Giants vs. Dodgers Odds, Picks, Preview: Which Team To Back In Sunday Night’s NL West Clash
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images. Pictured: San Francisco Giants standout Buster Posey.
- National League powers -- the Dodgers and Giants -- square off on Sunday Night Baseball in the Bay area.
- Walker Buehler, the frontrunner for the Cy Young Award, faces a San Francisco outfit looking to get a grip on its postseason spot.
- MLB betting analyst Sean Zerillo takes a look at this matchup below, plus provides his two best bets tied to the Giants.
Dodgers vs. Giants Odds
|Over/Under||8.5 (+125 / -145)|
|Time||7:08 p.m. ET|
First place in the NL West is on the line when the Los Angeles Dodgers (86-50) and San Francisco Giants (86-50) wrap up their season series on Sunday Night Baseball.
The rivals have played to a dead heat this season — tied at nine games apiece — and split the first two games of the weekend series. While Sunday's winner can assert itself as the clubhouse leader, these clubs are focused on securing a guaranteed spot in the Divisional playoff round and still might collide a final time in the postseason.
The Dodgers (.486) and Giants (.485) have comparable schedules down the stretch run and should be able to pad their records against subpar competition, while the Padres (.591) face the toughest slate of opponents.
Both FanGraphs (75.6%) and PECOTA (89%) project the Dodgers as the significantly more likely division winner, and even if you agree with the more conservative assessment, there's actionable value on their divisional odds up to -233 (70% implied). For example, the Dodgers are currently listed at -220 odds at FanDuel at the moment.
Still, the projection market has underestimated the Giants and they've only overachieved by three wins relative to their Pythagorean record (83-53).
One question remains: Are they undervalued in this showdown?
Los Angeles Ace Buehler Having Cy Young Campaign
Walker Buehler (2.05 ERA; 2.94 xERA; 3.54 xFIP; and, 3.66 SIERA) is the current favorite in the NL Cy Young race, though I could argue Corbin Burnes, Zack Wheeler, Brandon Woodruff and Max Scherzer have each pitched better than him so far this season.
Buehler owns an 85% strand rate and a .232 BABIP in 2021, compared to career marks of 77% and, .257, respectively. His HR/FB rate is also a couple of ticks below his career average, and his K-BB% is at the lowest level since his 2017 debut. In other words, he's fantastic, but also a bit fortunate this season.
Perhaps even more surprising, Buehler's pitch velocity is down by as much as 1.5 mph year over year, though he continues to dominate with the heater. On a per-pitch basis, Buehler ranks second behind Woodruff in fastball pitch value this season, and since 2018 he ranks second behind Gerrit Cole in total fastball value and third behind that pair on a per-pitch basis.
Every pitch in Buehler's arsenal has returned a positive pitch value this season, plus he has dialed back the fastball usage slightly. So, perhaps the modified pitch mix has optimized his approach. The cutter (91.8 mph) and slider (85.1 mph) function as his second- and third-best weapons.
Buehler's cutter ranks second (behind Burnes) on a per-pitch value this season, while his slider ranks fifth overall:
Let's take a look at LA's NLDS Game 1 Starter – Walker Buehler
– A high carry/high velo four-seam
– A traditional cutter
– An absolute hammer of a knuckle-curve
– A traditional (high velo) fastball that serves as a sinker
– A sweeping slider #NLDS | #LATogetherpic.twitter.com/91qBmGzsle
— Jeremy Maschino (@JMaschino_56) October 6, 2020
Like many pitchers around MLB, Buehler saw a substantial drop in spin rate after the league began foreign-substance checks in late June. However, it hasn't impacted his results. The righty has posted a 1.45 ERA, 3.27 xFIP and 21.3% K-BB% since then, which aligns with his season-long and multi-year results.
Buehler has a top-notch bullpen to help lock down any leads as well. Los Angeles' bullpen ranks first in SIERA (3.70); second in xFIP (3.76); and, second in K-BB% (18.7%) this season.
The Dodgers' bullpen is a bit overworked heading into this game, as Alex Vesia, Phil Bickford, Brusdar Graterol and Blake Treinen have pitched three times in the past four days. Buehler needs to give the Dodgers some length; their next off day isn't until September 16.
The Dodgers offense has ranked in the top five all season (106 wRC+), despite the continued downslide for 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger (.244 wOBA, .276 xwOBA). Since his last home run, Bellinger is nine for 70, with two walks, 22 strikeouts, and a .322 OPS. He should be drawing more walks, but can't stop swinging (or whiffing) on pitches outside the zone:
Those struggles have carried over to the defensive end.. Bellinger was +39 in Defensive Runs Saved from 2017-2019, including +15 in center field over 146 games. He's -2 in center field this season, over the course of 69 games played.
The Dodgers are an elite team, whether or not Bellinger comes around, but an in-form former MVP would make them an absolute juggernaut come playoff time. He's a player I'll be watching very closely over the final month of the season, and at age 26, time is still very much on his side.
San Francisco Making Things Happen This Season
The Farhan Zaidi era in San Francisco couldn't be going much better. Zaidi served as the Dodgers' General Manager — and Andrew Friedman's lieutenant — from 2014-2018, but has constructed an incredibly competitive club in Northern California on a significantly smaller budget.
Still, the Giants aren't a small-market club by any means. They rank 10th in payroll and have made substantial investments in off-field improvements, including their coaching staff, which features a unique trio of hitting instructors.
While several smart, cost-effective additions have improved the pitching staff, which ranks fourth in xFIP (3.92), eighth in SIERA (3.88) and eighth in K-BB% (16.6%), having a productive offense (104 wRC+; 7th) has been a much bigger surprise.
Buster Posey (144 wRC+), Evan Longoria (141) and Brandon Crawford (131) have plugged into the rejuvenation machine and having their best seasons in the StatCast era:
Darin Ruf (19 HR in 367 PA) has proved to be a potent bench bat since returning from the KBO, and 27-year-old offseason acquisition Lamonte Wade Jr. (126 wRC+) has been a revelation, ranking as a Top 50 MLB hitter per xwOBA.
Deadline acquisition Kris Bryant (131 wRC+ in 28 GP) has boosted the power profile in the middle of their lineup, while providing the flexibility to shift around the diamond now that Longoria is finally back in the fold.
The Giants have also improved by a few spots defensively (34 DRS; 11th in MLB) after sitting closer to league average for the past few seasons.
Zaidi's fingerprints are all over this roster. Aside from the championship-era players like Posey, Belt and Crawford, 18 of their current roster players have been acquired via trade, free agency, or waivers in the past 2 1/2 seasons. And 11 of their 15 pitchers have been acquired since the start of the past offseason.
The bullpen (4.20 xFIP, 13th; 3.84 SIERA, 9th) is largely comprised of new faces, but my favorite arm in the bunch is a homegrown talent — Tyler Rogers — who is one of MLB's most unique hurlers:
Tyler Rogers, Insane 73mph UFO Rising Slider thingy. 🛸 pic.twitter.com/4OyuwhWUMS
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 2, 2021
Unfortunately, the Giants are currently dealing with several pitching injuries, and their bullpen is a bit overworked heading into this contest, following Saturday's designated bullpen game.
Sammy Long and Jarlin Garcia are likely unavailable after throwing close to 40 pitches each on Saturday. Rogers would be making his fourth appearance in five days, while Tony Watson, Jake McGee and Dominic Leone would be making their third appearances in five days.
That's not an ideal situation to have against both the top team in baseball and the leading NL Cy Young contender, especially when your starting pitching situation was still to be determined as of Sunday morning.
Though it initially seemed like a recent waiver claim José Quintana would make a start, Gabe Kapler burned him Saturday when he was deployed in relief.
The Giants announced that Leone would take the ball, though I doubt he pitches more than a couple of innings in this contest. And it could get hairy in the late stages when the Giants' other relievers, who are running on fumes, enter the fray.
However, it's worth noting the Giants have an off day on September 9 — a full week sooner than the Dodgers — so they do have the ability to lean on their bullpen more heavily over the next few days. And they will need to do so with an upcoming series at Coors Field.
Dodgers-Giants Projections & Pick
The totals for this contest initially opened at 4.5 for the first five innings (F5) and 8.5 for the full game, but those totals quickly came down closer to 4 and 8, respectively, much more in line with my projections. As a result, I no longer show projected value on the total.
However, there is still actionable value on the Giants moneyline — both F5 and full game — when compared to my projection:
I would bet the Giants' F5 moneyline down to +165 and their full game moneyline down to +160, with either bet representing an edge of roughly 2.5% compared to my projected odds.
Since the Giants' exact pitching plan is difficult to determine, I would say that the full game bet is probably the better route, but I'm splitting one unit between the two wagers.
- Giants First Five Innings ML (bet to +165)
- Giants ML (bet to +160)