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2018 NLCS Series Price: Dodgers vs Brewers

Dodgers pitchers Kenley Jansen and Clayton Kershaw jogging.
Clayton Kershaw (R) and Kenley Jansen (L) lead arguably the best all-around pitching staff in the National League into the 2018 NLCS against the Brewers. Keith Allison (Flickr) [CC License].
  • The 2018 NLCS sees the Dodgers’ dominant starting rotation facing the Brewers’ lights-out bullpen. 
  • The high-payroll Dodgers enter the series as big favorites, despite Milwaukee having homefield. 
  • Get a full breakdown of the best-of-seven series, including odds, key stats, trends, and predictions.

Two of the hottest teams in the majors will square off in the 2018 NLCS as the Los Angeles Dodgers face the Milwaukee Brewers. The best-of-seven series starts on Friday, Oct. 12th, at Miller Park (8:09 PM ET).

Entering the series, the Dodgers have won seven of their last eight, averaging 6.6 runs per game and outscoring their opponents by an average of 4.5 runs in that span.

Not to be outdone, the Brewers have won 11 straight overall and have surrendered just three runs in their last five games.

A World Series longshot to start the year, the Brewers aren’t getting a vote of confidence from online betting sites. Despite having home-field advantage and literally winning every single game they’ve played since Sep. 22nd, they are sizable underdogs to oust the Dodgers and reach their first World Series since 1982.

Dodgers vs Brewers NLCS Odds at  BetOnline (Oct. 9)

Los Angeles Dodgers Milwaukee Brewers
-144 +124

Milwaukee’s hot streak notwithstanding, it’s understandable why the Dodgers are favored here. Looking at the statistical comparison below, they lead the Brewers in most key metrics and they had a massive edge in run differential over the course of the year. Run differential has proven to be one of the best indicators of team strength and future success.

Case in point: the Rockies entered the 2018 playoffs with the worst run differential among playoff teams and were outscored 13-2 in a three-game sweep at the hands of Milwaukee.

Dodgers vs Brewers Statistical Comparison

dodgers
VS
Brewers

92-71 RECORD 96-67
+194 (3rd) RUN DIFFERENTIAL +95 (9th)
.250 (14th) TEAM BATTING AVERAGE .252 (12th)
235 (2nd) TEAM HOME RUNS 218 (4th)
.333 (5th) TEAM OBP .323 (12th)
.442 (3rd) TEAM SLUGGING .424 (9th)
.774 (3rd) TEAM OPS .747 (9th)
3.19 (2nd) STARTING PITCHERS ERA 3.92 (11th)
3.72 (8th)  BULLPEN ERA 3.47 (5th)
4-3  2018 HEAD-TO-HEAD 3-4

The Dodgers’ NLDS performance was almost as impressive as the Brewers’. Los Angeles dispatched of the upstart Atlanta Braves with ease (3-1), pitching shutouts in Games 1 and 2 and outscoring the Baby Braves 20-7, overall.

Dodgers vs Brewers Probable Pitching Matchups

Dodgers
VS
Brewers

Clayton Kershaw (2.73 ERA, 1.04 WHIP) Game 1  Jhoulys Chacin (3.50 ERA, 1.16 WHIP)
Walker Buehler (2.62 ERA, 0.96 WHIP) Game 2 Brandon Woodruff (3.61 ERA, 1.18 WHIP)
Hyun-Jin Ryu (1.97 ERA, 1.01 WHIP) Game 3 Wade Miley (2.57 ERA, 1.21 WHIP)

Brewers Pitching

Listing the Brewers’ starting pitchers is a bit of a red herring. The team relies heavily on its relievers. The Milwaukee bullpen pitched the fifth-most innings in the regular season (614.0 IP) and logged 14.1 out of 27.0 innings against the Rockies in the NLDS. Craig Counsell will be looking for five innings of work from Chacin and Miley, but won’t ask Woodruff (a reliever by trade) to go more than two or three.

Saying the Milwaukee bullpen has been strong would be a massive understatement. The group finished fifth in the majors in ERA (3.47) and third in xFIP (3.47), which is basically ERA adjusted for factors like fielding and ballpark.

Corey Knebel hasn’t surrendered a run since being recalled on Sep. 2 (19.1 scoreless innings) and didn’t give up a hit in three innings against the Rockies. Josh Hader (2.43 ERA, 0.81 WHIP) was borderline untouchable until a late-season blip (4.73 ERA in August; 5.11 ERA in September), but was back to his old ways in the NLCS, pitching 2.1 innings of hit-less, walk-less ball.

Dodgers Pitching

On the other side, Dave Martinez will be trotting out three of the most dominant starters in the National League this year and expecting six-plus from each one. While all three missed time this year, Kershaw, Buehler, and Ryu form the backbone of the second-best rotation in baseball by traditional ERA (3.42) and the top rotation by xFIP (3.36). While Buehler was touched-up for five runs in 5.0 IP in Game 3 of the NLDS against Atlanta, he also pitched 6.2 scoreless innings in game 163 versus Colorado.

Kershaw and Ryu combined for 15.0 scoreless innings in the series with Atlanta.

Where things can get hairy for Martinez is when his starter exits. The Dodgers’ bullpen numbers are more than respectable on the surface: 3.72 ERA, 8th overall; 3.77 xFIP, 5th overall. However, they had the seventh-lowest opponent batting average on balls in play (.286), which is a stat that tends to regress to the mean.

Perhaps more concerning, someone screwed extra-bright halogen bulbs into the sockets of lights-out closer Kenley Jansen. That’s hyperbolic, but he has surrendered 13 home runs this season, more than twice as many as he has ever given up in his nine-year career. Seven of those came since he returned from the DL in August. Two came in one inning of work against the Rockies in the Oct. 1st tiebreaker. His ERA also ballooned to 3.01 this year, compared to 1.32 and 1.83 in the two seasons prior.

Series Pick: Dodgers (4-2)

The Brewers have received unsustainably good starting pitching during their current win streak. Chacin, Miley, and Woodruff are not going to be unscathed through the first few innings against this potent Dodger lineup, which means they won’t be handing the ball off to their dominant pen with the lead.

That is going to put undue pressure on, not just Hader, Knebel, and company, but also the top of Milwaukee’s lineup. The Brewers only had three players with an Offensive WAR over 3.0 (Christian Yelich, 7.3; Lorenzo Cain, 4.9; Jesus Aguilar, 3.4). Contrast that with the Dodgers, who had seven …

  • Manny Machado: 6.6
  • Max Muncy: 4.8
  • Justin Turner: 4.5
  • Yasmani Grandal: 3.5
  • Chris Taylor: 3.5
  • Cody Bellinger: 3.4
  • Enrique Hernandez: 3.1

Simply put, the Dodgers have too much fire power in their batting order and too much strength among their starting rotation to be undone by an admittedly excellent Brewer bullpen.

The -144 series price carries an implied probability of 59%. I see Los Angeles winning this series at least 60% of the time, making the Dodgers the value bet in my eyes.

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Sascha was a hockey player in his youth, a lawyer in his capricious mid-20s, and has been SBD's lead oddsmaker/number cruncher since 2014. He writes about everything you can possibly put odds on. He's happiest when those things are football, baseball, hockey and basketball (in that order).