The 2022 MLB postseason begins on Friday with the start of a new expanded 12-team playoff field and a best-of-3 series. The new format has led to some intriguing matchups over the weekend including a stacked San Diego Padres team with Juan Soto against the 101-win New York Mets and the ageless wonder Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals facing Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies.
More games means more opportunities to bet. Our experts tackle some of the most important questions surrounding how bettors should approach all of the AL and NL Wild Card games this week.
Note: All lines are courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook
The Mets, Blue Jays, Guardians and Cardinals are all hosting the best-of-3-series this weekend and all are favored to advance. Which team are you most confident in to advance to the LDS?
Karabell: The Guardians were four games over .500 one month ago. Then they won 21 of 25 games to lock up the Central. Starters Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie are thriving and the Rays are really struggling to score runs lately. I think the Guardians, with their deep, speedy lineup and strong defense are a serious threat to the Yankees in the next round, too.
Doug Kezirian: Based on the series odds, the Mets are the most likely to advance. A series price of -170 represents a 63% likelihood. However, the question was about my outlook. In a vacuum, yes, the Mets would be my pick. However, I do worry about their psyche, given the late-season fade, and even the recent performances of their aces, although the Padres are also an unreliable unit. I honestly think all these series are evenly matched and do not feel confident with any pick. Yes, it's a cop-out.
Tristan H. Cockcroft: The Mets, because it's tough envisioning a Padres team that was league-average in run scoring over the past month upsetting a team that'll probably be getting two-thirds of its innings from Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Edwin Diaz.
On the flip side, where do you see an upset happening?
Eric Karabell: The Phillies certainly didn't thrive in September but they have the rotation advantage on the Cardinals with top-10 starters Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola in the first two games. Perhaps MVP candidates Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado don't care, but the Cardinals aren't great against right-handed pitching. If the Philadelphia bullpen can hold leads, they can advance.
Tyler Fulghum: As a St. Louis native who has thoroughly enjoyed the wild nostalgia this season has provided, I begrudgingly agree with Karabell. The Cardinals kryptonite this season has been high-octane, high-quality RHP. And the Phillies have a couple of really good ones in Wheeler and Nola. Plus, the Cards offense really struggled down the stretch (save for Albert Pujols), and while they have depth on the mound from the 1st inning to the 9th inning, they don't really have any overpowering pitchers to dominate games (outside of closer Ryan Helsley).
Todd Zola: Pitching can go a long way in a three-game series and the Mariners have a top-three capable of matching up with anyone. Winning two in the Rogers Centre won't be easy, but Seattle has the starters and bullpen to keep Toronto's batters in check and with Julio Rodriguez back, they have an opportunistic offense ready to pull the upset.
Cockcroft: The Phillies, and maybe that's just my memory of so many good-performing, recent Cardinals teams that qualified for October disappointing in early playoff series, but history backs it up, as the Cardinals have lost nine of 13 playoff games and 3-of-4 series in the previous three postseasons. Additionally, Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Ranger Suarez represent a superior rotation to whatever the Cardinals roll out there, and the games will be played in the better park for pitching between these teams' homes. I'll note that I went with chalk picks in this series with my MLB predictions, but the Phillies were the one upset I was sorely tempted to pick.
The Mets are the biggest favorite at -170 vs the Padres. They blew a 10.5-game division lead that would have avoided this round. Do you see the blown lead impacting this series?
Fulghum: I do not think the blow lead in the division will affect the Mets series with San Diego. Having Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom to pitch these games matters way more to me. It's not like New York played poorly down the stretch - they won 101 games - it's just that the Braves went absolutely nuclear down the stretch and chased them down. San Diego, on the other hand, has been a relative disappointment this season after all the Spring Training hype and the midseason addition of Juan Soto.
Cockcroft: There's too much evidence that says regular-season "momentum" doesn't matter for me to buy the blown-lead argument. The Mets still have their rotation aligned in their favor, and they have home-field advantage with their opponent traveling cross-country. If there's anything from their blowing the division race that could influence this series negatively, it's this silly concept of saving deGrom for a prospective elimination game (Game 2 or 3) rather than making the smart move of simply pitching him in Game 2. Had the Mets taken the division, there wouldn't have even been this distracting debate.
Which of the eight teams playing in this round do you think has the best chance to win the LCS and is worth a futures play?
Karabell: The Guardians seem like the obvious pick to me against a Yankees team dependent on one slugging hitter and lacking rotation depth and clarified bullpen roles. Maybe they can rely on Luis Severino and Gleyber Torres. Maybe Clay Holmes and DJ LeMahieu are healthy. Seems like a bunch of maybes. The Guardians are solid.
Zola: 100% agree with Eric, but deciding between the Phillies and Mariners for the next best bet. Both have the pitching to pull it off. Seattle has the better defense and bullpen, which is huge in a short series, so I'll go with the Mariners to upset Houston, a team who hasn't played a meaningful game in what seems like months, and will have sat for six days between games.
Cockcroft: I'm amazed that the Guardians have as long odds as the Phillies! They've got a solid rotational top three, an elite defense (plus-77 Defensive Runs Saved!) and an above-average scoring offense that is by far the most contact-oriented in baseball. Maybe, just maybe, this throwback-style team has what it takes to topple the Yankees, then the pitching-rich Astros. Ultimately, I see tons of value in the Guardians for +3500, so that's how I'll pick here.