MLB playoffs odds: Which favorites are susceptible to being upset in three-game Wild Card Series round?

Frank Schwab
·5 min read

For most of its history, Major League Baseball focused on limiting the teams that made the playoffs.

Until 1969, only one team from each league made the playoffs. Each league winner went right to the World Series. The ALCS and NLCS started in 1969, expanding the field to four teams, and it stayed that way until 1995. A one-game wild-card round wasn’t introduced until 2012.

That’s why it’s rather jarring to see a March Madness style MLB playoff bracket. It’s unusual but a full day of playoff baseball all this week will be great.

The first ever Wild Card Series round, played entirely at the higher see will be three games. That could lead to some upsets. Here are the series odds from BetMGM:


(1) Los Angeles Dodgers (-304) vs. (8) Milwaukee Brewers (+240)

The Brewers made history. The Brewers and Houston Astros joined the 1981 Kansas City Royals as the only teams with a record below .500 to make the playoffs. The Royals made it in a strike-shortened season. The Brewers backed in when they lost Sunday, but the San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies lost, too. The Dodgers are as stacked as any team in recent memory. They had a run differential of plus-136, and the Padres were a distant second at plus-84. The return of starter Walker Buehler from the IL in the final week of the season makes Los Angeles even stronger. The Dodgers are in an unfair spot having to play a three-game series despite being 14 games better than Milwaukee in a 60-game season. But they shouldn’t be too worried. PICK: Dodgers

Mookie Betts and the Dodgers are favorites to win the World Series. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Mookie Betts and the Dodgers are favorites to win the World Series. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

(4) San Diego Padres (-218) vs. (5) St. Louis Cardinals (+175)

The Padres’ plus-84 run differential was second-best in baseball, 24 runs better than third place. They just happened to be in the same division as the Dodgers, which is why they’re a No. 4 seed. The Cardinals have some playoff experience on their side, but they were an average team all season. Padres top starters Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet are each dealing with arm injuries but haven’t been ruled out of this round. The pitching injuries are worrisome. Because of the pitching injuries and the huge odds on San Diego, the only reasonable play is on the underdog. PICK: Cardinals

(3) Chicago Cubs (-182) vs. (6) Miami Marlins (+150)

The Marlins are a wonderful story in this strange season, beating the odds to make the playoffs. They have some live arms, most notably rookie Sixto Sanchez. The Cubs weren’t great down the stretch but they didn’t have much to play for, and they should be too much for the young Marlins. PICK: Cubs

(2) Atlanta Braves (-139) vs. (7) Cincinnati Reds (+115)

The Braves can mash the ball. Their 348 runs were only one behind the Dodgers for the MLB lead. But Cincinnati played well late to get in the playoffs, winning 11 of 14. Trevor Bauer, Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray give the Reds a fine rotation for a three-game series. This might be an early upset. PICK: Reds


(1) Tampa Bay Rays (-200) vs. (8) Toronto Blue Jays (+165)

The Rays were fantastic all season, despite numerous injuries. They’re a well-run team and while Toronto is a fun story, it’s hard to pick against the Rays in this round. The Jays have some fun young hitters, especially with shortstop Bo Bichette returning late in the season from injury, but they don’t have the pitching to get by a 40-20 Rays team. Still, be aware that the Blue Jays won six of seven before losing their season finale, so they are hot. PICK: Rays

(4) Cleveland Indians (+115) vs. (5) New York Yankees (-139)

The Yankees went just 33-27 and finished seven games behind the Rays in the AL East. There was a good reason the preseason favorite in the AL was pretty mediocre. They were decimated by injuries most of the season, but got mostly healthy late and a 10-game winning streak in September was eye-opening. The Yankees stumbled a bit in the final week with nothing to play for, and Indians ace and presumptive Cy Young winner Shane Bieber is a big edge for Cleveland in a three-game series, but the Yankees were preseason favorites in the AL for a reason. PICK: Yankees

New York Yankees' Luke Voit celebrates a three-run home run with Giancarlo Stanton. (AP Photo/Corey Sipkin)
New York Yankees' Luke Voit celebrates a three-run home run with Giancarlo Stanton. (AP Photo/Corey Sipkin)

(3) Minnesota Twins (-164) vs. (6) Houston Astros (+135)

There isn’t much reason to like the Astros, who looked like a shell of themselves all season. Did that have anything to do with the attention brought on by a cheating controversy or just the loss of star pitchers like Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander? It’s impossible to say, but what we have is a 29-31 Astros team that rarely showed it was more than average, facing off against a Twins team with a fearsome offense. PICK: Twins

(2) Oakland A’s (-120) vs. (7) Chicago White Sox (+100)

Before the final week-and-a-half of the season, the White Sox looked like a team nobody wanted to see in the playoffs. Led by AL rookie of the year favorite Luis Robert and MVP candidate Jose Abreu, the young White Sox were one of most exciting teams in MLB and set to win the AL Central. Then they lost seven of their final eight. It’s hard to take a team in a cold stretch, and Oakland is a quality opponent, but 10 days ago you’d have been thrilled to get the White Sox as an underdog. PICK: White Sox

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