Betting The Dodgers

If you’re betting on the Los Angeles Dodgers with any real frequency, you’re likely hemorraghing money and looking for a loan. The Dodgers have lost (-$767) this season for their backers, based on $100 increments for each game. After making the postseason for three straight years, they’re struggling along at 36-33 this season and trailing the San Francisco Giants by seven games in the loss column in the NL West.

The Dodgers’ problems are pretty straightforward. They don’t score a lot of runs, ranking ninth in the National League in runs scored. And it actually could be worse, because they rank lower than 9th in all key individual offensive categories. Whether that’s luck or timely hitting is a decision up to each individual baseball bettor, but suffice it to say it’s a hard balance to pull off all season.

And while Los Angeles ranks fourth in the National League in staff ERA, that’s heavily dependent on the greatness of Clayton Kershaw, currently 10-1 with a 1.58 ERA. Since the Dodgers don’t get any value when Kershaw is on the mound, this means that for bettors the situation is worse than it appears on paper.

Furthermore, there is very little incentive to bet Los Angeles to win the NL West. They have that gap to make against San Francisco, a team with a deeper pitching staff. And the Dodgers only fetch a 9-4 price to pull that off.

What Los Angeles does have is fairly long odds for winning the National League pennant and the World Series, at 11-1 and 22-1. If they could just scrape their way into the playoffs, they’d have Kershaw in a wild-card game. In spite of his history of postseason troubles, we dare say that any team would welcome this opportunity. Kershaw’s influence - along with that of closer Kenley Jansen, also having a great year - could increase drastically in the short postseason series’ of October.

So we can establish that having the Dodgers at those prices come playoff time would be nice. But can Los Angeles get there?

Let’s focus on the offense and hone in on two players who are drastically underperforming so far this year. Yasmani Grandal has never been a great offensive player, but the catcher was at least a functionable part of the lineup, with on-base percentages typically ranging from .330 to .350. So far this year he’s languishing at .300.

Adrian Gonzalez’ past track record is that of a big-time run producer. He’s slugged at least .440, and often much higher, every year since 2006. What’s Adrian’s slugging percentage this year? A measly .381. Gonzalez is 34-years-old, so we don’t want to be too casual in assuming he’ll just resume his past performance. But he’s slugged over .480 each of the last two years and has cratered one hundred points to .381 this season.

If the Dodgers just get Gonzalez back to typical career performance it would be a big lift. Better production from Grandal would be a further left and we look at the wild-card standings, the Dodgers are among a group of six teams packed within four games in the fight for two spots. Any improvements at all that we can reasonably expect can be the difference. And Los Angeles - unlike Miami or Colorado, both of which are in the Group of Six, is highly likely to make moves at the trade deadline if there’s a real shot to make the postseason.

It’s not that we’re predicting the Dodgers to win the World Series. But the prices are such that they you can make small investment for a big payoff, based just on some better hitting from a couple players and then Clayton Kershaw finally having an October to remember. In an overall futures strategy, this can be one nice little piece.