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Dodgers finally may get a worthy test

Jeff Fogle
VSiN.com

The super-hot Los Angeles Dodgers face some dangerous Diamondbacks in the desert…the South Point posts an enticing Dodgers/Astros championship prop…plus NFLX line moves and CFL Power Ratings today in VSiN City.

MLB: Dodgers/Diamondbacks, Red Sox/Rays, and Rockies/Indians begin important series Tuesday night
We didn’t get a chance to talk baseball Monday. So, let’s lead with it today. Three series begin Tuesday that will likely sizzle with playoff intensity and could very well have playoff implications. One each divided amongst the National League, American League, and Interleague. 

If you're new to the newsletter, we’ve been focusing recently on the following indicator stats:

  • Offense: league rankings in weighted-runs-created-plus, which many in the field of analytics consider the single best team offensive measure because it’s park adjusted. We use rankings rather than the raw data from fangraphs so you don’t get buried in numbers you’re not that familiar with.
  • Bullpen: league rankings in “relievers xFIP” which is a fielding independent mark that focuses only on the performance of relief pitchers. 
  • Starting pitchers: individual xFIP, which uses the same easy-to-understand scale as ERA, but has been shown to have better predictive value going forward. 

We start with what should be a very intense series between the historically hot LA Dodgers and a seething Cinderella in Arizona. 

LA Dodgers at Arizona

  • Offense (wRC-plus): Dodgers #1 in NL, Arizona #7 in NL
  • Bullpen (xFIP): Dodgers #1 in NL, Arizona #2 in NL
  • Tuesday: Maeda (4.33 xFIP) vs. Godley (3.21 xFIP)
  • Wednesday: Wood (2.93 xFIP) vs. Greinke (3.19 xFIP)
  • Thursday: Darvish (3.73 xFIP) vs. Walker (4.22 xFIP)

The Dodgers have the best offense in the league, and the best bullpen. So, before you even bring their deep and high quality starting rotation into play, it’s an elite team. As we’ve mentioned a lot recently, Arizona’s offense isn’t as good as its media hype. They play home games in a great hitter’s park. When you account for that, they have a fairly average offense. That’s going to matter head-to-head against LAD’s weaponry.

Tuesday’s early line is Maeda -120 over Godley, with an Over/Under of 9 (over -120 in this great hitting park). 

That Wood/Greinke matchup Wednesday is going to be something special. But really all of those are good pitching matchups in a year that’s seen increased scoring. Clayton Kershaw will be a spectator like the rest of us. We’ll all be watching some live arms!

A quick word on Yu Darvish. If you focus on his skill set, he’s very likely to thrive as a Dodgers pitcher. He’s moving from what is typically a strong hitting environment in Arlington, TX (where he starred for years anyway), to a much better site for pitchers in Chavez Ravine. Some have noted that Darvish had some ugly numbers in June and July. But it’s worth noting that the ugliness was only in good scoring conditions in Arlington. Believe it or not, on the ROAD in Darvish’s two “horrible” months, he had an ERA of 2.08 in 34.2 innings, with 38 strikeouts and only 6 walks. He did struggle often at home, amidst reports that he may have inadvertently begun tipping his pitches. On the road in those months, and in his Dodgers debut vs. the Mets (third best wrc-plus in the NL), he was still a stud. A good test for him Thursday in another hitter’s park.

Boston at Tampa Bay

  • Offense (wRC-plus): Boston #9 in AL, Tampa Bay #4 in AL
  • Bullpen (xFIP): Boston #2 in AL, Tampa Bay #14 in AL
  • Tuesday: Sale (2.69 xFIP) vs. Pruitt (4.14 xFIP)
  • Wednesday: Porcello (4.31 xFIP) vs. Odorizzi (4.95 xFIP)

Many keep waiting for Tampa Bay to catch fire and make a run in the AL East. The Rays' bullpen has been an issue all season, ranking next-to-last in the league in reliever xFIP. But their bats sure disappeared in the Milwaukee series. They scored a grand total of TWO runs over three games, and were lucky to avoid getting swept on their home field. Now they’ve got to face overwhelming AL Cy Young favorite Chris Sale!

Sale is -200 on overnight pricing over Pruitt, with the Over/Under at 7.5 (Under -115). Boston is 16-6 in Sale’s starts this season. Boston enters the series with a 5.5 game lead over Tampa Bay. The Rays are in the thick of the Wildcard mix along with the NY Yankees and Kansas City (only two spots, and teams like Minnesota, Seattle, the LA Angels, Minnesota, and Baltimore haven’t gone away yet). 

Colorado at Cleveland

  • Offense (wRC-plus): Colorado #14 in NL, Cleveland #3 in AL
  • Bullpen (xFIP): Colorado #5 in NL, Cleveland #1 in AL
  • Tuesday: Marquez (4.20 xFIP) vs. Kluber (2.38 xFIP)
  • Wednesday: Senzatela (4.45 xFIP) vs. Bauer (3.71 xFIP)

We know…you’ve started skimming over the team stats. Don’t let it go unnoticed that Colorado has the second-worst offense in the National League once you adjust for its crazy home ballpark. They can score runs at altitude (as can everybody)…but are well below average in normal parks. Cleveland will have a big edge with the bats in this series, and the superior bullpen. 

Kluber would be getting more consideration for the Cy Young if the Indians weren’t just 11-7 in his starts. He’s been victimized by a lack of run support. Cleveland’s scored only 2-2-4-2-0-3-3 in those seven losses. His fielding independent performance is slightly better than Sale’s (granting that both have been off-the-charts in a high scoring season in the superior league). 

Kluber is -230 on the overnight line for Tuesday, with a total of 7.5. 

MLB: By popular demand, Chris Andrews of the South Point posts a prop on Dodgers and Astros vs. the Field to win 2017 World Series
We talked about it last week here in VSiN City. Monday, to mark Brent Musburger’s return to the airwaves, South Point sports director Chris Andrews formally posted a creative World Series prop that lets you take the teams with the best records in each league vs. everyone else. 

Odds to Win 2017 World Championship
Dodgers and Astros: plus 155 (if either wins, ticket cashes)
The Field: minus 175 (for anyone BUT the Dodgers or Astros to win)

Though it may feel like the Dodgers are so dominant right now that nobody could touch them, respected analytics site fangraphs would still make “the field” even higher. 

Fangraph’s World Series Championship Chances
LA Dodgers 19.1%
Houston 15.2%
Cleveland 15%
Chicago Cubs 14.6%
Boston 14.0%
Washington 9.6%

That’s 34.3% yes for the combined efforts of the Dodgers and Astros. Which leaves 65.7% “no” to be divided up amongst other contenders you see listed and the rest of the pack. Divide 65.7 by 34.3, and you get “no” as a no-vig favorite of -191. 

As friend of “A Numbers Game” “Basewinner” alerted everyone last week, Baseball Prospectus is more bullish on both the Dodgers (25.8%) and the Astros (18.0%). That adds up to 43.8% “yes,” with 56.2% “no.” Works out to a no-vig line of only -128 for the field. Different opinions from different analytics sites. If you average those out, it’s pretty close to what Chris posted. 

Here’s a conundrum for you Dodgers fans. Right now, the South Point has LAD at plus 200 to win the World Series. Adding Houston to your hip pocket knocks the return down to plus 155. Are you in the growing group of observers that believe the Astros are going to be outmatched in the postseason because they lack pitching? Or, because the players are mad at management for not adding pitching (as Bob Nightengale of USA Today discussed with Brent and Ron Flatter Monday on “My Guys in the Desert.”)? 

If you think the Dodgers are in great shape, but Houston isn’t championship material, you might just want to bet LAD alone at plus 200. If you believe “healthy” Houston will be ready in October to post big numbers again…maybe plus 155 is a steal that helps provide a hedge for your money against hot postseason pitching from the likes of Arizona or Washington. 

Current South Point World Series Futures
LA Dodgers 2/1
Chicago Cubs 7/2
Houston 4/1
Boston 5/1
Cleveland 5/1
Washington 6/1
NY Yankees 8/1
Milwaukee 15/1
Kansas City 20/1
Colorado 20/1
Arizona 20/1

Look for more discussion on this prop the rest of the season here in the newsletter and on VSiN programming. Chris told Brent Monday that he’s also coming up with a prop for college football that will feature five power teams vs. the field to win the BCS Championship. 

CFL: Early Week 8 lines and updated Power Ratings 
Not much tinkering to do with our estimate of “market” Power Ratings north of the border. They’ve been locked in fairly strong for a few weeks now. Looks like we've confirmed that the standard home field value is three points in the CFL (generally speaking), and that the market doesn’t overreact to week-by-week results. 

Here are the settled numbers as of Monday night for this week’s action…

  • Edmonton (-2, total of 55.5) at Ottawa 
  • Toronto at Montreal (no line pending status of Toronto QB Ricky Ray)
  • Winnipeg (-2.5, 59.5) at Hamilton
  • British Columbia (-1, total of 54.5) at Saskatchewan

If Ray is able to go for Toronto, that line should be around a field goal for the Alouettes. We’ll learn what the market thinks of Ray’s backup if he isn’t able to play. 

CFL Estimated “market” Power Ratings (ATS in parenthesis) 
Calgary 84…(4-3 ATS)
Edmonton 83…(2-4 ATS)
British Columbia 81…(4-3 ATS)
Ottawa 78…(5-2 ATS)
Winnipeg 78…(4-2 ATS)
Montreal 77…(3-3 ATS)
Saskatchewan 77…(3-3 ATS)
Toronto 77…(2-4 ATS)
Hamilton 72…(2-4 ATS)

NFL: Market moves so far in this week’s preseason action
Early money has been hitting the board for the first full week of exhibition action. A quick rundown…

Wednesday
Houston at Carolina: Houston’s projected quarterback war has inspired dog money at plus 3, and even plus 2.5. Many stores, including the South Point, were showing Carolina -2 Monday night. 

Thursday
Atlanta at Miami: opened at pick-em in most places. Some are now showing Atlanta -1 with Cutler definitely not seeing action for the Dolphins.

Minnesota at Buffalo: Minnesota is up to -1 on the road from pick-em based on its head coach’s strong ATS history in prior preseasons. 

Washington at Baltimore: Baltimore is up to -1 from pick-em.

Jacksonville at New England: Underdog money has brought a high opener around Jax plus 5.5 to a fairly solid plus 4 across the board. 

Denver at Chicago: Denver is up to -1 from pick-em.

Philadelphia at Green Bay: Green Bay has been getting money at -1, causing some stores to lift the juice at that price, others to test -1.5. 

New Orleans at Cleveland: Cleveland is all the way up to -3 after opening near pick-em. Look for a quarterback war with the Browns, as Brock Osweiler was named starter for this one. 

Friday
Pittsburgh at the NY Giants: A move through the key number of three here, as discussed Monday on “Follow the Money” with Mitch and Pauly. Pauly Howard expected smart money to continue hitting the Giants, who are now a solid -3.5 across the board. (Pittsburgh is often disinterested in August, and missed both of its first two exhibitions a year ago by more than two TDs). 

Tampa Bay at Cincinnati: Cincinnati is up to a solid -2 after opening at pick-em.

San Francisco at Kansas City: The Chiefs have settled in at a solid -4, after many spots opened them at -4.5. 

Saturday
Tennessee at the NY Jets: Tennessee as a road favorite is up from -1 to -2.5, suggesting the market isn’t expecting much from the Jets backups. 

Dallas at the LA Rams: Dallas is still around -2.5 in the “head start” position after last week’s Hall of Fame victory. Oddsmakers tried to defend against anticipated sharp interest with that opener. 

Oakland at Arizona: Arizona is laying a field goal at home with its head start, though some stores are testing higher vig or a move to -3.5. 

Sunday
Detroit at Indianapolis: Still a solid pick-em.

Seattle at the LA Chargers: Betting interest on the Chargers, who have moved from pick-em to -1.5 of -2 depending on the store. 

Once the games are played, we’ll provide boxscore capsules of all exhibition action the first three weeks (week four is usually dead weight). 

That wraps up our Tuesday report. If you’re reading this on the VSiN home page, subscribe today for email delivery so you’ll be registered for the free drawing on August 19 that will award an entry to the 2017 Westgate SuperContest (a $1,500 value). You also get access to the ever-expanding portfolio of Las Vegas betting sheets full of futures prices and special attractions. Click here to subscribe

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