The 2021 MLB Opening Day is almost here, and with that, it’s a perfect time to preview the season and break down the NL East odds. The NL East has two of the top four favorites to win the National League in the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets. But the Phillies still have a formidable lineup and the Nationals return one of MLB’s best starting rotations and one of the top NL VMP candidates in Juan Soto. BetRivers.com is proud to provide a wide variety of NL East odds, MLB futures, game lines, and player markets. Longtime sports broadcaster David Tuchman is here to give his picks and predictions on the NL East odds.
With the American League previews done and dusted, we turn our attention to the National League, and first up is the NL East odds.
We start in the East which truly has the beasts. True, the Dodgers are likely the best team. Well, they’re definitely the best team on paper. And the NY Yankees are the second best team (on paper), but the NL East is perhaps the only division in baseball where every team is a legitimate threat. I’m truly intrigued to see what happens in this race.
Now, the Braves have won the East three straight years. But a lot has changed and maybe just maybe this is the year Atlanta loses its stranglehold on the East. With that, let’s get to the NL East odds.
NL EAST ODDS: Atlanta Braves (+120)
Win Total: 91.5 wins (+105/-130)
World Series: +1000 (Fifth shortest)
National League: +500 (Third shortest)
Click here for more Braves NL East Odds.
On paper, the Braves have talented arms. Max Fried, Ian Anderson, and Mike Soroka are great…..if they are healthy. And that’s the biggest problem. Mike Soroka had a huge 2019 (13-4) but he’s not overpowering, and he got hurt (Achilles) in 2020. He looks to rejoin the rotation in May. Max Fried’s record was impressive in 2019 (17-6) but his secondary numbers (ERA, WHIP, ERA+) suggest he wasn’t as good as the record suggested. However, in 2020, he was dominant, going 7-0, with a 2.25 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in only 11 games. The sample size is quite small. Finally, Ian Anderson, expected to be the #2 behind Fried, was dominating in 2020…in only 5 games. Can Anderson, Fried, and Soroka pitch the way they did in 2019-2020? Maybe. But I think they’re due for a significant regression. The Braves added free-agent starting pitcher Charlie Morton in the offseason. Morton has produced stunning numbers from 2017-2019 (45-16, ERA in the low 3’s, with 604 K over the 3 seasons!…that’s amazing) But Morton was lousy in 2020 – in only 38 IP – and he’s 37. You have to wonder if the bloom is off Morton’s rose and he’s finally feeling his age.
The Braves lineup boasts not one, but two, of baseball’s best all-around players, in centerfielder Ronald Acuna (+800 NL MVP) and first baseman Freddie Freeman (+1200 NL MVP). Acuna is a legit threat to go 40-40 (I think he’ll go 40-30, but still, that’s absurd); and Freeman is a lock to go .300-30-100 at minimum. The two will combine to be a devastating part of a solid to the fantastic lineup. Ozzie Albies is solid at second base and Dansby Swanson is his middle infield partner at shortstop, who should hit 20 HR. Finally, Marcell Ozuna is a stud DH who will contribute .285-30-100 fairly easily. The problem with that is that the NL doesn’t have the DH. So Ozuna will be forced to play LF or RF and he can’t play either, so that should be fairly amusing to watch.
The Braves bullpen should be solid but not overpowering. It’s not really a weakness, but it’s by no means a strength. Will Smith and Chris Martin are vying for the closers spot and they might both close.
The analytics suggest the Braves will win only 85-88 games. So, their +120 odds to win the East feel like a great way to lose a lot of money. I hear you – they’ve won it 3 straight years. So, what’s the biggest issue with the Braves? Well, the Mets are a lot better. And the rest of the division is really tough. The Braves have overperformed in the last 3 years. I think this year, they slide back – especially due to injury concerns and regression issues with their young arms. Don’t misunderstand, I’m still picking the Braves to finish in second, but I think they are closer to third than they are first.
The Pick: UNDER 91.5 wins is the play.
NL EAST ODDS: New York Mets +140
Win Total: 90.5 wins (-129/+103)
World Series: +1000
National League: +525
Click here for more Mets NL East Odds.
Welp. It’s chaos! End of the world! Cats and dogs living together. Yes, the New York Mets are my pick to win the East. Are the Mets the best team in the East. No. At least not yet. But they’re really, really close. And really, really good. What’s different about the 2021 Mets however, is that they have an absolute maniac of an owner who wants to win and win big, in his first season owning a baseball team. Oh, and he’s worth around $14 billion dollars. You should know this going in, because an owner like that is just as valuable as an MVP-caliber hitter or Cy Young-pitcher. Cohen will spend money at the trade deadline (and even before then) to bring in the missing pieces of the puzzle, especially if the Mets are close (which they should be), to put them over the top. Now, the Mets, since they’re the Mets, have already lost starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco to a grade 1 hamstring strain – so, he’s out 6-8 weeks. Mets are gonna Mets. I still think over the course of the season, they win this thing.
On the field, the Mets are pretty damn good. Pete Alonso is a 40+ HR threat at first. The addition of Francisco Lindor at shortstop gives the Mets another star in their galaxy. Jeff McNeill is a .300 hitter at second base. The outfield promises to be fairly solid, with darkhorse MVP contender, Michael Conforto, in right, up-and-coming slugger, Dominic Smith in left, and the steady, Brandon Nimmo in centerfield. Outfield defense might struggle with Smith, who’s a butcher in the field.
The rotation is a work in progress but definitely upgraded from 2020. Jacob DeGrom (+425 Cy Young) is perhaps the best pitcher in all of baseball and the hope is that the Mighty Thor, Noah Syndergaard is back by June or July. If injuries strike or the backend of their rotation falters, rest assured the Mets will not be shy about bringing someone in.
The Mets bullpen is also good, with a ton of strong arms. The Mets pen may not dominate, but it should be solid. The closer is likely Edwin Diaz, who throws hard, strikes out a ton of guys, but is also prone to giving up the lead. He lost the closer job last year, but he’s got another crack at in to start 2021.
Here is an interesting fact about the Mets, if you’re into analytics: BetRivers.com has the Mets at +140, the second-best odds to win the East. They have the Braves at +120. However, the analytics, specifically, PECOTA, has the Mets with a 77% chance to win the East. PECOTA says the Mets should win 95 games. So what does PECOTA know that the bettors do not? Nothing really. It’s a computer algorithm that has projected the Mets to win the East the last 3 seasons in a row. And the Mets have underperformed (per the analytics) three straight years. What’s different this year? STEVE COHEN that’s what! Meet the Billion Dollar Babies! The NEW YORK METS!
The Mets are +1000 to win it all which is intriguing, but where I’m putting my money is on the OVER 90.5 wins. I have them projected to win 92-95 games.
NL EAST ODDS: Philadelphia Phillies (+875)
Win Total: 80.5 wins (-143/+113)
World Series: +4000
National League: +2000
Click here for more Phillies NL East Odds.
The Phightin’ Phils! Look, the Phillies have the talent and the right manager to make some noise in 2021. What’s more, they have ownership who is committed to finding a way to win. They are not afraid to make a move – The biggest, this offseason, was adding all-world catcher, J.T. Realmuto, who’s one of the best all-around catchers in the game. He can hit, field, and handle the pitching staff. The Phillies were rumored to be in on big-time starting pitchers, like Trevor Bauer and others, but ultimately they looked to ..uh..other places. The Phillies brought in Matt Moore to be their fourth starter, bumping Zach Elfin up to the third starting pitcher. In 2020 Matt Moore went 6-3, 2.65 ERA, 98 K in 85 IP, over 15 games…for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in the Japan Pacific League. I’m sure y’all know them. Anyhoo, are the Phils getting that Matt Moore, or the Matt Moore that went 6-23, with a 6.00 ERA over his last 2 full MLB seasons? (2017-18) My guess is closer to the latter.
I knock them for Matt Moore, but really, there’s a lot to like about the Phillies as they have built up a relatively young, talented roster behind all-star Bryce Harper. Alec Bohm impressed last year as a rookie and will only get better. Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Elfin make up a talented trio of young starting pitchers. Spencer Howard is waiting for his shot as their top pitching prospect. He’ll probably start off in the minors tho. Rhys Hoskins, Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen, and Didi Gregorius form a veteran corp around the kids and Harper. This lineup will hit. The bullpen is suspect, however. Actually, being suspect would be good – as in I suspect it’s not good. But really, I know it’s not good. So that’ll be a problem.
As I’ve mentioned the National League East is going to be close and competitive. The Phillies will finish in third just a hair ahead of the Nationals. They’ll win 82-84 games.
With the total at 80.5, we’re betting the OVER. +875 to win the East represents some decent value as well.
NL EAST ODDS: Washington Nationals (+600)
Win Total: 84.5 wins (-112/-112)
World Series: +3300
National League: +2000
Click here for more Nationals NL East Odds
The Nats are interesting because you can get some big odds on them. +600 to win the NL East. +2000 to win the NL. +3300 to win it all. Why? Well, they’re not that good. However, the Nationals won the World Series in 2019. So, what’s changed? They still have two of the best hitters in all of baseball – Juan Soto (+750 NL MVP) and Trea Turner. They also have two top aces in Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer. These four guys can generate a lot of wins on their own. So, what’s the problem?
They don’t really have anything else.
The good: Trea Turner is a top shortstop with five-tool talent. He should easily come close to hitting .300 (or better), with 20+ HR and 30-40 SB. Juan Soto is one of the game’s best young hitters and an MVP candidate. He could sleepwalk his way to .300-40-120 with 15 SB thrown in for fun. The Nats lost Anthony Rendon to the Angels before the start of the 2020 season. They haven’t found anyone close to replacing his bat. In the offseason, the Nats brought in Josh Bell, freeing him from the Pirates. But Bell was perfectly atrocious in 2020 (.226 BA; .669 SLG) The Nats are hoping he can return to his 2019 form.
The rotation has some big names, with Scherzer, Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, and Jon Lester. All good right? Not a freakin’ chance. The issue is that Corbin is the baby of the bunch at 31 (he’ll be 32 in July). Strasburg will be 33 and Lester and Scherzer are both 37 years old. That is an OLD staff. Like magic wizard staff old. And injury-prone. All of these guys have dealt with some type of nagging injury in the off-season or from 2019-2020. Strasburg already has a strained calf – though he’s expected to pitch through it. I don’t believe their arms can hold out for a full season. The ownership is not willing to bring in costly veterans or stars – as evidenced by them allowing Rendon to leave, and their only big free agent acquisitions are reclamation projects or really old. Their bullpen is a huge liability. They’re hoping on a wing and a pray they’ll get through the late innings, but I wouldn’t count on it. And their bench looks like a community college club team.
We’ve got the Nationals winning 81-84 games so with the total at 84.5, we’ve got a slight lean toward the UNDER. This is still a supremely talented collection of ballplayers and if somehow they can stay healthy, they could surprise, but I’m not betting on that.
NL EAST ODDS: Miami Marlins (+2500)
Win Total: 71.5 wins (-118/-106)
World Series: +7500
National League: +3300
Click here for more Marlins NL East Odds
The Miami Marlins shocked the world in 2020! Well, maybe not the world. They shocked me at least. They went 31-29, which somehow got them a wild card – and then they swept the sluggish Cubs in the opening round. That’s right, the Miami Marlins actually won a playoff round in 2020. That was after losing 105 games in 2019!!! Ridiculous.
Over a full season, 31-29 projects to 84 wins. Betrivers.com has the Marlins at 71.5 for their win totals. Is it worth it? Well, there’s a lot to like with the young Marlins – especially their starting pitching. The Marlins boast 5 legit future studs in Sixto Sanchez, Trevor Rogers, Sandy Alcantara, Elieser Hernandez and Pablo Lopez. They even have Braxton Garrett waiting in the wing.
The Marlins offense is not quite as appealing. In fact, it’s downright…uh, offensive. See what I did there?
Brian Anderson is solid at third base, and should hit .275-30-100, and Starling Marte is an all-star CF. But beyond that, the Marlins offense is one of the weakest in baseball – and the only addition to it in the offseason was Adam Duvall. He’s 32 years old and he hit .237 last year. (He did have 16 HR tho, so he can still crank one) The biggest problem the Marlins have is that their run differential last season was -41, which suggests to me they got lucky winning 31 games.
Bottom line, you can have some fun if you’re a Marlin fan with the +2500 to win the East. But the 71.5 win total, while it might be tempting to take the OVER, it’s fool’s gold. The Marlins will experience growing pains and regression here feels right. I’m taking the UNDER, and it won’t be close. Figure the Fish for 65-67 wins at best.
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