Best bets for Rays-Dodgers World Series

By Derek Carty  (VSiN.com) 

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The Dodgers are the best team in baseball … and it’s not close.  They steamrolled an overrated San Diego Padres offense in the NLDS, ran bad but still edged out an overrated Atlanta Braves squad in the NLCS and now they face their toughest competition yet.  The Tampa Bay Rays are likely bit overrated themselves, however, and the Dodgers are once again the clear favorite.

Here’s a breakdown of the World Series from a betting perspective, including my best bet:

Offense

The Dodgers have the best offense in baseball. They have zero holes, getting above-average production out of every spot in the lineup.  Even their catcher spot (Will Smith: THE BAT X projected true talent wOBA of .335) surpasses the average non-catcher in most other teams’ lineups.  In fact, Smith’s THE BAT X wOBA is higher than all but three hitters in Tampa Bay’s lineup.  And Tampa Bay’s best hitter (Brandon Lowe) is worse than LA’s five best hitters (Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Max Muncy and Justin Turner).

The bright side for Tampa Bay is that its lineup is much improved over what the Rays were rolling out at the end of the regular season.  Austin Meadows, Yandy Diaz, Ji-Man Choi, and Mike Zunino -- all injured down the stretch -- are healthy and back in the lineup, and Randy Arozarena has been the postseason’s biggest breakout star.  As fun as this team is to watch, however, they’re simply not as good as perception.  They finished the regular season with a 40-20 record, but their “earned” Pythagorean record based on runs scored and allowed was just 36-24.  And as good as Arozarena has been, we’re dealing with barely 100 at-bats for him this year.  Nobody wants to be the wet blanket in these situations, but when betting, you objectivity is jey.  And odds are, major regression is coming.  This is a good offense, but not a great one.  Ultimately, it lacks true star power and has several holes with the likes of Willy Adames, Joey Wendle and Manny Margot.

Starting Pitching

If the Rays are going to win this series, it will be through their pitching.  They have the best top three in baseball with three of MLB’s top 30 starters: Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow and Charlie Morton.  Of course, the Dodgers have two of their own in Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler, plus better depth with five legitimately good starters.  And the way this series maps out, if it goes seven games, it’s likely Snell and Glasnow make two starts apiece while Charlie Morton only makes one.  Kershaw and Buehler, likewise, will make two starts, creating a smaller relative advantage for Tampa. 

The Rays have the advantage here, but since they’ll likely need to rely on Ryan Yarbrough and a bullpen game for two turns this series, it makes the advantage a smaller one than if there were traditional off-days are and they could ride their aces harder.

Bullpen

The Dodgers boast the second-best bullpen in baseball, and with Tony Gonselin unlikely to be needed to start, it may well be the best with yet another quality arm.  The Rays bullpen is borderline top five, and so the advantage here is still a slim one for L.A., but it does still exist, especially when you consider depth. 

Still, the Rays bullpen is a very solid, and that will make that bullpen day they may need to rely on in Game 4 or 5 less of a hindrance.

Defense

The Rays may have the best defense in baseball, particularly in the outfield.  The Dodgers, meanwhile, have a wholly mediocre one.  A couple of big defensive plays always have the potential to turn the tide, but unless they wind up being in particularly high-leverage situations, defense is ultimately an overrated aspect of baseball and one that is unlikely to add a whole lot to Tampa’s win probability.

Final Report Card

 

Dodgers

Rays

Offense

A

B-

Rotation

A-

A

Bullpen

A

A-

Defense

C-

A

Baserunning

C-

B-

 

Best bets

Any way you slice it, the Dodgers are the clear favorite here.  The Rays’ biggest strength is the top of their rotation, but they give a little of that advantage back with a weak back end and they are supremely outmatched at the plate.  I love betting underdogs, but as I’ve been saying all playoffs, the odds on underdogs against Los Angeles just aren’t good enough.  The Dodgers are -210 to win the series, which implies a 67% chance to do it.  That’s a high number, and the true number may only be 69% of 70%, so the value isn’t massive, but it’s better than a -EV bet on Tampa.

If you’re looking for something with a better payout when you win, betting on L.A. to sweep may be the move.  Check your sportsbook, but I’ve seen at least one with odds as good as 810, implying an 11% chance to sweep.  The true odds figure to be more like 13% or 14%, and you’ll get paid better than 8-to-1 if you pull it off.

Picks: Dodgers to win series (-210) and Dodgers to sweep (+​ 810)

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