After almost 2,500 games, the MLB season has now reached its finale. The Los Angeles Dodgers will play the Boston Red Sox to determine who will win the 2018 World Series. Which team offers the most value? Read on to inform your 2018 World Series predictions.
World Series predictions: The best of the best
It’s not often that you get the best teams from each league making their way to the World Series, but that may be what we’ve got in 2018. In the American League, while the Red Sox entered the Championship series a slight underdog, they lead the regular season the whole way.
The Red Sox won a franchise-record 108 games during the regular season, despite visibly getting ready for the playoffs by giving players extra days off. They boast the best offence in the game, and arguably the best starter and best closer in the game.
In the National League, the Dodgers struggled to a mere 91 wins, but that total is misleading; they survived severe early-season injury issues and a 16-26 start, despite which they easily had the league’s best run differential (a much better indicator of team strength than actual record).
LA got healthy and then bolstered their roster with the additions of all-star Manny Machado, Brian Dozier and David Freese to help them against lefties and Ryan Madsen to bolster the bullpen. The team we see now is far better than the one that stood 16-26.
These are the two biggest payrolls in baseball and two nationally-popular fanbases. The two stadiums couldn’t be further apart, and that means this World Series encompasses the entire continent. In short we have two storied franchises going up against each other with the world watching. It should be glorious.
Analysing the lineups
With no exaggerations, the Boston Red Sox have the best line-up in MLB. It’s deep and star-laden (both Mookie Betts and JD Martinez have received MVP buzz), having scored the most runs in MLB (by 25) while sporting MLB’s 6th-best defence.
If you’re looking for an issue, it’s that Boston may have too much of a good thing. When playing games three, four and five in Los Angeles, the Sox will be without the services of a DH (designated hitter). That means JD Martinez will either play 1B (displacing the Mitch Moreland/Steve Pearce platoon) or RF which would force Mookie Betts to move from RF to CF (sending plus defender and ALCS MVP Jackie Bradley to the bench) or 2B (displacing Ian Kinsler).
The Boston Red Sox were the better regular season team, have more star power, beat better teams in the playoffs and are better rested. They are deserved favourites to win the 2018 World Series.
In addition to the impact it has on the World Series in general, it could pay off to keep a close eye on that development as there will almost certainly be run line movement based on the Betts announcements each night and jumping on it quickly could be profitable.
The Red Sox’s numbers versus lefthanders could also be deemed a weakness heading into the World Series, especially when you consdider the Dodgers have plenty of them in their arsenal. Keep in mind though, that the Sox acquired Pearce for that reason and that both Betts and Martinez hit from the right side of the plate.
The main strength for the Dodgers is their offence - it’s probably the deepest offence in baseball. This is a team with 13 starting-calibre hitters that they flexibly wield (averaging 18 players used per game in the NLCS). This means that while the Dodgers don’t feature bats like the Sox biggest, they almost never see a strictly bad match-up and will be more than ready to fill the DH slot they’re unaccustomed to using when visiting Boston for games one, two, six and seven.
Will the World Series be won with starting pitching?
In a season where bullpenning and the opener have made themselves legitimate options, we have two World Series teams that rely on more traditional means of throwing the ball.
For the second consecutive season, a strong Dodgers starting staff must contend in the World Series with the best offence in baseball, and they may now be primed to do just that. Clayton Kershaw is still one of the best starters in MLB, Walker Buehler seems primed to join those ranks, and Rich hill gives the Dodgers three reliable lefties to throw at the Sox to go with righty Hyun-Jin Ryu.
The Red Sox have some question marks in this area. Chris Sale, perhaps the best per-inning pitcher in MLB, missed serious time in August and September and then had to have his ALCS game five start pushed pack. He says he’s ready to go for game one, but the bet here is that the market won’t reflect what a healthy Sale would mean for the Sox game one chances.
After Sale, David Price finally shed his weak postseason reputation with a dominant start against the Astros and Nate Eovaldi and Rick Porcello offer solid options in the 3 and 4 slots.
How important are the bullpens?
The Dodgers bullpen is deep and solid, if not spectacular; Kenley Jansen is still the foundation but wasn’t the same pitcher in 2018 that he’s been in recent season. Dave Roberts seems to prefer Madsen as his set-up man right now, but will mix up roles to suit match-ups.
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Right now, the Red Sox likely wish they had LA’s bullpen. Craig Kimbrell, the best reliever of the last half-decade, has looked positively shaky in the playoffs thus far; manager Alex Core reported that the Sox felt Kimbrell was tipping pitches and his final appearance of the ALCS was more akin to what we’re accustomed to seeing from him, but you couldn’t blame bettors for feeling less-secure than normal with Kimbrell standing on the mound with a one-run lead.
One thing to remember for this series is that both managers have shown a willingness to use their starters in relief; Kershaw, Hill, Porcello, Eovaldi and Sale have all pitched in relief this post-season and shouldn’t be counted out for more of the same between starts, especially after an off-day.
2018 World Series: Where is the value?
The Boston Red Sox were the better regular season team, have more star power, beat better teams in the playoffs and are better rested. They are deserved favourites to win the 2018 World Series (currently priced at 1.666*) but bettors certainly shouldn’t be writing off the Los Angeles Dodgers (especially when the World Series is decided by a mere seven games) who are available at 2.330*.
The Dodgers have the extra advantage of having been on this stage a year ago (only one Red Sox player, Xander Bogaerts, was on Boston’s last World Series team). So, yes, Boston seems to be the more likely victor, but there are plenty of positives for the Dodgers.