It has gotten comical at this point for the rest of the league to look at the Los Angeles Dodgers. Money doesn’t automatically buy championships, but it buys a great chance at making the playoffs, something that the Dodgers have done every year since 2012. They finally got over the hump and won that elusive World Series last season during the 60-game sprint.
Of course, that wasn’t enough. Somebody might put an asterisk on it. So the Dodgers went out and purchased Trevor Bauer for the reasonable sum of $40 million. With or without Bauer, the reigning champion Dodgers were the clear-cut World Series favorite. With Bauer, some sportsbooks had them about 2/1 to repeat as champs. Bauer is the only acquisition guaranteed to make the Opening Day roster that was not on last sason’s team.
The Dodgers were +273 in run differential in 162 games in 2019. They almost got halfway to that number in 60 games in 2020. They were 43-17 with a +136 run differential. Along with three wins in a sweep of the San Diego Padres in the NLDS, the Dodgers won six of 10 regular season meetings. The Dodgers didn’t have a losing record against any team last season. They won 17 games by five or more runs. That lost by that margin just once. Oddly enough, it came against the Padres.
There aren’t really enough adjectives to describe what this Dodgers team looks like on paper. Frankly, there aren’t enough to describe what this team looks like on the field. Over those eight straight seasons ending in playoff appearances, the Dodgers have won 714 games. They haven’t won fewer than 91 games since 2012. They aren’t going to stop now.
This is a team without weaknesses. The blank checks help immensely, but this is also a team that develops so well internally. Of their projected 26-man roster on Roster Resource, 11 players were Dodgers draft picks and we’re talking about a team that has hit on a high number of first-round picks. Three were amateur free agent signings. Guys like Max Muncy and Chris Taylor weren’t exactly household names as trade acquisitions.
What you would generally worry about with the Dodgers is complacency. They finally got over the hump. They’ve made the World Series in three of the last four seasons and those extra innings and extra plate appearances add up. The only thing that can stop the Dodgers in the regular season is themselves. With a run of eight straight division titles and three straight full seasons with a Pythagorean Win-Loss win percentage over .620 and then last season’s .712 mark, they’ve seemed pretty focused to me.
Maybe that all changes with a brand new flag flying over the ballpark to signify the end of a 32-year World Series drought. Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe the Dodgers just have enough talent for none of the intangible things to matter that much.
They’re priced like a historically good team and they could very well be one. This is a team that won 106 games in 2019 and should have been even better with 110 wins per BaseRuns and 114 by 3rd Order Win%.
It’ll be hard to step in front of this win total, even if it is one of the highest I’ve ever seen.
2021 Over/Under Season Win Total Odds
Odds To Win NL West
|Team||Odds To Win|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||-250|
|San Diego Padres||+200|
|San Francisco Giants||+4000|
|BaseRuns Run Differential||+134 (5.72/3.48)||+286 (5.42/3.66)|
|3rd Order Win%||42.9-17.1||113.8-48.2|
|Record in One-Run Games||7-5||27-22|
Additions: Matt Davidson, Andy Burns, Rangel Ravelo, Trevor Bauer, Enny Romero, Tommy Kahnle, Elliot Soto, Tim Federowicz, Brandon Morrow, James Pazos, Jhan Zambrano, Sheldon Neuse, Alex Vesia, Kyle Hurt, Gus Varland, Garrett Cleavinger, Corey Knebel,
Losses: Terrance Gore, Enrique Hernandez, Joc Pederson, Jake McGee, Pedro Baez, Alex Wood, Josh Sborz, Cody Thomas, Dylan Floro, Adam Kolarek, Dillon Paulson, Leo Crawford
Certainly one name stands out in a big way from the first list and that is Trevor Bauer. The Dodgers will plug in some guys across the minor leagues and wait for Tommy Kahnle to return from Tommy John surgery, but it is the enigmatic right-hander with the quirky routines and the recent Cy Young Award that will have the most impact by far.
Bauer and Corey Knebel are the only two guys that look to be new additions to the 26-man roster. The Dodgers have overhauled their bullpen a little bit with trades of Dylan Floro and Adam Kolarek, two guys that induce a ton of ground balls. With the report of a deader baseball, the Dodgers opted to trade Floro and Kolarek in exchange for a lot more strikeout upside from internal options.
Joc Pederson had a terrible 2020 season, but he’s been a valuable platoon bat otherwise. The Dodgers won’t miss him the way another team would, but he was one of several roster players to move on, including Jake McGee, Pedro Baez, and Alex Wood.
|Batting Average (BA)||.256 (11th)||.257 (10th)|
|On-Base Percentage (OBP)||.338 (5th)||.338 (5th)|
|Slugging Percentage (SLG)||.483 (1st)||.472 (4th)|
|Weighted On-Base Avg (wOBA)||.350 (2nd)||.338 (4th)|
|Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+)||122 (1st)||111 (4th)|
|Batting Avg on Balls In Play (BABIP)||.276 (24th)||.291 (23rd)|
|Strikeout Percentage (K%)||20.3% (3rd)||21.6% (9th)|
|Walk Percentage (BB%)||9.8% (12th)||9.7% (4th)|
I don’t want to make anybody feel unwelcomed in the pages of this MLB Betting Guide, but the Dodgers are a prime example of why looking at batting average is not nearly the best indicator of a team’s offensive performance. The Dodgers were 11th in batting average, but first in wRC+ and second in wOBA. How?! Why?! What?!
Well, for starters, the Dodgers had the highest slugging percentage in baseball and hitting for power covers up just about everything these days. Five guys for the Dodgers hit at least 12 home runs. They led the league in home runs. Not by one. Not by two. By FIFTEEN over the Atlanta Braves. Those were the only two teams to hit at least 100 homers in the 60-game season.
For those that are batting average-obsessed, I’ll clear that up a bit for you, too. The Dodgers were 24th in BABIP. When it comes to batting average on balls in play, home runs don’t count. “Balls in play” means balls that are eligible to be fielded. Home runs are not. Despite having the highest average exit velocity and the highest number of 95+ mph batted balls with 697, the Dodgers lagged in the batting average department.
They had 51 more batted balls of 95+ mph than the next highest team, which was the Braves. When you look at batting average minus expected batting average on batted balls of 95+ mph, the Dodgers were the third-unluckiest team with a difference of 30 points. Only the Brewers and Indians were unluckier.
The Dodgers had a batting average of .485 on those batted balls of 95+ mph, but their expected batting average was .515. So the scariest part about this Dodgers offense is that it should have been even better. Based on expected batted ball data, the team underperformed expectations. I would guess that the park factors of the NL West and the AL West played a big part in that.
I really don’t have to say a ton about the Dodgers. We know the personnel and we know how good most of the players in the lineup are. We also know just how deep this Dodgers team is. The top seven Dodgers in plate appearances all posted a wRC+ of 100 or higher. Max Muncy actually had a down year on the batted ball front with a .203 BABIP and just a .192 batting average. He made up for it with 12 homers and a team-leading 15.7% BB%.
Muncy was sort of the poster child for what I talked about earlier with regards to the Dodgers’ bad luck on batted ball. Over 589 plate appearances in 2019, Muncy had a .283 BABIP leading to a .251 batting average. His OBP was 43 points higher and batting average always helps slugging percentage because SLG is a measure of total bases divided by at bats.
Muncy had a 162 wRC+ in 2018 and a 134 in 2019, so positive regression back to the mean for him would help this Dodgers offense reach even greater heights. The same can be said of Cody Bellinger, who also took a tumble in the batted ball luck department with a .245 BABIP leading to a .239 batting average. Bellinger was only 14% above league average, a huge departure from the obscene 162 wRC+ he posted in 2019 when he won the NL MVP.
Maybe that was the peak for Bellinger, whose other wRC+ marks were 138 and 120 prior to that, but projection systems are bullish on a big bounce back and who can blame them with his bat-to-ball skills, high walk rate, and light tower power. Assuming his 17.4% HR/FB% perks back up, the power will as well. Bellinger is coming off of shoulder surgery, so we’ll see if that impacts his stat line in a negative way. It certainly could.
Joc Pederson and Enrique Hernandez were guys that struggled as well, but both are now with other teams. Whether or not the Dodgers get better production out of guys like Gavin Lux, Edwin Rios, or Matt Beaty remains to be seen, but this will be another top-five offense and could very well be the league-leading offense once again.
In looking at the home/road splits for the Dodgers, they weren’t any better or worse on the road in 2020 than they were in 2019. Frankly, I’m surprised by that because there are some tough park factors in the NL West and the AL West where all of the games were played. Interestingly, the facelift at Oracle Park in San Francisco did increase offense quite significantly there, so we’ll see if that holds, and Petco Park has been pretty good for offense the last few seasons compared to what it used to be. So maybe the Dodgers, a team that hits for a lot of power, weren’t as negatively impacted as some of the teams out there.
The one area in which I could paint a bleaker picture for the Dodgers is with runners in scoring position. They only struck out in 14.2% of their plate appearances in that split with a .381 wOBA and a 143 wRC+. They first in K% and second in those other two categories. While they had BABIP troubles overall, those did not occur with RISP, as the team posted a .297 BABIP.
Back in 2019, the Dodgers hung a .354 wOBA and a 120 wRC+, which was still top five in baseball, but they struck out in 20.2% of their plate appearances in that split. I do think their numbers in the RISP split will drop off, which is just natural with a larger sample size.
It won’t be something, though, that is strong enough to re-grade my stance on this team. Far from it.
|Earned Run Average (ERA)||3.02 (1st)||3.39 (1st)|
|Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP)||3.79 (2nd)||3.73 (2nd)|
|Adj. Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP)||3.99 (6th)||3.87 (2nd)|
|Strikeout Percentage (K%)||23.8% (12th)||25.7% (3rd)|
|Walk Percentage (BB%)||6.7% (1st)||6.6% (1st)|
|Left On Base Percentage (LOB%)||75.8% (4th)||74.7% (6th)|
The Dodgers finally won that elusive World Series. It may have only been a 60-game season, but they were baseball’s most dominant team and proved it on the grandest stage. They wound up finishing first in ERA, but second in FIP. They even did so by finishing a relatively pedestrian 12th in K% after finishing third in 2019. The pitching actually slacked off a little bit, which is sort of nuts to say, but the Dodgers maybe sprung a leak or two.
What did they do in response? They signed reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer.
In the pantheon of unbelievable things about this Dodgers roster, what may stand out the most to me is that TONY GONSOLIN led the team in fWAR among pitchers. The same Tony Gonsolin that will not be in the Opening Day rotation and could simply be thrust into some non-closer relief role. The depth of this pitching staff is beyond absurd. You couldn’t even come up with a staff this good in a video game if you turned off CPU trade approvals.
What it does mean, though, is that the Dodgers have the ability to withstand cluster injuries to their pitchers and that even includes the most important ones. You won’t find many teams with that luxury. The Dodgers could lose Walker Buehler, Trevor Bauer, David Price, or Clayton Kershaw and guys like Dustin May, Gonsolin, or Josiah Gray can just slot in like nothing happened. Will those guys have the same ceilings as some of the established Major League talent? No, probably not, but it won’t be like going from a frontline starting pitcher to some below average minor leaguer.
Were there weaknesses last season? Sure. Clayton Kershaw, Dustin May, and Walker Buehler all gave up a few too many home runs. The Dodgers rotation was actually just 10th in fWAR among starting rotations. They had a strong 3.29 ERA, but paired that with a 4.11 FIP. The K% drop from 2019 to 2020 mostly took place in the starting rotation. The Dodgers had a 23.3% K% from their starters. That was down quite a bit from the 26% mark in 2019.
The Dodgers had a 3.52 FIP in 2019, so that skyrocketed, due to the K% decrease and the additional home runs allowed. Los Angeles was eighth in HR/FB% at 14.3% in 2019. They were 11th with a 14.9% mark in 2020 and remember that included some more favorable park factors than a traditional season.
I mean, look, I have to be fair here and try to present reasons why the Dodgers could go under their season win total. Kershaw has had the bad back. Buehler has been a slow starter. Price opted out of last season after missing time in 2019 with injury. He also missed a little more than half of the 2017 season. The Dodgers haven’t seen him throw a pitch for them in a game and he’s now 35 years old.
Julio Urias was spectacular in the postseason and good during the regular season, but he threw 55 regular season innings. He threw 79.2 the season prior. It’s not like Urias will suddenly be a 175+ inning guy this season. There are some injury red flags with this rotation and then some questions of aging with Kershaw and Price.
The addition of Bauer is supposed to give the Dodgers a reliably healthy starter at the top of this rotation that will undoubtedly help improve the K% of the starting rotation. On the other hand, Bauer, who posted a 1.73 ERA with a 2.88 FIP in 73 innings last season, only has one other season in his career with a FIP under 3.88. That was back in 2018 when he could very well have won the American League Cy Young Award but suffered a broken shin on a comebacker.
Bauer is not a supremely safe bet. Last season, he saw huge spikes in his spin rate and I’d like to believe that those may be based on video study and grip changes more than the use some sort of substance. They’re illegal by the rules, but baseball doesn’t have a snitch culture, so I don’t see any blowback for Bauer if there are some shenanigans in play here, but I guess you never really know.
There is some degree of risk to this rotation. Remember, we’re talking about a season win total in the 100s. We’re not talking about a season win total in the 90s, where the Dodgers would probably be immune to any injury and still rattle off a very impressive record. There is minimal margin for error with a win total of this magnitude.
On the reliever side of things, the Dodgers were second in bullpen fWAR last season, so it’s pretty hard to poke holes in this group. As I mentioned, the Dodgers, who led the league in ground ball percentage by 4.5%(!!) from their relievers at 51%, traded away Dylan Floro and Adam Kolarek when it came to light that the baseball was going to be different and carry less.
The Dodgers traded a high K%, which sometimes comes with a high BB%, for guys that pitch to contact and induce ground balls. It really isn’t a bad strategy when you think about it. They were still 13th in K%, but with the types of pitchers they isolated, they were also the best in baseball in BB%.
Positives & Negatives
How many negatives can you really find about a team projected to eclipse the century mark, win the NL West, and have a chance to repeat as World Champs? Health factors are important to consider with a win total that leaves minimal margin for error. Cluster injuries could be a thing, particularly on the offensive side, where the depth is not nearly as strong as it is on the pitching side.
Catcher Will Smith shared some time, but otherwise, all of the key guys for the Dodgers played at least 52 games in the 60-game sprint last season. In 2019, the Dodgers ran into very few key injuries. We’re talking about a team that has played a ton of baseball thanks to a lot of deep postseason runs over the last few seasons. In time, that will catch up with a team, even one as deep as the Dodgers.
The Dodgers got to the mountaintop. It was in a season that many will put an asterisk on, but they got there. How will they handle the regular season now? The World Series hangover can be fatigue-related or simple regression from a performance that was unsustainable, but it can also be a lack of competitive fervor. Will the Dodgers fall victim to that?
Los Angeles Dodgers Pick & Prediction: Under 102.5
Okay, so bear with me here. Cluster Luck. A concept I’ve referenced a ton. Well, in the 60-game sprint last season, the Dodgers had the lowest wOBA against with runners in scoring position…BY 46 POINTS. Their wOBA against with RISP was .251. The Indians were the next closest at .297. The next closest was Oakland at .306. The Dodgers allowed just a .203 batting average in that split, which was 19 points better than the next best team, St. Louis.
To be fair, the Dodgers are an outstanding defensive team and their pitchers ranked sixth in K% in that split. It was still a massive outlier and something that very much helped the Dodgers out in that small sample size of games. Sequencing is really important and sequencing often comes into play when teams have really special seasons.
Think back to the ERA/FIP discrepancy for the Dodgers. The 3.02 ERA with the 3.79 FIP. This is it. This is why. The Dodgers were #1 in the league in wOBA against with RISP in 2019, but at .290. That would be a much more reasonable number.
The Dodgers are probably the best team in baseball again. I think it would be hard to deny that fact and they could just go on a rampage and win a million games and roll right into the playoffs. I don’t think it happens.
Playing .636 baseball for six months is hard, especially as a team coming off of a World Series victory. The regular season could simply bring about a steady case of boredom. There is no way I could take the over here. Justin Turner even said in one interview that the games against the Padres would be like “playing 19 World Series games”. You think this team is going to care about playing anybody else? I don’t.
Can I bet the under? I think I can, but the release date of the Guide was February 25, so there is still time to make a final decision. There are enough injury indicators and red flags on this team to give it some serious thought.
The under is definitely the pick for the Guide, but I may add this one to my portfolio before the season starts as well. It is maybe my strongest lean in the NL.