Best bets for Dodgers-Giants NLDS

By VSiN Staff  ( 


The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers finished with the two best records in baseball, and they square off in the Divisional Round of the National League playoffs.  Despite the Giants leading the division nearly all year and finishing with the most wins, the Dodgers are actually the betting favorite here.  But does that mean there is betting value on the Giants?

Here are our best bets on the NLDS series from Adam Burke and Derek Carty:

Los Angeles Dodgers (-170) vs. San Francisco Giants (+ 145)


The Dodgers have the best offense in baseball, end of story.  They have a good hitter at every position, and a great hitter at many of them.  They have three top-15 hitters in baseball in Mookie Betts, Corey Seager and Max Muncy (who seems likely to return at some point after missing the wild-card game), and another pair in the top 25 in Trea Turner and Justin Turner.  All five are better than the Giants’ best hitter, Brandon Belt, who is injured and may not even play this series.  They have the best hitting catcher in baseball, Will Smith.  They are using the 2019 NL MVP as their first bat off the bench.

San Francisco’s offense is good, but the Dodgers’ lineup is one of the best we’ve seen in the modern era.  The Giants offense, despite finishing fifth in wRC+ (a measure of observed offensive quality adjusted for ballpark), is likely not as good as it performed this season.  People don’t like to believe that a whole season can be a small sample size prone to random variance, but it is.  How often do 34-year-old catchers and shortstops have career years?  And when they do, how often do they continue hitting that well?  The answers are rarely and even more rarely. 

THE BAT X sees players like Buster Posey (.379 actual wOBA vs. .320 projected “true talent” wOBA) and Brandon Crawford (.377 vs. .334) coming back down to Earth sooner rather than later.  And you can make the case that projections miss the fantastic coaching that the Giants reportedly had this year, but there is a nearly 0 percent chance that either player are actually as good as their 2021 stats indicate.  You can argue over the extent of the regression, but you really can’t argue over the inevitability of the regression itself.

Starting Pitching

If the Dodgers’ pitching were at full strength, this series would be a runaway.  They’ve lost three top-25 starters in baseball (Clayton Kershaw, Trevor Bauer, Dustin May) … and yet they still have three more in Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler and Julio Urias. They’ll need to figure out what to do with Game 4 (or perhaps 3 if Scherzer isn’t ready to go again so soon after starting the wild-card game), but a bullpen game started by Mitch White seems an option.  And as we’ll see, their bullpen is fantastic as well.

The Giants pitching isn’t quite as good as Los Angeles’, but they do have plenty of great arms of their own.  Logan Webb and Kevin Gausman are top-20 pitchers. Alex Wood is in the top 50.  Anthony DeSclafani would round out their top four, but he’s basically a league-average pitcher.  It’s a formidable rotation for sure, but it doesn’t rival the Dodgers’.


As if the Dodgers’ embarrassment of riches in their offense and rotation wasn’t enough, they also have the second-best bullpen in baseball.  Los Angeles has eight relievers who all project for a context-neutral ERA under 4.00.  Every single other bullpen in baseball has at least one below-average pitcher; the Dodgers don’t even have one with a 4 in his ERA, much less a below-average one.  There’s more than a half-run difference between the Dodgers’ worst reliever (Corey Knebel) and the worst reliever on the next best team.  It’s not even fair.

Speed, defense and baserunning

Defense is the lone spot where the Giants outshine the Dodgers; unfortunately, it’s one of the least important ones. The Dodgers also make up for it by holding the advantage in the other not-that-important category: baserunning.

Final Report Card



















Best bet

Betting on favorites is usually for suckers, but that goes out the window when you have one of the best teams we’ve seen in the modern era. The only thing holding the Dodgers back is their pitching injuries and pure random variance.  The Giants are inferior in just about every way, and so I’d be more than happy to place a bet on Los Angeles to win the series.

If there’s a time to bet on the Giants, though, it’s for sure in Game 1.  You can find them at + 128 odds, implying a bit less than 44 percent chance to win the game.  THE BAT X projects them at just under 49 percent, creating quite a bit of value potential.  Logan Webb projects as the 11th best pitcher in baseball -- better than Walker Buehler.  I believe these odds are skewed because of Buehler, who has put together a Cy Young season but who has gotten lucky with his BABIP and is fortunate enough to play for the Dodgers to accrue the ever-important -- for voters, at least; in real life they’re irrelevant -- wins.  And while it seems possible Muncy returns at some point for the Dodgers, it almost certainly won’t be in Game 1.

Picks: Dodgers to win series -160 and Giants Game 1 ML + 128

Burke: The MLB Playoffs never lack drama, but the seeding format is something that may need to be addressed soon. The Giants won the most games in franchise history with 107 and wind up drawing the 106-win Dodgers in the NLDS. It took a walk-off two-homer for the Dodgers to get to this point, even though they won 16 more games than the Cardinals. Variance is a real thing in the playoffs.

It is pretty disappointing that we’re going to lose one of the league’s two best teams in the Divisional Round, but you also don’t normally see a wild-card team with 106 wins. The line for this series certainly implies that the Dodgers are not only the best wild-card team ever, but one that many would say should not have had to play on Wednesday night.

By BaseRuns, the Dodgers were four games better than the Giants. By Pythagorean Win-Loss, the Dodgers were six games better. It was a similar story with Third Order Win Percentage.

Despite all of that, the Giants are extremely live here, and they’ll only have to face Scherzer once in this series. The San Francisco rotation ranked third in FIP behind the Dodgers and the Brewers. The Giants were also third in ERA behind those two teams.

After a rocky start to the season, the Giants bullpen wound up sixth in fWAR and led the league in reliever ERA. The Dodgers were second in ERA and one spot better in fWAR.

San Francisco actually had a higher wOBA by two points and graded better in wRC + . The Giants had a higher slugging percentage than the Dodgers and only finished one point behind in on-base percentage.

In the 19 head-to-head meetings this season, the Giants won 10, despite being -2 in run differential. These are two teams extremely well-versed in analytics and the fact that they know each other inside and out was on display in those games. It will be on display in this series to be sure.

All of the stats point to these teams being pretty equal … but they are not being priced as equals. The Dodgers, who don’t have Scherzer and also start on the road, are a clear-cut favorite in this series.

Maybe they do win it. Maybe they knock out the team with the most regular season wins. But this price is too high. It does appear that some sportsbooks are trying to protect against some Los Angeles World Series liability from before the season. Remember that the Giants were projected to win about 77 games by the season win total odds. The Dodgers were projected to win over 100 games -- and they did.

I see two teams that are very closely matched. The Dodgers have more name recognition, but the Giants are every bit as good and have found some really big advantages at Oracle Park over the last 16 months. I do think home-field advantage matters here and I do think it also matters that the Dodgers won’t have Scherzer until Game 3 at the earliest.

Based on the line, the Giants are the value bet to win this series. I think it’s probably more like 55/45 that the Dodgers win this series and it is priced more like 60/40 at most shops and even higher at others. I just don’t see that big of a gap between the two teams.

Pick: San Francisco Giants + 145

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