Los Angeles Dodgers
What They Did: 86-76, 2nd Place NL West.
Actual Runs: Scored 637 runs, Allowed 597.
Expected wins based on RS and RA: 85.8 (0.2 below actual)
Restated: Scored 633 runs, Allowed 603.
Exp. wins based on restated RS and RA: 84.6 (1.4 below actual)
(Glossary: Expected wins, based on a modification of Bill James’ Pythagorean Theorem, are the amount of wins a team should win in any season based on the amount of runs it actually scored and allowed. Deviations will be explained in the appropriate team capsules.
Restated Runs Scored and Runs Allowed are the amount of runs a team should have tallied based on its actual components of batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging achieved/allowed. In the case of the Dodgers, if they posted exactly the same stats in 2013 as 2012, they should expect to win 85 games.)
Although I haven’t written all of the National League previews yet, during some of my interviews promoting my book, I have been asked about my thoughts on the National League this year. Consistently I have stated that I liked the Dodgers to represent the National League in the World Series this year (against the Rays out of the American League.) One long-time friend of mine familiar with my writings and betting leanings the last couple of years sent me an e-mail that simply read, “Shocker! You like the team that picked up Zack Greinke.”
Like all friends should, that is someone who knows me well. I (via my model) have been in the tank for Greinke for two years. He’s my favorite representative of the coveted high-strikeout, low-walk, high-groundball pitcher. Those traits have been sustainable year-after-year as they’re supported by a consistent 92+ mph fastball. I’ve also been rewarded for that opinion. Over the last two years, Greinke has gone 31-11 but that’s a little misleading because if you consistently back him every game, as I have, you need to include his team’s record in his no-decisions as well. Including those no-decisions, Greinke’s team has gone 42-20, for a 67.8% winning percentage in the games he’s started.
Here are the team records the last two years, for a trio of other elite pitchers whose teams have also won roughly 2/3 of the games they started:
Justin Verlander: 46-21 68.7%
Clayton Kershaw: 44-22 66.7%
C.C. Sabathia: 40-21 65.6%
From a baseball odds perspective, that means roughly anytime Greinke, Verlander, Kershaw, or Sabathia took the mound at a price of less than -200, in retrospect, there was value because -200 implies a 66.7% chance of winning. Here’s how many times over the last two years each of these four pitchers were priced at greater than -200:
This is why I continue to insist Zack Greinke is one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball, despite owning a Cy Young Award of his own. (2009 AL, with Kansas City.) For the majority of the last two years, he’s had to pitch in Milwaukee, toiling in a hitter’s ballpark, with a well-below average defense behind him and a horrendous bullpen. Despite that (Greinke took a no-decision in a game his team ultimately lost five times last year in games in which he gave up zero or no runs in at least seven innings of work) his team’s still been good for a win better than two-thirds of the time he took the mound.
This year Greinke will get to pitch in the same ballpark, with the same fielders, and the same bullpen as Clayton Kershaw. For two years he’s struck out batters at a rate just a hair less than Kershaw, but also walked them a bit less, and induced significantly more ground balls. Yet he’s had an ERA more than a run higher due to factors outside of his control. This year those factors will be held constant and he and Kershaw will team up to form the best 1-2 combination in the majors and Greinke, not Kershaw, will be the one with the lower ERA and the NL Cy Young award at the end of the year.
Elsewhere in the rotation, Josh Beckett quietly threw quite effectively in the seven starts he made for the Dodgers after the blockbuster trade with the Red Sox. He compiled a 2.93 ERA in his return to the National League and should also benefit from a more friendly pitching environment than he’s had in Boston since 2006.
Speaking of the Red Sox trade, it may not make sense from a utilization of resources standpoint, and the Dodgers 17-18 record after the trade may have made their front office talk-radio laughingstocks, but make no mistake about it, as a result of that trade the Dodgers are fielding a far more potent lineup in 2013. Gone from last year’s team that only scored 637 runs (26th in MLB) are James Loney (359 plate appearances/0.0 WAR) Juan Rivera (339 PA/-0.8 WAR), Dee Gordon (330 PA/-1.1 WAR), Tony Gwynn (277 PA/-0.1 WAR) and Matt Treanor (122 PA/-0.1). That’s more than 1,400 plate appearances of sub-replacement level performance. Even with early season injuries to Hanley Ramirez and Carl Crawford, the two of them, along with Adrian Gonzalez, will replace at least 1,000 of those AB’s and by my calculation that amounts to roughly 70 more runs scored. Plus, don’t forget, Matt Kemp only played in 106 games last year.
Oddsmakers’ expectations: There were three teams in the NL which gave up less than 600 runs last year – Dodgers, Nationals, and Reds – and I think the Dodgers, the only one of the trio not to make the playoffs, has the best chance to repeat the feat. Their rotation is actually better this year but the big improvement will come on offense. If Hanley Ramirez hadn’t gotten injured in the WBC and if I thought Carl Crawford was going to give the Dodgers 150 games worth of plate appearances, I’d have this as an over bet and Los Angeles a 95- or 96-win team. With an opening total wins market of 91 ½ the injuries and uncertainty have removed the over recommendation, but I’ve still got the Dodgers finishing the year with the most wins in the NL.
92-70 – First in NL West
730 Runs Scored 631 Runs Allowed
Mop Up Duty:
Joe Peta is the author of Trading Bases, A Story About Wall Street, Gambling, and Baseball* (*) Not necessarily in that order, a Dutton Books/Penguin (U.S.A.) publication currently available wherever books are sold. Here are three on-line booksellers you can currently choose from:
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