Los Angeles Dodgers
Spring Training injuries have been a real pain the last few weeks. The Dodgers are already down Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill. Fortunately, the offense is still in tact and the starting staff is one of the deeper areas of the team. Still, there are going to be some differing opinions about the Dodgers for the 2019 season.
Slow starts are sort of a thing for the Dodgers in the Dave Roberts era. They were 16-26 through 42 games last year. They had a 14-12 April in 2017. They had a 12-13 April in 2016. That will be something to watch for early-season bettors. It was not the case last season at all, but many feel that underdogs are the better bets in April. That was a bankroll burning angle last year, but a lot of teams can get off to slow starts. Over 162 games, talent shines. Over 30 games to start the season while everybody is trying to get back in the mix, talent may not shine as brightly.
Despite the slow start, the Dodgers still prevailed in the NL West. They also had the best record in baseball against .500 or better teams at 51-38. That means something to me. Even a lot of really good teams struggle in that split. The Red Sox were 41-33, but the Astros were 41-38, the Brewers were 49-46, the Braves were 38-40. It’s what set the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Yankees apart from the rest last season.
The Dodgers were just 41-33 against teams with losing records, so maybe they played down to their competition a little bit. They crushed left-handed starters with a 40-25 record. They were also baseball’s biggest underachiever, going 102-61 per Pythagorean Win-Loss record, but 92-71 by actual record.
Money Line Spots
The Dodgers are a great team, so we have some chalky prices in their games. With some of the pitching injuries this season, we may get some cheaper prices early in the year when guys like Julio Urias pitch, but this is a team with depth for days in the rotation. Sadly, the value on Walker Buehler is gone because of his postseason performance. The thing about the Dodgers is that guys like Hyun-Jin Ryu and Kenta Maeda are really good, but because they only manage 120 innings per year, they get forgotten or cast aside.
The Dodgers had a positive run differential in every month of the season last year. This was truly a dominant team, but it didn’t show up until after the slow start. This year’s team has added AJ Pollock and has lost some depth and complementary pieces. I think they are stronger. It will be hard to find chances to bet on the Dodgers unless you want to lay big numbers.
As far as fading the Dodgers, that isn’t real easy either. Their offense is so balanced with power and walks and the pitching staff is extremely deep. Of course, they still have to lose 60 games along the way, so we’ll have to pick and choose our spots.
Because this team is so balanced, and actually performed better on the road than at home, I don’t really have any blanket angles I’ll be looking to play against them. We’ll just have to see how things play out.
The Dodgers titled slightly to the under at 80-76-7 last season. They scored 72 more runs on the road and allowed 16 more runs. Dodger Stadium is not a great park for offense overall, so it is worth noting that the Dodgers scored just 4.46 runs per game at home, but 5.41 runs on the road.
The Dodgers did tie the Rockies for number of home runs at home with 119, which is rather interesting. The Dodgers also hit .242 at home compared to .258 on the road. They actually hit more home runs at home than on the road, which is astonishing given the home/road runs per game splits. It could just have been some RISP variance, so maybe Dodgers overs at home will have a little bit of value if things normalize in that department.
For as good as the Dodgers are and were, they only ranked 15th in wOBA with runners in scoring position. This offense could very well step forward this season and create some over value.
Individual Players to Watch
Hyun-Jin Ryu – I talk a lot about degrees of regression. Hyun-Jin Ryu only threw 82.1 innings last season. He posted a 1.97 ERA with a 3.00 FIP and a 3.11 xFIP. He will regress. His 85.4 percent LOB% should come back down, but maybe not by that much. After all, he has a 77.5 percent LOB% for his career. He has a 3.20/3.40/3.46 pitcher slash over 557.2 very spread out innings dating back to 2013.
The market may be looking to go against him a little bit early on with that ERA/xFIP split. I’m more worried about his health than anything else, but just a heads up if you see people coming in against Ryu, who had a 3.77/4.74/4.14 in 2017 over 126.2 innings.
Kenta Maeda – Meanwhile, prices should go up on Kenta Maeda. Maeda made 20 starts and 19 relief outings last season and had a 3.81 ERA with a 3.22 FIP and a 3.37 xFIP. Maeda was 28th in average exit velocity and saw a little bump in his GB%, which is good because he induces a lot of weak ground balls. He had 127 K in 107.2 innings as a starter, so it wasn’t a K boost from relief work. He actually didn’t take to relieving all that well. I’d expect him to be a solid starter for as long as he’s able to go every fifth day and to take some money as well.