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October-07-2008,
Forensic Handicap of the 2008 MLB NLCS and ALCS...By Spraguer

Last week, we took a look at the four divisional series that consitute the first round of the MLB Playoffs, 2008. Today, let's look forward to the second round, the NLCS and ALCS, that get going on Thursday and Friday, respectively.

Dodgers vs. Phillies

On offense, we have a significant advantage for the Dodgers. As noted in the previous installment, this is the best possible configuration of the Dodgers' lineup, and one that they did not have at their disposal until the playoffs - the difference between Manny and Juan Pierre is huge and oft-cited, but the difference between Angel Berroa and Furcal is considerable as well. In short, the Dodgers cumulative season numbers are meaningless - this is a better lineup than the Cubs had, and its a better lineup than the Phillies have. For its part, the Philadelphia lineup is very top-heavy with six hitters who are average or much better relative to their respective defensive positions, two who essentially hit like pitchers (Feliz, Ruiz) and one who is actually a pitcher.

Dodgers Lineup: Martin (5.8 runs created per 27 outs), Loney (4.8), DeWitt (5.1), Furcal (5.2), Blake (5.8), Ramirez (9.3), Kemp (5.2), Ethier (7.1), Pitcher (2.6). After our adjustments, we get 5.23 projected runs.

Phillies Lineup: Carlos Ruiz (2.9 runs created per 27 outs), Ryan Howard (6.7), Chase Utley (6.8), Pedro Feliz (3.8), Jimmy Rollins (6.1), Pat Burrell (6.0), Shane Victorino (5.4), Jayson Werth (6.4), Pitcher (2.6). This adjusts (remember, we adjusting for home park and also 25.5 outs, rather than 27) to 4.79 runs per game. Please see the first round article for why we use these numbers.

In the bullpen, the Dodgers hold a slight advantage, thanks in large part to having two closers to Philadelphia's one. On defense, the Phillies are much better (nearly a third of a run per game) than the Dodgers.

The starting rotations provide a significant edge to Los Angeles. In the last installment, we talked about xFIP (see the first round article for an explanation). Here are the xFIP numbers for the probable matchups: Lowe (3.43) vs. Hamels (3.78), Billingsley (3.74) vs. Myers (4.01), Kuroda (4.02) vs. Moyer (4.72), and Kershaw (4.09) vs. Blanton (4.84).

It appears likely that the Dodgers will go Lowe, Billingsley, Kuroda, Kershaw, Lowe, Billingsley, Kuroda. The Phillies could either go Hamels, Myers, Moyer, Blanton, Hamels, Myers, Moyer, or Hamels, Myers, Moyer, Hamels, Myers, Moyer, Hamels, the latter of which would require Hamels to pitch once on short rest (game four). Let's break the series down either way:

With a four-man Philly rotation:

The Dodgers have a .507 chance of winning game one. The Dodgers have a .501 chance of winning game two. The Dodgers have a .618 chance of winning game three. The Dodgers have a .629 chance of winning game four. The Dodgers have a .596 chance of winning game five. The Dodgers have a .501 chance of winning game six. The Dodgers have a .536 chance of winning game seven.

In that scenario, the Dodgers have a 9.9% chance of sweeping, an 18.7% chance of winning 4 games to 1, a 17.3% chance of winning 4 games to 2, and a 16.2% chance of winning in 7. The total chances for a Dodgers win? 62.1%

With a three-man Philly rotation:

The Dodgers have a .507 chance of winning game one. The Dodgers have a .501 chance of winning game two. The Dodgers have a .618 chance of winning game three. The Dodgers have a .545 chance of winning game four. The Dodgers have a .616 chance of winning game five. The Dodgers have a .558 chance of winning game six. The Phillies have a .543 chance of winning game seven.

In the above scenario, the Dodgers' series win probability is 59.5%

Not unlike the first round, the Dodgers look fantastic here.

So - a "juice-free" line on the series is either +/- 164, or +/- 147 in favor of Los Angeles. Either way, you can get the Dodgers now for +101 at Pinnacle and can probably do better with some shopping.

Red Sox vs. Devil Rays

The Sox hold the edge with regard to scoring, as its lineup comes out of the grinder at about a quarter of a run better per game than that of the Rays. Here are the details: Varitek (2.9 runs created per 27 outs), Youkilis (8.3), Pedroia (6.2), Kotsay (4.4), Lowrie (4.6), Bay (6.8), Ellsbury (4.6), Drew (7.0), Ortiz (7.0), for an adjusted team figure of 5.26. For Tampa Bay: Navarro (5.0), Pena (6.7), Iwamura (4.7), Bartlett (4.5), Longoria (5.8), Crawford (4.6), Upton (5.7), Gross (4.6), Floyd (5.5), for an adjusted 5.00.

The Red Sox have the better bullpen and the Rays have the better defense, though the former advantage (3.53 xFIP compared to 3.87) is more significant than the latter (the Rays rate as .13 runs per game better with the gloves).

The pitching matchups should provide one edge for the Sox, two edges for the Rays, and one wash. They shake out thusly (complete with xFIP numbers): Beckett (3.35) vs. Shields (4.06), Lester (4.19) vs. Kazmir (4.23), Matsuzaka (4.82) vs. Garza (4.59), and Byrd (5.02) vs. Sonnanstine (4.47).

Let's break it down:

The Red Sox have a .545 chance of winning game one. The Rays have a .520 chance of winning game two. The Red Sox have a .553 chance of winning game three. The Red Sox have a .525 chance of winning game four. The Red Sox have a .631 chance of winning game five. The Rays have a .520 chance of winning game six. The Rays have a .529 chance of winning game seven.

This all adds up to the Red Sox having a 56.3% chance of taking the series, which equates to a "juice-free" line of +/- 129. As I type this the line at Pinnacle is -132/+122, so we are squarely in the middle and will need a fairly significant line move before this becomes a play either way. It is important to remember that the above analysis considers Beckett to be healthy and effective - if for some reason we end up seeing a hobbled and less effective Beckett, everything is up in the air (and if we see Wakefield in lieu of Beckett twice, the probability swings wildly and into the Rays favor - if we replace only one Beckett start with one Wakefield start, the series becomes a coin-flip).

In Summary:

Hold tight for more injury/lineup information or a line move in the American League. We like the Dodgers, who for the second straight series are a false underdog, in the National League.

10-07-08
Spraguer
Poster-at-large at MajorWager.com
You may e-mail Spraguer through the editor of MajorWager at:
editor@majorwager.com

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