In some ways, the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies have had diametrically opposite seasons as they get ready to battle in Game 1 of the 2022 World Series.
The Astros were thought to be a contender to return to the Fall Classic prior to the season, were never challenged in the American League West, cruised to a 106-win regular season and swept the ALDS and ALCS series.
Meanwhile, the Phillies were an afterthought in an Atlanta Braves-New York Mets National League East battle and ended the regular season with a mere 87 wins, before ousting the Braves 3-1 in the NLDS and Padres 4-1 in the NLCS.
With the home field advantage squarely in their corner, it would appear the Astros should be the favorites, especially in Game 1 in Houston, with their ace on the mound and a fully rested bullpen.
In last year’s World Series, the Astros fell to a hot Atlanta Braves team and there has to be some concern that the same could be true this season for the Braves National League East counterparts in the Phillies.
The money line odds for Game 1 shows the Astros at -167 and the Phillies at +145, placing the value squarely on the Phillies.
Aaron Nola has had three starts this postseason, sparkling in two, and struggling in the third, giving up seven hits and six earned runs in 4.2 innings against San Diego.
Meanwhile, Justin Verlander is your likely American League Cy Young Award winner and shut down the Yankees in his last outing, but didn’t fare as well in the ALDS opener against Seattle in Minute Maid Park back on October 11.
There’s not a ton of history in Nola vs. the Astros or Verlander vs. the Phillies, but Nola has held these Astros batters to a .148 wOBA, .130 BA and a .196 xSLG over 47 plate appearances with a 36.2% strikeout rate.
Verlander, too, has been outstanding against those on the Phillies roster: .241 wOBA, .184 xBA and .234 xSLG in 42 plate appearances.
I’ve spent a good part of this season chuckling at bettors who have faded Verlander in the face of start after start of greatness on the strength of his rebuilt right arm, just waiting for him to falter.
So the obvious side is the Astros money line, right?
It makes sense that the Astros are the favorites given Verlander’s season, the home-field advantage and their stellar bullpen.
Despite the Houston Astros having home-field advantage, the Philadelphia Phillies are the value bet in Game 1 of the World Series
But betting is not just about who we think will win a single game. In the long run, it’s about playing the numbers and coming out ahead.
At -167, the implied odds equal the Astros winning 62.6% of the time, more than 5% higher than what FanGraphs calculates as the odds of Houston winning Game 1, which is a significant difference.
To get close to that 57.5% number that FanGraphs estimates the odds would be around Houston -135, providing you a 32 cent edge if you take the Phillies.
I’m not wild about including numbers from as far back as 2006 (Verlander’s first World Series) in this analysis, but there is truth in the fact that Justin Verlander is 0-6 in seven World Series starts.
Considering all those factors, the value is on the Phillies at +145 in Game 1.
Personally, my favorite prop bet for game one is a bit counterintuitive. The Astros don’t strike out much, but I like Nola over 5.5 strikeouts for a couple of reasons. One, I expect Nola to go deep into this game, at least two times through the order, meaning he’ll have 18 chances for strikeouts, if that comes to fruition.
Secondly, on the season Nola has struck out 29.1% of batters faced, but against the Astros on the active roster that number jumps to 36.2%, making the over 5.5 more probable than it normally would be against Houston.
Note: Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change