xFIP (4.09), respectively.

Despite the loss of NL MVP candidate Ronald Acuna Jr. (torn ACL), Atlanta has accrued an above-average outfield WAR (via Baseball Reference) since acquiring Joc Pederson (Cubs), Jorge Soler (Royals), Adam Duvall (Marlins) and Eddie Rosario (Indians) in July.

Soler isn’t expected to play in the NLCS after testing positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday. But the Braves’ 13th-ranked wRC+, led by sluggers Freddie Freeman and Austin Riley, has enough vigor to counter the Dodgers’ arms.

While the betting market’s perception of the remaining teams could shift, the Braves’ 2021 NLCS odds (around +180) — with a rollover into the World Series — appear to be more valuable than betting them to win it all with that consensus price at +550.

Eli’s Bet: Braves to win NLCS (+185, PointsBet — placed at noon ET on Friday, Oct. 15)
Best Available Braves NLCS Odds: 

Best Available Braves World Series Odds:

NLCS Game 1 Odds – Dodgers at Braves

Eli Hershkovich Avatar
Written by
Eli Hershkovich

Eli Hershkovich is a lead sports betting writer with TheLines and Catena Media, formerly with Audacy and The Action Network. His goal is to provide you with data and information to lead you to winning bets. Eli is an avid college basketball gambler — among many other sports — and still hasn't forgiven Virginia for ruining his 2018-2019 Texas Tech futures.

View all posts by Eli Hershkovich