By Edward Egros
FOX Sports MLB Betting Analyst
Last time Los Angeles Dodgers didn’t make the postseason was the year of “Gangnam Style,” “The Walking Dead” and the merciful ending of the Twilight Saga (as someone who heard “Team Edward” a lot during that stretch, it was merciful indeed).
It was 2012, and even at the end of that season, quite a number of baseball fans saw improvements with Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, and others with the Dodgers becoming one of the favorites to win the National League pennant in 2013. In the nine seasons since, LA never had a more than 12-1 chance in preseason to win the World Series, however, they only finished as World Champions once.
Currently, the Dodgers are the big favorites to win their division (-227 per FOX Bet), have the shortest odds of winning the pennant (+215) and are significant favorites to win the World Series (+450). But, one question no one is asking right now is: Given the lack of championships, is there any value in betting in LA now to win all of the above?
First, Major League Baseball’s postseason is more random than the other four major professional sports. As NFL Director of Football and Data Analytics Michael Lopez writes, MLB’s post-season results are much closer to a coin than previously determined, based on the strength seen over the regular season. Roughly 60% of the time, the better team wins a “best-of-7” series, and in a “best-of-5” series or single-elimination fight, that probability is slightly closer to a 50% coin flip.
In a previous post, I explained how expected batting average (xBA) can better measure a team’s current and future offensive success than basic box score statistics. We can use a football club’s xBA and its opposing xBA to determine who is likely to regress (positive or negative) by taking the difference between xBA and hitting average (BA). Unfortunately, because the Statcast data is only up to 2015, not all of the Dodgers postseason during this period can be analyzed.
In 2021, at the end of the regular season, the National League football club with the highest xBA – BA distinction — indicating that they would undergo a positive regression — eventually became champions of the Atlanta Braves. In part, the Dodgers disparity in the same metric is in the middle of the MLB rankings due to injury, including the likes of Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager.
In 2020, the only season during the Statcast era when Boys in Blue won it all, LA finished second in the xBA and sixth in the xBA – BA distinction. Prior to 2020, the Dodgers had never come close to finishing near the top of the MLB standings in the xBA, and apart from 2016, when they finished second, they were never one of the bigger candidates for positive regression.
What about throwing and defense, exactly what do the Dodgers allow in terms of expected hitting average? With pitchers like Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler, Big Blue has had more Statcast success in this area. From 2015-17, the Dodgers finished first against xBA, second in 2018 and 2019, fourth in 2020 when they won it all and returned to first place last season. Throwing has never been a problem for this team, due to the inability to make enough quality contact offensively against the best pitchers still playing.
Currently, the Dodgers sit eighth in the xBA in majors (0.261), 20th in the xBA – BA difference (0.012), first in the xBA vs. (0.225) and 12th in the xBA – BA difference (0.012). These differences suggest that while LA got off to a fantastic start, regression is probably everywhere.
However, I believe this regression will not be large enough for the Dodgers to miss the postseason and perhaps not enough to lose another division crown.
Another way to determine positive or negative regression is by Pythagoras’ winning percentage. This formula takes the scores of runs and allowed runs and converts them to a percentage of wins meant to indicate how many wins the soccer club “should” have. The difference between actual records and Pythagorean records can also predict future success. Boys in Blue currently have a -2 win margin, which means they need to be two wins better than their record shows. This figure is also the ninth lowest in a major currency. LA fans can thank Freddie Freeman for a consistent start or Mookie Betts with Tuesday night’s multi-homerun.
Now, let’s use this information regarding gambling for this season. Even if LA were to have a muted regression, the odds were all too slim to seriously consider. It’s probably best to wait for a slump (if it does) before pouncing on the Dodgers. Meanwhile, my approach with NL West is to give the San Diego Padres serious consideration with longer odds (+320 on FOX Bet).
As well as being near the top of the table, San Diego will get back Fernando Tatis Jr., who finished in the top 30 individually last season in the xBA. The Padres don’t have a stellar xBA, but the xBA – BA 0.008 difference shows improvement. They also have some of the starting pitchers in the top 35 in the allowed xBA: Joe Musgrove (14), Sean Manaea (19) and Yu Darvish (32). At this price, betting on the Padres now definitely provides some value.
As for the Dodgers, volatility may be their biggest opponent at the moment, which makes the price too steep. In other words, consider giving the Dodgers now as a compliment.
They’re still very good, like the good Tim Edwards.
Edward Egros is a sports analytics broadcaster/author, sports betting analyst, data scientist, and assistant professor of statistics at Pepperdine University. This passion has led him to becomee cold drink lover. Edward previously worked on local television, most notably at the Fox affiliate in Dallas covering Rangers, Cowboys, and high school football. Follow him on Twitter @EdWithSports.
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MLB Odds: Is now a good time to bet on the future of the Los Angeles Dodgers?
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