Surely the Dodgers will, sooner or later, live up to the expectations of their massive payroll. And maybe this is finally the year. They are in a three-way race for glory in the NL West, but they have opened up a 1.5-game lead with very strong play and are heavy betting favorites to stay on top. Talent has never been an issue for this team, but they have lacked the toughness and mental focus required to really take advantage of their opportunities. So, is this year finally going to be different? And what do bettors need to keep in mind when looking at the team? Here are four factors to ponder when considering those questions:
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Home dominance: The Dodgers have 29 wins at home. Only the Diamondbacks are close at 26, with the Mariners and Orioles, of all teams, next best at 24. Home games need to be won. That's not revolutionary. The Indians are the only contender below .500 at home, and that isn't going to stay that way for long. When a team is as dominant at home as this one is it makes contending just so much easier. And it is very easy to believe that this is sustainable. Last year their 53 home wins was second best in all of baseball to the Cubs and was far ahead of the rest of the NL. Of course, the fact that Arizona is their chief rival for the division and is almost as good at home doesn't really help.
Cody Bellinger: The young slugger is off to an absolutely incredible start to his career. After only being called up on April 25 he leads the team with 49 RBIs and is tops in all of the NL with 22 home runs. The power didn't come from nowhere, either - he has been showing it off in the minor leagues. People just need to slow down a little, though. Already he is more popular in online searches in the L.A. area than Mike Trout, and the hyperbole about him and what he is and can become is truly and utterly out of control. The guy is obviously special, but he is also only 21 and just 54 games into his major league career. He may keep this up all year, but it is more likely that he'll hit a wall and find periods of relative struggle along the way - especially as opposing pitchers start to figure out how to pitch to him. So, he's obviously a positive for the team but one that needs to be viewed with a far healthier dose of reason and rationality than seems to be the norm around this team right now.
NL West: It certainly didn't seem like this would be the most interesting division in baseball heading into the season - especially if you had known that the Giants were going to be awful. The Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Rockies have the three best records in the NL, and only Houston has a better record than any of them in all of baseball. It's been an epic battle. The Dodgers, on paper at least, are best positioned to win it, and the odds reflect that - BetOnline has them at a strong -350 to win the division despite the current gridlock. If they are indeed going to win the division then the best thing that could happen is for them to get it done as soon as possible. The longer they have to fight for the division lead, the harder it will be to be fresh heading into the playoffs. This team has struggled in the playoffs as it is, so they don't need to go in at the tail end of a five-month battle for the division. I don't struggle to imagine them dropping the Rockies pretty soon - they have been a great story and have a lot going for them, but you can't trust that much rookie pitching for the long term. Arizona, though, could be more of a challenge. How great would it be for Zack Greinke to be the one who leads his team into a season-long struggle that wears the Dodgers down before the postseason?
Betting performance: When a team is winning almost 65 percent of their games it isn't hard for them to turn a moneyline profit. They are fifth in the league in profit produced and join the Rockies and Diamondbacks in the Top 5. Betting on this division has been a pleasure all year - San Francisco is dead last in the league, too, so fading them has been every bit as fun as betting on the big three. The over has the edge on the total but only a small one - at 38-35 there is not long term profit to be had "over" or "under".
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