After their 13-2 start, the Los Angeles Dodgers appeared to be on pace to shatter all sorts of records - they were healthy, hitting on all cylinders, and OPS-ing over .900 as a team. While that torrid start was surely never going to be repeatable over a full season (a .324 BABIP would demolish records for batted ball luck as well), it was hard to imagine at the time that they’d follow such a run by going 4-13 in their next 17 games. At 17-15, the Dodgers are currently in 3rd place in the NL West. So what has since changed?
Like many teams, the Dodgers have been decimated by injuries - the pitching staff alone is already without Dustin May, David Price, Corey Knebel, Brusdar Graterol, Tony Gonsolin, Tommy Kahnle, Joe Kelly, and Caleb Ferguson, a group that many teams would trade their entire staff to start over with as pitching building blocks. This is not to point out that the Dodgers are necessarily worse off than those other teams - the entire league is dealing with increased IL stints, especially on the pitching side - but even without these arms, the Dodgers still boast an impressive staff that ought to be able to get it done most nights.
In reality, LA’s start is a cautionary tale in overreacting to small sample sizes.
The Dodgers still lead Major League Baseball in run differential entering Thursday at +37, even though they've been incredibly snakebitten by MLB’s new extra innings rule to a remarkable 1-7 record in such games. At the 20% point through the regular season, however, I wouldn’t start worrying about your Dodgers’ divisional and World Series futures tickets just yet. While runs like those the Dodgers have been on this season may not truly be representative of what to expect from them over the course of a full season, they should absolutely factor into your baseball handicapping on a day-to-day basis. Los Angeles has been a favorite every game during this cold stretch and likely will continue to be through this weekend in Anaheim and beyond - after all, it’s hard to justify ever listing them as an underdog given their lineup.
Having said as much, there’s been a ton of value available in fading the Dodgers over the past few weeks as well. For example, even without knowing the matchups yet this weekend for their series with the LA Angels, I'll be looking for whichever game Jose Quintana is scheduled to pitch. He'll likely be offered at a gaudy +180 or higher, and he is definitely worth at look with his lifetime 2.01 ERA against the LA Dodgers.
Season Picks: 3-3
Last Week's Picks: 1-1
Friday, May 7
Arizona Diamondbacks (First 5 Innings, +100 or better) @ New York Mets
The Mets return home from a seven-game road trip in Philadelphia and St. Louis to take on the Arizona Diamondbacks and ace Zac Gallen, who has consistently lived up to the billing since making his debut as a Miami Marlin in 2019. Gallen was traded to Arizona later that year in a deal that sent Jazz Chisholm to Miami, the rare deal that now looks pretty solid for both sides. What makes Gallen remarkable is his consistency - in his brief major league career, he’s yet to post a season with a DRA- worse than 89 (11% better than the average MLB pitcher). His 2020 also saw him reach new heights, pitching to an impressive 73 DRA- and 2.75 ERA. Most of his results this season have remained consistent with what we saw from him last year too, as he’s yet to allow more than six hits in a game. Friday also represents a homecoming of sorts for Gallen, a New Jersey native getting the opportunity to pitch somewhat close to home.
Friday evening's contest will also see the Mets send lefty David Peterson to the mound. Peterson has been serviceable for the Mets, although not anything spectacular - he’s had two miserable outings of 6+ runs through his first five starts, mixed with three other outings that saw him allow two or fewer. He’s pitched to an impressive DRA- of 82, although his career mark of 114 suggests regression is in his future.
In this specific matchup, however, he'll likely find himself in some trouble - Arizona ranks 10th in baseball against left-handed pitching, hitting at a .255 clip. The last two left-handed starters to take the bump in a true starting role against Arizona combined to allow 10 earned runs over 10 innings pitched (Gomber, Smyly), and while Peterson has pitched better than either of those two, I’d be surprised if Arizona can’t scratch across 2-3 over the first 5 innings, which would likely do the job for the D’backs F5 +100 here.
Sunday, May 9
Milwaukee Brewers @ Miami Marlins (First 5 Innings, -130 or better)
Riding high after taking three of four at home from the LA Dodgers, the Milwaukee Brewers then went on the road to face the Philadelphia Phillies and were swept. Eric Lauer, after thoroughly dominating LA in his 2021 debut, faltered and allowed six runs (two earned) and three home runs against the Phillies. While Lauer has thoroughly dominated the Dodgers throughout his career (6-0, 1.89 ERA), he's also been profoundly average against the rest of Major League Baseball (9-20, 5.17 ERA). He’s a great pitcher to fade in the starts that follow his brilliance against LA, and this season is no exception - right now, Lauer's 1.64 ERA also ought to help us get a better line here, and it certainly doesn’t help him to be facing the Miami Marlins, either - against lefties this season, several Marlins have put up impressive numbers:
Jazz Chisholm .364
Starling Marte .389
Miguel Rojas .345
Corey Dickerson .375
Garrett Cooper .280
On the other side, Sandy Alcantara has blossomed into the consistent top end of the rotation starter that Miami has been waiting for. He’s pitched to a DRA- of 89 (11% better than average) according to Baseball Prospectus, inducing ground balls at an impressively high rate. The Brewers enter Miami having gone cold in Philadelphia, and they could really struggle with Marlins pitching all weekend. I’ll leave the Marlins bullpen out of it here, as I’m confident Alcantara will outpitch Lauer through the first 5 innings on Sunday.