Dodgers Risky to Back in Second Straight World Series Appearance

Rainman M.

Sunday, October 21, 2018 4:05 PM UTC

Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018 4:05 PM UTC

The NL champion Dodgers are returning to the World Series. After losing to Houston in seven games last year, they’ll look to defeat Boston. The series opener is Tuesday night. Let’s preview the Dodgers’ chances.

Los Angeles Dodgers World Series Preview

Even though the Dodgers had a losing record in June, there was never really any doubt that, given their budget and talent level, they would return to the playoffs. In the regular season, their pitching staff achieved the second-best team ERA and their lineup had the best WAR (wins above replacement).

In the NLDS, they took three out of four against Atlanta. Their one loss came in rookie Walker Buehler’s first-ever postseason start. Otherwise, they won every game by at least three runs. In the NLCS they did run into trouble against Milwaukee, which had been the hottest team in baseball. An off-night from Clayton Kershaw, a dominating performance from opposing starter Jhoulys Chacin, and lack of composure from starter Hyun-jin Ryu ensured that this series would head to Game 7. The Dodgers rested their bullpen’s best relievers in their Game 6 loss and, with their best pitchers available, held the Brewers to one run and won 5-1 in Milwaukee in Game 7 Saturday night. The Dodgers won the series despite failing to score more than five runs in a single game.

L.A.’s pitching is elite from top to bottom. Future Hall of Famer Kershaw spearheads the rotation. Ryu’s postseason ERA ballooned after his Game 6 debacle, but his 1.97 regular-season ERA indicates that we should fully expect him to bounce back. Fellow starter Rich Hill has a career 3.27 ERA in the postseason and he is showing off his experience and abilities. In the bullpen, relievers Pedro Baez and Ryan Madson and closer Kenley Jansen have allowed one run in 19.2 combined postseason innings.

With that quality of pitching, the lineup doesn’t have to do too much. Nonetheless, newcomer David Freese has woken his bat up. He joins Chris Taylor and Yasiel Puig as the other Dodgers who are batting at least .300. Justin Turner is always dangerous as is Manny Machado, who is slugging .500 and is very familiar with Boston pitching because he used to play in the same division.

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For all the marbles. #WorldSeries pic.twitter.com/WH6keG9dwC

— MLB (@MLB) October 21, 2018
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Odds

The Dodgers are priced at +105 to win the World Series against Boston, down from +500 in the preseason. It’s fair to price the Dodgers as an underdog because Boston had the best record in baseball and just defeated the defending champion Astros in five games in the ALCS. Boston’s lineup is stacked, its bullpen is turning things around from its September slump, and its rotation is led by well-rested superstar Chris Sale along with David Price and Rick Porcello, who have shown that they know how to succeed in the postseason.

L.A. has been a strong "under" team in the playoffs, with the "under" 6-3-2 so far. However, Boston has been a strong "over" team because of its hitting, which thrived against Houston’s vaunted pitching staff. In sum, the Dodgers aren’t strong enough underdogs for me to recommend a bet on them to win the series. Also, there’s no telling whether their "under" tendency will continue against a much better lineup in the Red Sox. The fact that these teams did not meet during the regular season could pose an advantage for the pitchers, who the opposing batters will be less familiar with, but there is also plenty of film available for the lineups to study.

What to Watch Out For

Not only would I not back the Dodgers, there are some situations in which I’d look to fade them. L.A.’s lineup is relatively cold. Its OPS (on-base plus slugging; average is around .720) is .667, which is the worst among the four teams that had advanced to the League Championship Series. L.A. is particularly weak against southpaws. Its OPS was .63 lower against them than against right-handed pitchers in the regular season. Keep that stat in mind when Sale or Price pitches for Boston.

The player to watch out for is Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw. He is a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame but he hasn’t been able to defeat the narrative about his poor pitching in the playoffs. This year, he dominated the NL’s weakest playoff team in Atlanta but struggled against the Brewers. Boston will pose a major test for him.

The Dodgers have made history in one positive sense and look to avoid making history in another sense. While they’re the first team to win consecutive NL pennants since Philadelphia in 2008-2009, they don’t want to be the first team to lose back-to-back World Series since Texas in 2010-2011. Will they make history in this second sense? I wouldn’t bet against it.

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