Dodgers open up as the favorite to defeat the Astros for the World Series crown

Dodgers open up as the favorite to defeat the Astros for the World Series crown

October 24, 2017 3:01 AM
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After a thrilling ALCS and a rather mundane NLCS the 2017 World Series matchup is set with Game 1 scheduled for this Tuesday at the home of the National League Champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Dodgers dispatch of the defending World Series Champion Chicago Cubs in five games, winning the first three by 3, 3 and 5 runs before dropping a 3-2 decision in Chicago in Game 4. It may be hard for many to believe but this will be the Dodgers’ first appearance in the World Series since 1988, ending a drought of 29 seasons!

The American League Championship Series between the Houston Astros and New York Yankees went the distance and saw the home team win all seven games. Trailing 0-2 in the ALCS and returning to New York the Yankees swept all three games at Yankee Stadium to return to Houston with a three-games-to-two lead. But the Astros won Games 6 and 7 to advance to their second-ever World Series and their first as a member of the American League. In 2005, while still a National League team, Houston lost in the World Series to the Chicago White Sox.

What made the ALCS remarkable in addition to the seven-game sweep by the home team was the disparity in scoring. In winning all seven games the home team outscored their visitors 34 to 8. The road team scored more than one run just once, in Game 4 when Houston’s 4-0 lead evaporated into a 6-4 loss that enabled the Yankees to even the series at two wins apiece. The road team scored a single run four times and was shut out twice.

The Dodgers led all of MLB with 104 wins in the regular season. Houston won 101 games, one less than Cleveland. This gives us a World Series between a pair of teams that each won more than 100 games, a testament to just how good both of these teams are.

This is the first time since 1970 that the two World Series participants have each won at least 100 regular season games.

This is an intriguing matchup on several levels. The edge on offense goes to the Astros, who lead the major with 940 runs scored in the regular season (an average of 5.8 runs per game), a full three quarters of a run more than the Dodgers, who ranked ninth with 818 runs scored. But the Dodgers have the edge on the mound. They allowed just 599 runs in the regular season (an average of 3.7 per game), second only to Cleveland which allowed 585. Houston was not bad, allowing 740.

Cleveland led the majors with a strong plus 250 runs differential (an average of 1.5 runs per game) with the Dodgers second at plus 219. Houston finished fourth at plus 200.

The Dodgers have a huge edge in the bullpen and their pen was historically good in the NLCS, bringing a streak of 23 consecutive scoreless innings pitched into the World Series.

Minutes after Houston won the ALCS Saturday night the Westgate opened the Dodgers as -140 favorites to win the World Series. Early money flowed in on the Dodgers and by mid-afternoon on Sunday had settled in as -160 favorites, which is pretty much the consensus price both here in Las Vegas and worldwide as we go to press on Monday.

The key to this World Series could well be how Houston fares in Games 1 and 2 when their aces Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander will start and oppose Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw and likely another lefty, Rich Hill (unless the Dodgers move righty Yu Darvish ahead of Hill, depending on what happens in Game 1).

If Houston can win at least one of those first games behind Keuchel and Verlander they will have a real chance to win the Series with Games 3, 4 and a potential 5 at home. Houston is 6-0 at home in the Playoffs although it must be noted Keuchel and Verlander started in five of those six home games).

For the Dodgers to win the Series they will have to defeat Keuchel or Verlander at least once and are likely to use one of that pair (probably Keuchel) in Game 5 in Houston.

My strategy will be to play the Astros in Game 1 at roughly +155 and if they lose I will back them again in Game 2, most likely at a lower plus price. Should the Astros win Game 1 against Kershaw the play would be on the Dodgers -1.5 runs in Game 2.

When the Series moves to Houston for Game 3 the play would be on the Dodgers if they are in the unlikely position of being down 0-2. If the series is tied 1-1 and the Dodgers are underdogs they would be the play. But if the Dodgers are up 2-0 and favored in Game 3 (as they may well be with a likely matchup of Darvish against Charlie Morton) the Astros would be the play to make it three straight wins for the home team.

Every game will start at 5:05 p.m. Pacific time (which is 7:05 p.m. local time in Houston).

The Total in Game 1 is 7 and is likely to also be 7 in Game 2. Look to play the UNDER in the first two games but look for higher scoring games when the series moves to Houston. The weaker starting pitchers will be starting Games 3 and 4. In 87 home games, including the Playoffs, Houston averaged scoring 4.9 runs per game while allowing 3.8. In 85 road games the Dodgers averaged scoring 3.8 runs per game while allowing 4.6.

Ultimately the call is for the Dodgers to win the World Series in six games with the forecast being a split of the first two games at home, taking 2 of 3 in Houston, wrapping it up back home in Game 6 in a likely matchup of Hill vs. Verlander. The Dodgers’ bullpen is a major plus whereas Houston’s bullpen is a significant minus.

The future is bright for both of these franchises with plenty of young talent yet to hit their primes on both teams with a nice blend of veteran leadership mixed in, especially on the pitching staff. We all know how difficult it is to repeat or to even make it to back-to-back World Series so we won’t get to see another Astros/Dodgers matchup in the next few years. So let’s enjoy what promises to be an entertaining 2017 World Series.