Braves have what it takes to stick atop NL East

Before the 2019 baseball season began, betting markets had posted regular-season win totals of 86¹/₂ for the Atlanta Braves, and 85¹/₂ for the New York Mets. Both were supposed to finish behind the Phillies in a tightly contested NL East, who were up on the board at 89¹/₂.

What a race it would be. Handicapping Sunday night’s nationally televised battle between the Braves and the Mets (ESPN, 7 p.m.), you realize that’s no longer the case.

William Hill sportsbooks now have Atlanta as prohibitive favorites to claim the division, -475 on the futures board (risk $475 to win $100). That’s an 83 percent win equivalent. The Mets have plummeted to a distant 25/1 long shot (risk $100 to win $2,500), a mere 4 percent.

Philadelphia isn’t out of range yet. The Phils are 5/1 to win the NL East, a 17 percent win equivalent (sportsbooks build a universe larger than 100 percent to create a house edge).

Atlanta’s resurgence hasn’t received much media play nationally or in betting market coverage. The Braves were off the radar to start the season because many figured their 2018 playoff run was a fluke. A slow start, 21-21 as recently as May 14, kept them off the radar.

Since May 14, the Braves have won series against the Cardinals, Brewers, Giants, Cardinals again, Tigers, Marlins (sweep), Pirates (sweep), Phillies, Mets and Nationals.

Not a murderers’ row, but not all cupcakes either. Atlanta is clearly playing “playoff caliber” baseball. VSiN already has written this week about how the Mets and Phils have not. Let’s get caught up with the Braves. What are they doing right? What has the market been missing?

On the road in normal conditions, Atlanta’s staff has been among the best in the league at preventing homers (the Mets among the worst, by the way).

Counting all games, Atlanta had out-homered its opponents 128-104 entering the Mets series. That’s at the heart of Atlanta’s division-leading run differential.

In short, current-day strategies are focused on home runs and bullpens — and Atlanta has put together a team that shines in those two categories.

Can the Braves keep it up? The bottom line for gamblers is Atlanta is playing smart, so backing the Braves is likely betting smart until daily money lines reflect their performance level.

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