NL West at the Break: Dodgers to Keep Going in Right Direction

Wednesday, July 18, 2018 11:51 AM UTC

Wednesday, Jul. 18, 2018 11:51 AM UTC

After a shockingly disappointing start, the Dodgers have fought their way into first-place. Let’s recap why the NL West standings look as they do and see why it’s worth betting on L.A. to hold its lead.

<p><img alt src="" style="width:600px;height:179px" /></p><h2>Odds to Win NL West</h2><ul> <li>Dodgers -160</li> <li>Diamondbacks: +200</li> <li>Giants: +900</li> <li>Rockies: +1200</li> <li>Padres +30000</li></ul><p>The defending NL West champion Dodgers were one victory from winning last season’s World Series. They seemed hung over from the crushing defeat, starting the season 26-30 through May. But they have rediscovered their stride, going 27-13 since then to take the lead in the NL West. Because of their slow start, the Dodgers are still one of the least profitable teams, yielding -15.6 units. <a href="" title="MLB Odds">Oddsmakers repeatedly ask bettors to lay such heavy chalk on them</a> that the Dodgers will likely only improve marginally in profitability. Their most profitable pitcher, Ross Stripling, has a 2.08 ERA, but is still only yielding +2.4 units. A future bet is the surest way to profit off L.A.<br /><br />The NL West has been the tightest division with four teams within four games of each other. But the Doyers stand out. Their hitters rank seventh in OPS (on-base plus slugging; average is .720) despite playing in one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks. They have achieved their .753 OPS despite having the sixth-lowest BABIP (batted average of balls in play). Their BABIP should be higher given their above-average rate of hard contact, so they have statistical upside. All-Star Matt Kemp is having his best season since 2012. He leads the team with a .310 BA. Cody Bellinger had a disappointing start to the season, but he has steadily been improving his BA and the former unanimous choice for NL Rookie of the Year will keep progressing to last season’s numbers. The acquisition of superstar Manny Machado from Baltimore will boost the lineup.<br /><br />L.A.’s starting rotation boasts four guys with an ERA under 3.20. It hasn’t missed a beat, even with Hyun-Jin Ryu on the DL. Ryu is tossing pitches again and should return soon. Kenta Maeda, like Ryu, has strongly improved from last season mainly by conceding fewer home runs. The two biggest surprises have been Stripling and Walker Buehler. People mistakenly attribute Stripling’s improvement to his transition into the rotation, but even his numbers as a reliever are amazing. Stripling’s biggest improvement has been to make his curveball into a lethal pitch. Opponents are hitting .169 against it because it boasts more movement than ever. Buehler’s ERA is inflated by a recent disaster out of the bullpen and another in Coors Field. But in eight of his nine other starts, Buehler allowed two runs or fewer. The fourth starter under 3.20 is future Hall-of-Famer Clayton Kershaw, who has struggled for health and sharpness at times, but still boasts a 3.17 FIP. Wood, like Buehler, is paying the statistical price for two disastrous outings, in one of which his FIP (like ERA, but factors out luck) was only 3.96. He’s typically a reliable pitcher and boasts a 3.47 FIP. Wood’s transition to becoming more of a fly ball pitcher by elevating his pitches more frequently is paying off. He has endured at least six quality innings in each of his last five starts. The Dodgers’ bullpen ranks 15th in FIP. I wouldn’t be surprised if they put Buehler in the bullpen when Ryu returns or if they go out and purchase a quality reliever.</p><p>Whereas the Dodgers’ pen is its weakness, the Giants’ bullpen is its strength. It has a 3.42 FIP, fourth-best. San Fran's starting rotation is led by Madison Bumgarner, who has been off and on and is mustering a 3.89 FIP. His low ERA has been a product mostly of his opposing BABIP that is fortunately low given his career-high rate of hard contact allowed and an unsustainably high rate of runners stranded. Johnny Cueto has been even more fortunate in those regards. His FIP is 4.10. Both Cueto and Bumgarner are still trying to return to their 2016 form. Rookies Andrew Suarez and Dereck Rodriguez have been quietly achieving 3.50 FIPs. The Giants’ starting rotation is strong and promising, but lacks the same depth and quality of L.A.’s, although San Fran's bullpen makes up for some of that deficit.</p><p>[/]{"component": "embedHTML", "code": "&lt;blockquote class=\"twitter-tweet\" data-lang=\"en\"&gt;&lt;p lang=\"und\" dir=\"ltr\"&gt; &lt;a href=\"\"&gt;;/a&gt;&lt;/p&gt;— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) &lt;a href=\"\"&gt;July 18, 2018&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/blockquote&gt;\n&lt;script async src=\"\" charset=\"utf-8\"&gt;&lt;/script&gt;\n"}[/]</p><p>The key difference between San Fran and L.A. is the ability to perform on the road. The Giants’ OPS is 21st mostly because its OPS is 25th on the road, just ahead of the lowly Royals. They struggle hugely with plate discipline, as measured by strikeout-to-walk ratio. San Fran’s difficulty in hitting on the road is costing them. They are 19-29 away from home. Their series road record against division opponents is 1-4-1. The Giants’ road struggles haven’t costed them too much in a game-by-game betting sense. They’re yielding -2.2 units away. But oddsmakers undervalue them and they are yielding +9.9 units at home. Conversely, the Dodgers share the best win percentage on the road with Colorado and Arizona.<br /><br /><a href="" title="Free MLB Picks">Arizona will compete with San Francisco for second place</a>. Its bullpen ranks similarly to L.A.’s in FIP. Its rotation boasts 2.5 quality starters. Patrick Corbin has been an awesome surprise, bringing his FIP down from 4.08 last season to 2.81. After some early struggles, Zack Greinke has returned to his usual dominant self, dropping a sub-three FIP in each of his last five starts. Robbie Ray is his usual two-faced self. His road FIP is 2.43, but at home its 7.62. The "over" is hitting in 75% of his starts in Arizona, where he’s never worth backing. Clay Buchholz has enjoyed a positive revival. He’ll hopefully return soon from the DL, but i’m not ready to trust him because of his higher FIP and because three of his seven starts came against the anemic Mets and Marlins lineups. Arizona’s hitting is almost bottom-ranked in BABIP, though it should see some upsurge because its BABIP is too low given its high rates of hard contact and line drives.<br /><br />The Rockies won’t be far from second place either. Its bullpen had an atrocious stretch, which it believes to have put behind them, ranking ninth in FIP in the past 14 days. Adam Ottavino and Scott Oberg are always reliable and Wade Davis and Chris Rusin have been great in the past month. The rotation boasts an upcoming star in Kyle Freeland, who is the team’s most profitable pitcher at +4.4 units, It’s worth remembering that the "under" is hitting in nearly 80% of his outings, 87% at home. Tyler Anderson has been strong lately, yielding a sub-two FIP in three of his last four outings. Jon Gray is suffering a historically great disparity between his ERA and his FIP and he should experience a major statistical progression in the second half. The problem with Colorado is its hitting away from Coors Field, where breaking pitches break more closer to sea level and where it ranks 23rd in OPS thanks to its low hard contact and line drive rates and higher strikeout percentage.</p><p>Flip a coin for second place. But the Dodgers stand out with their hitting and starting pitching and their consistency both home and away. Whereas the Giants are poor entirely on the road, the Diamondbacks are mediocre with their bullpen and hitting and the Rockies with their hitting on the road, L.A.’s bullpen mediocrity seems relatively fixable.</p><h2 style="text-align:center">Free MLB Pick: Dodgers</h2><h2 style="text-align:center">Best Line Offered: <a href=";book=BetOnline" rel="nofollow" title="Top Rated Sportsbook">BetOnline</a></h2>
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