Oct 24, 2017
Oct 24, 2017

World Series betting preview: LA Dodgers vs. Houston Astros

Two different journeys to the World Series

World Series betting: Not a normal game of baseball

World Series odds: Who will win?

World Series betting preview: LA Dodgers vs. Houston Astros

Credit: Getty Images

In a year that has been all about elite teams in the MLB, only two remain in the race to win the World Series. The Los Angeles Dodgers will square off against the Houston Astros to determine baseball’s world champion in a best-of-seven match-up starting in LA. Want some expert World Series betting insight? Read on for an in-depth analysis of the World Series odds.

World Series odds: How did the two teams get here?

When Baseball Prospectus declared the LA Dodgers to win 99 games this season through its normally conservative PECOTA projections - nine games better than the defending champion Cubs - there were more than a few eye rolls. 

What PECOTA seemingly understood, while the rest of us didn’t, was that after three years of Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman’s experiment of running the biggest budget team in MLB with small-payroll efficiency, we were about to see the blossoming of a true baseball power. 

Houston doesn’t have the inning-by-inning options that the Dodgers posses and those analysing the World Series odds will be forced to do some guesswork at how Hinch will utilise his pitchers.

Friedman and his front office cadre of former GM-types had invested again and again in player development while spending with the clout only previously seen in George Steinbrenner’s reign as Yankees owner. The Dodgers developed what they could, bought what they needed, improved on all of the above with analytics and created a monster team.

From the moment the season started, it was clear that the Dodgers were the team to beat in the NL and by the All-Star break, they were 61-29, eight games ahead of the competition. The season was over.

Houston’s supremacy wasn’t as easily defined before the season started; Boston was the popular pick to emerge from the AL and we even wrote that the World Series was Cleveland’s to lose. However, the Astros stormed out of the gate, building a double-digit lead by the end of May and never looked back. At the All-Star game, it seemed all but certain these teams would meet in the World Series. Then, the hiccups came.

The Astros were befallen by injuries following the All-Star break and Hurricane Harvey hit soon after. The city of Houston was thrown into chaos as the team faltered, their struggles compounded by the fact that they were forced to play home games away from Minute Maid Park.

Houston’s fall came as the Indians finally started surging and the Yankees made massive additions to an already strong roster; suddenly, the Astros were an afterthought. The Dodgers, meanwhile, playing historically-paced .700-ball into August, went on an unthinkable tailspin, going 1-16 in late August - everyone had pretty much called the Dodger-Astros World Series off. 

Now, it’s back on. Houston disposed of not one, but two AL East powerhouses in the Red Sox and Yankees, riding the best offence on the planet and the unshakable arm of Justin Verlander to the Series. The Dodgers have had an easier time, dropping the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs each in quick order after both foes barely escaped their previous opponents, mostly on the back of an unbelievable pitching staff.

Two dominant teams coming off 100-win seasons (the first such pairing since 1970). It’s going to be one hell of a series.

World Series betting: Not a normal game of baseball

There's a lot more to consider in the World Series in comparison to regular season baseball betting. This far into the season means it's desperation time and the managers know it; expect only the best pitchers to see the light of day and little forecasting for future games, especially in games two and five, when the teams (and specifically, their tired pitchers) will be playing with a looming day off to heal all ails.

LA Dodgers pitching

Before that mid-August Dodger swoon that got every tongue in the baseball world wagging, the Dodgers were sporting a pitching staff that some were calling the best of all-time. That staff is fully rested and fully healthy and will provide the single biggest obstacle facing the Astros.

LA Dodgers likely starters:

LA Dodgers likely starters

Game

Likely starter

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

ERA

FIP

xFIP

WAR

1

Clayton Kershaw

10.39

1.54

1.18

2.31

3.07

2.84

4.6

2

Rich Hill

11.01

3.85

1.19

3.32

3.72

3.88

2.6

3

Yu Darvish*

11.05

2.36

1.27

3.44

3.38

3.19

1.1

4

Alex Wood

8.92

2.25

0.94

2.72

3.32

3.34

3.4 

*All numbers taken from Darvish’s LA Dodgers stint only.

If there’s a better starting staff in MLB, it’s not without an argument. LA starts things off with Kershaw - probably the best starter of his generation - followed by three guys who have pitched like aces at times this year, including Darvish whose numbers for the year don’t tell the tale of how well he’s pitched since arriving in LA at the end of July 31.

In past years, Kershaw has been asked to pitch on short rest and has floundered as a result; this year, it seems clear he’ll be pitching games one and five and will be available if needed out of the bullpen in game seven. 

LA Dodgers primary relievers:

LA Dodgers primary relievers

Name

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

ERA

FIP

xFIP

WAR

Kenley Jansen

14.36

0.92

0.66

1.32

1.31

1.82

3.5

Brandon Morrow

10.31

1.85

0.00

2.06

1.55

2.94

1.6

Kenta Maeda

11.25

1.13

1.13

2.25

3.03

3.41

0.1

Note: All numbers are from relief appearances only.

In recent years, with Kenley Jansen establishing himself as the best reliever in MLB, the Dodgers’ big bullpen question has concerned exactly who would bridge the 8th inning to him. The Dodgers have come up with three answers: 

  1. Morrow, a former starter, has been highly influential in games this year.
  2. Maeda, a starter all year, has emerged as a bullpen ace this year.
  3. Jansen has shown himself capable of maintaining his excellence through two or even three innings when needed.

In 17 NLCS innings, the Dodgers bullpen (Jansen, Morrow, Maeda, Tony Watson, Tony Cingrani, Ross Stripling and Josh Fields) gave up four hits, one walk and no runs, striking out 22. To say manager Dave Roberts has a full tool belt available would be a massive understatement. 

Houston Astros pitching

The Astros enter the series with far bigger pitching question marks than the Dodgers. That said, a key late-season trade and timely return to health has the starting staff looking as strong as it has all season.

Houston Astros likely starters:

Houston Astros likely starters

Game

Likely starter

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

ERA

FIP

xFIP

WAR

1

Dallas Keuchel

7.72

2.90

0.93

2.90

3.79

3.32

2.5

2

Justin Verlander*

11.38

1.32

1.06

1.06

2.69

2.94

1.1

3

Charlie Morton

10.00

3.07

0.86

3.62

3.46

3.48

3.3

4

Lance McCullers

10.01

3.03

0.61

4.25

3.10

3.17

3.0

*All numbers taken from Verlander’s Houston Astros stint only.

While their overall numbers suggest more depth than peak, Houston’s starting staff is top-heavy, with the team’s fate resting in large part on the shoulders of Keuchel and Verlander. Keuchel’s numbers here undersell his season due to the injuries suffered throughout, while Verlander may well have been the best pitcher in MLB from September onwards.

Morton is a solid option and McCullers offers plenty of upsides; Houston’s manager, AJ Hinch, will most likely lean on the top two guys for lengthier runs and then turn to heavier bullpen use when Keuchel and Verlander aren’t starting.

Houston Astros primary relievers:

Houston Astros primary relievers

Name

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

ERA

FIP

xFIP

WAR

Ken Giles

11.92

3.02

0.57

2.30

2.39

3.09

1.8

Brad Peacock

11.51

4.87

0.44

1.77

3.01

4.12

0.3

Joe Musgrove

8.90

1.44

0.57

1.44

2.68

3.21

0.7

Colin McHugh

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Note: All numbers are from relief appearances only.

This is Houston’s biggest area of flux, with Hinch having worked some small feats of magic to survive a needed overhaul.

Houston’s offence was amongst the best we’ve seen in recent decades, while LA had the best defence in MLB this year.

Over the course of the season, the pen was anchored by traditional relievers like Chris Devenski, Will Harris and Luke Gregorson. All three have floundered of late after heavy use earlier in the year, which has left Hinch drawing upon a collection of players who are more accustomed to starting than relieving, including Peacock, who may have been Houston’s best starter in the second half and McHugh, who didn’t pitch in relief all season, but proved a weapon vs. the Yankees in the ALCS.

Houston doesn’t have the lights-out, inning-by-inning options that the Dodgers posses and those analysing the World Series odds will be forced to do some guesswork at exactly how Hinch will utilise the pitchers available to him.

World Series betting: The likely lineups

World Series betting: The likely lineups

Team

Astros

fWAR

Dodgers

WAR

C

Brian McCann

1.6

Austin Barnes

2.5

1B

Yulieski Gurriel

1.8

Cody Bellinger

4.0

2B

Jose Altuve

7.5

Logan Forsythe

1.7

3B

Alex Bregman

3.8

Justin Turner

5.5

SS

Carlos Correa

5.2

Corey Seager

5.7

LF

Marwin Gonzalez

4.1

Enrique Hernandez

1.3

CF

George Springer

4.5

Chris Taylor

4.7

RF

Josh Reddick

3.5

Yasiel Puig

2.9

DH

Evan Gattis

0.9

Andre Ethier

0.0

These two teams feature two of the most-potent offensive cores in MLB, but the Astros stand out for their depth. There’s not an easy out in the bunch and that wears on pitchers, which is why the Dodgers home field advantage in games one, two, six and seven may be key; with a pitcher in the lineup, LA’s strategists will have a ready-made chink in the Astros order.

The lack of a full-time DH for LA might prove a problem in games three, four and five. Part of the team’s strength is depth that’s seen players like Ethier, Yasmani Grandal, Curtis Granderson and Chase Utley get at least part-time at bats, meaning Roberts will be able to pick and choose his DH depending on the day and matchup without being at too much of a deficit.

Houston’s offence was amongst the best we’ve seen in recent decades, while LA had the best defence in MLB this year. 

World Series odds: Who will win?

There’s plenty of reasons why bettors might side with either team in the World Series betting, some of which are detailed below; 

Why side with the Dodgers?

  • Good pitching beats good hitting.
  • Their projection was insane and they were better than their projections.
  • Clayton Kershaw.
  • Justin Turner seems unable to avoid hitting in October.
  • The market odds tab them the favourite.
  • Their easier path to the World Series means they’re better-rested.
  • Home field advantage.
  • They destroyed the defending champion and that was without their best position player (Seager).

Why you shouldn’t dismiss the Astros

  • Teams just do not hit better than this.
  • Peak Justin Verlander.
  • Jose Altuve.
  • They showed their true form in the season’s first two months by playing .700 ball in the tougher league.
  • They’ve already beaten true contenders, unlike the Dodgers.
  • The deepest lineup of the 2000’s.

The question then, is which these set of reasons do you find more convincing?

As is often the case, the answer comes down to the odds. Right now, the Dodgers are a small favourite, so if you think a series between two hundred-win teams is more or less a wash, the Astros are offering you value. If, however, you think that the perceived advantages that have made LA the favourite are legitimate, that’s how you need to bet. Either way, it promises to be a great series.

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