The Los Angeles Dodgers' recent spending spree paid off to the tune of a division title last year. LA came up short in the NLCS last October, but hopes are very high for this season in Dodgerland. Nothing less than a World Series title will be considered success.
The Dodgers are the early favorites to win the NL West and the National League this year, and on many boards the World Series, too. But is there any betting value to the prices being offered?
2013 Quick Review
LA, as we all recall, got off to a slow start to last season, and sat in last place in mid-June. They had lost two-fifths of their starting rotation and were getting very little production from a couple of guys who were supposed to be big sticks.
But something suddenly clicked, and the Dodgers went on an epic 53-13 run that catapulted them to the division crown.
LA then beat Atlanta in the NLDS, before falling to St. Louis in six games in the NLCS.
The Dodgers won the West last year as a preseason even-money favorite, but came up two victories short of winning the NL pennant at MLB odds of right around 9/2.
Over the off-season the Dodgers, for the most part, stood pat. Their biggest move came when they signed Cuban phenom Alexander Guerrero, who they expect to step in and play second base.
LA's lineup is topped by a potent top five with Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and Matt Kemp. If all are healthy and bopping the Dodgers will score some runs.
Guerrero is a wild card; he could hit .300 with 20 homers, and then again, he might not. He could even start the season in the minors. He's also a natural shortstop who is still learning to play second base.
LA ranked ninth in the Majors in team OBP last year at .326, 17th in scoring at 4.0 runs per game and 24th in homers with 138. But with full seasons from Ramirez, Kemp and Puig you'd think those numbers would improve.
Like the Dodgers teams of lore this edition is led by its great pitching, featuring one of the top two or three starting rotations in baseball. Two-time Cy Younger Clay Kershaw is the most dominant left-hander in the game at the moment. Righty Zack Greinke might be the best two man in baseball. And LA came up with a nice find last year in lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu, who posted a 3.00 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP in 192 innings as a ML rookie.
The Dodgers parted ways with lefty Chris Capuano, replacing him with Dan Haren, who's 22-27 with an ERA around four and a half the last two seasons for the Angels and Nationals. He did, however, put up some decent numbers over the second half of last season.
Last year's staff ranked second in MLB in team ERA at 3.25, seventh in quality starts with 93. Also, the Los Angeles bullpen ranked 13th with a 3.49 ERA while going 46-for-65 on save opportunities. Over the off-season the Dodgers retained the set-up services of Brian Wilson, and added Chris Perez, who went 123-for-140 in save opps the last four seasons for Cleveland.
Dodgers 2014 Futures Odds
With a couple of weeks to go before pitchers and catchers report to Camelback Ranch the Dodgers were the favorites to win the National League pennant this season at every book on the Net. The best price we could find was the +300 offered at TopBet.
LA was also an early favorite at many books to win the World Series this season. The best price on that possibility was the +700 listed at 5Dimes.
The Dodgers won 92 games last year even with several key players missing good chunks of the season. This year they've got a chance to be healthier, and ergo even better.
On paper the Blue Crew deserves to be favored on the pennant and World Series boards. But is +300 and +700 enough? For our money, the answer is no. Kemp's health is still a question, Guerrero is an unknown, as is the back of the rotation. LA seems a very good bet to make the playoffs again, but there's probably better value for our MLB picks elsewhere on the futures boards.
The Dodgers open this 2014 season with a two-game series against the rival Arizona Diamondbacks in Sydney, Australia March 22-23.