In a somewhat unexpected turn of events, the Arizona Diamondbacks fell behind the Miami Marlins as they lost four games in a row to close the regular season. So instead of facing the Philadelphia Phillies in the Wild Card round, the young D-Backs will travel to Milwaukee for a more favorable matchup against the NL Central champions. As you know, with any MLB playoff betting, anything can happen and nothing is a guarantee.
MLB Playoff Betting: The Pitching Matchups
Game 1: Brandon Pfaadt vs Corbin Burnes
As a result of clinching their playoff spot with a week to go, Milwaukee was able to set their rotation for the playoffs and will hand the ball to 2021 NL Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes in Game 1. It has been somewhat of a down year for Burnes, who had a 3.39 ERA and 3.81 FIP in 193.2 IP across 32 starts in 2023. Burnes has a great playoff track record, although six of his seven appearances have been in relief. In the Brewers’ NLCS run in 2018, Burnes pitched 9 innings of 2 ER ball and he threw six shutout innings in his only career playoff start in 2021.
Unlike Milwaukee, the Diamondbacks had to use Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly on Friday and Saturday to help ensure they would hold their playoff spot with the Cubs and Reds threatening. Instead of Gallen or Kelly, manager Torey Lovullo will hand the ball to rookie starter Brandon Pfaadt, who put up a 5.72 ERA in 96 IP across 19 appearances in the regular season. But Pfaadt’s numbers are a little misleading: in his last 10 starts, Pfaadt has averaged just under six innings per start while spinning a 4.14 ERA and 25.6% K%.
Game 2: Zac Gallen vs Freddy Peralta
Brewers star right-hander Brandon Woodruff will miss this series, leaving Freddy Peralta as the Game 2 starter. Peralta, no slouch in his own right, pitched 165.2 innings to the tune of a 3.86 ERA, 3.85 FIP, and 3.33 xERA in 2023. He was dominant in the 2nd half, posting a 0.88 WHIP and 36.3% K%. On the flip side, Zac Gallen is lined up for Arizona in Game 2. Gallen, a legitimate Cy Young candidate, had a 3.47 ERA, 3.27 FIP, and 20.4% K-BB% in 210 IP across a league-leading 34 starts in 2023. With this pitching matchup and Arizona’s slightly better offense, look for the Diamondbacks to be the betting favorite in Game 2.
Game 3: Merrill Kelly vs Wade Miley
Similarly, Merrill Kelly will have the advantage over anyone Craig Counsell can hand the ball to in Game 3. While he has options like Colin Rea and Adrian Houser, Wade Miley seems like the obvious choice to get the ball in Game 3. The 13-year veteran had another solid season in 2023, pitching 120.1 innings with a 3.14 ERA. Miley has a good ERA, but he has questionable peripherals (4.69 FIP, 5.05 SIERA) and the Diamondbacks tagged him for three runs early on in the season. Kelly had the best season of his career in 2023, posting a 3.23 ERA and 3.85 FIP in 177.2 IP.
Notable Advantages for Arizona
Right Handed Starting Pitching
While the Milwaukee Brewers haven’t seen Brandon Pfaadt, they have struggled against right handed pitching this year. Even as they’ve heated up offensively in the second half, most of the damage they’ve done has been against left-handed pitchers. Since the All-Star break, Milwaukee has raised its team wOBA to .317, but they have a .345 wOBA against LHP and just a .307 wOBA against RHP in that span.
Additionally, Christian Yelich and William Contreras, Milwaukee’s two best position players dominate fastballs, but struggle with breaking balls and offspeed pitches. Against right-handed fastballs, Yelich (.468 wOBA) and Contreras (.356) are much more dangerous than they are against right-handed breaking balls (.275, .308 wOBA, respectively) and off-speed (.341, .241).
Gallen relies heavily on his fastball, throwing the pitch at a 49.3% rate. So while on the surface, this may seem like a bad matchup for Gallen, his fastball is one of the best in baseball. His +27 Run Value on his four-seam fastball ranks 2nd among four-seamers (trailing only Gerrit Cole’s +30) and 3rd among all pitch types (trailing Cole and Logan Webb’s +28 changeup). Even strength on strength, Gallen has great numbers against Yelich (14 PA, .276 wOBA) and Contreras (6 PA, 1 H).
Pfaadt relies on a strong breaking ball, which he throws 32.5% of the time with a +6 RV. The Diamondbacks won’t look for much from Pfaadt; they’ll probably be happy with three or four innings out of him. Merrill Kelly is a bad matchup for this Milwaukee offense, as his changeup is the 2nd best in baseball and the Brewers have a wOBA of just .300 against changeups. In his two starts against Milwaukee, Kelly threw 13 innings of four run ball with seven strikeouts in each start.
MLB Playoff Betting: Arizona to Run All Over Milwaukee
Arizona’s main advantage in this series, however, is on the base paths. The Diamondbacks stole 166 bases while being caught just 26 times, which is by far the best rate among teams with at least 120 stolen bases. Corbin Carroll, the team’s best player and the NL Rookie of the Year favorite, stole 54 bases while being caught just five times. Jake McCarthy, Geraldo Perdomo, Tommy Pham, and even Christian Walker have double-digit stolen bases this year.
William Contreras is an incredible defensive catcher, but his strength is framing, not his arm. Overall, Contreras has caught just 17% of stolen base attempts, compared to the league average of slightly above 20%. Runners are 11-for-13 stealing against Burnes and 7-for-7 against Peralta. The lefty Miley is better at containing the run game, but runners are 10-for-11 against Devin Williams and 6-for-8 against Joel Payamps, Counsell’s two favorite late-game options.
Notable Advantages for Milwaukee
The bullpen advantage definitely goes to Milwaukee, but the Diamondbacks have an underrated collection of reliable arms. Down the stretch, Lovullo has looked to Miguel Castro, Luis Frias, and Kyle Nelson in middle relief, while Kevin Ginkel and Paul Sewald have been the most common late-inning options. Since Sewald was acquired at the deadline, he has saved 13 games for Arizona.
But even as the Diamonbacks bullpen has stabilized, it doesn’t even compare to the Devin Williams-led Milwaukee corps. Williams (1.53 ERA), Abner Uribe (1.76), Hoby Milner (1.82), and Joel Payamps (2.55) have all been exceptional out of the Milwaukee bullpen in 2023. Williams, the best reliever in baseball, is 36-for-40 in save opportunities and has only allowed more than 1 ER twice.
MLB Playoff Betting: Take Arizona to Advance (+150 on BetMGM)
Look for the Diamondbacks to jump out to early leads with their running game and deceptive pitching advantages. Milwaukee may take game one of this series with Burnes on the hill, but the Diamondbacks have the edge in both Games 2 and 3. There is absolutely value on Arizona at +150, and I would play it down to +120.
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