The 2022 World Series begins Friday when the American League's 1-seed Houston Astros host the National League's 6-seed Philadelphia Phillies. The first pitch at Minute Maid Park is scheduled for 8:03 p.m. ET and the game airs on FOX.
Philly took the longest route to the World Series ever winning an inaugural NL Wild Card Series 2-0 against the NL Central champion St. Louis Cardinals.
The Phillies then upset the defending World Series Champion and NL East division-winning Atlanta Braves 3-1 in the NLCS. Philly then made short work of the San Diego Padres with a 4-1 pennant win.
Houston won 106 regular-season games and the AL West crown by 16 games. The Astros breezed through the AL postseason, beating the AL West co-tenant Seattle Mariners 3-0 in the ALDS before sweeping the New York Yankees 4-0 in the ALCS.
This is Houston's 4th World Series appearance in the last six seasons, winning the 2016 World Series and the Astros lost the 2021 World Series to the Braves 4-2.
The Astros were a -140 favorite vs. Atlanta last season, a -235 favorite in a 2019 World Series loss to the Washington Nationals, and a +140 underdog in Houston's 2017 World Series vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers.
These teams met in a 3-game regular-season finale from Oct. 3-5 that the Astros won 2-1 with an +8 run differential (13-5). The Phillies' only win in that series was thanks to a pitching gem from their Game 1 starter.
Betting Details (DraftKings)
Phillies RHP Aaron Nola (11-13, 3.25 ERA) gets the ball for Game 1. This is Nola's 1st postseason and he is 2-1 with a 3.12 ERA in 17 1/3 IP.
Nola had two 6-plus scoreless-inning starts in the NLWCS and NLDS before getting raked by the Padres for 6 ER in an 8-5 loss in Game 2 of the NLCS.
The Phillies clinched an NL postseason berth when Nola beat the Astros 3-0 in Houston Oct. 3. Nola struck out nine Houston hitters in 6 2/3 IP with 0 BB and 2 H.
The Astros send out likely 2022 AL Cy Young, RHP Justin Verlander (18-4, 1.75 ERA) who's also a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Verlander is 1-0 in these playoffs with a 6.30 ERA. Before mowing down the Yankees in Game 1 of the ALCS with 11 K and just 1 ER, Verlander got smoked in Game 1 of the ALDS.
But, he got bailed out by his lineup in Houston's 8-7 win vs. Seattle. Verlander also shut out Philly's lineup in Houston's 10-0 victory on Oct. 4. He struck out 10 Phillies with 1 BB in 5 no-hit IP.
My first issue with the Phillies-Astros Game 1 odds comes when breaking down this starting pitching matchup because ...
Verlander shouldn't be this big of a favorite
Nola has better command and contact rates than Verlander. He also has slightly more impressive advanced numbers vs. Houston's lineup than Verlander does against the Phillies.
For instance, Nola has a 36.2% K-rate in 47 plate appearances (PA) vs. active Astros batters with a .127/.149/.196 expected batting average (xBA), wOBA (xwOBA) and slugging percentage (xSLG) slash line, per Statcast.
While Verlander has a 35.7% K-rate in 42 PA vs. current Phillies hitters with a .124/.205/.234 xBA-xwOBA-xSLG slash line and a worse exit velocity (85.7-83.7 mph).
On top of that, Nola grades higher than Verlander this season in K%, BB%, hard-hit rate, exit velocity, chase rate, and xFIP.
This coin-flip starting pitching matchup plus Philly's momentum explains the suspicious line movement. Or lack thereof.
Per Pregame.com, more than 80% of the money is on the Astros but their ML has hardly budged off the opener. It's a red flag whenever oddsmakers don't adjust a line when one side is getting the majority of the action.
Most MLB fans pegged Houston as a heavy favorite to win the AL pennant and the Astros blew the doors off their competition. Also, most of the talking heads picked the Astros to win their 2nd World Series title in six seasons.
But, the sportsbooks are confident in their price and are asking for more pro-Houston money by not moving this ML. The House will be rooting for Philly and the House usually wins.
Phillies have hotter bats
When you compare these lineups side-by-side you'll notice there isn't a talent gap between the two. The Astros' core has "been there and done that" however the Phillies hitters aren't schleps.
Phillies' superstar Bryce Harper is a 2-time NL MVP and LF Kyle Schwarber is a 40 HR slugger who helped the Chicago Cubs break their century-plus curse. Harper was the 2022 NLCS MVP and Schwarber hit 3 HRs in the NLCS.
More importantly, Philly's lineup has a better postseason OPS than Houston's (.749-.708) and a slightly higher HR per at-bat rate.