San Diego Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr., right, forces out Los Angeles Dodgers’ Mookie Betts (50) during the first inning in Game 2 of a baseball National League Division Series Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
- Defending World Series-champion Los Angeles Dodgers a heavy -250 favorite to win a ninth consecutive NL West crown
- With a retooled pitching staff, and an ever-improving young core, the San Diego Padres present a significant obstacle
- Read on for analysis, full odds and a best bet for what is shaping up to be a clear two-horse division race
So much for the Los Angeles Dodgers resting on their laurels after winning the franchise’s seventh World Series title last October. One year after trading for Mookie Betts and David Price, the Dodgers went out and signed the best free-agent pitcher on the market, adding reigning Cy Young-winner Trevor Bauer to bolster what is arguably the best rotation in baseball.
Their NL West division odds reflect Bauer’s addition, with the Dodgers now boasting three Cy Young winners and three MVPs. LA is the clear favorite at -250, but after its first postseason appearance since 2006, the San Diego Padres are second favorites at +200. With a lineup featuring one of the game’s premier young talents in Fernando Tatis Jr., combined with a retooled rotation that should allow them to compete, the Padres should give the Dodgers a stiffer test than they did in last year’s division series, when LA swept them out of the playoffs.
2021 NL West Division Odds
|Los Angeles Dodgers||-250|
|San Diego Padres||+200|
|San Francisco Giants||+4000|
Odds as of Feb. 18 at DraftKings.
It’s tough to know where to start when assessing the Dodgers.
On one hand, there’s the rotation, featuring Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Julio Urias, David Price, and now Bauer. After a posting a major league-leading team ERA of 3.02 last season, LA could well send it spiralling south of 3.00 in 2021.
Hitters beware. 🔥
— MLB (@MLB) February 12, 2021
That dominance is equally apparent when stepping away from the mound, with the offense producing 349 runs last term, tops in MLB along with its mark of 118 home runs.
Entering their 132nd season, however, the Dodgers have never successfully defended a world championship, so the hunger should be there in droves. Before they even get to the postseason though, the team’s focus will be squarely on extending the franchise-record streak of division titles to nine straight.
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) February 11, 2021
In all honesty, it is tough to find any holes in this lineup. Take last year’s shortened 60-game season. LA matched the best 40-game start in team history by going 30-10. Although the Dodgers slowed slightly in finishing with a 43-17 record, their .717 winning percentage is the highest of the post-1960 expansion era, equalling out to an MLB record-tying 116 wins over a 162-game season.
When you add Bauer and his Cy Young-winning 1.73 ERA mark to that mix, on top of former AL Cy Young winner Price, who sat out the 2020 season, and this team is stronger, even with the losses of outfielder Joc Pederson and pitcher Alex Wood.
Padres Prepped To Win
Almost certainly the only thing standing between the Dodgers and another division crown this season will be their neighbours to the south of Chavez Ravine in San Diego.
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) February 15, 2021
The Padres made real strides in 2020, not least of which was a first winning season since 2010 and a first playoff appearance since 2006.
Much like the Dodgers, San Diego’s chances this season will be anchored around its rotation, which got an overhaul this off-season. As a result, Chris Paddack, who was the opening-day starter last season, is likely down to four or five in the rotation following the arrivals of former Cy Young winner Blake Snell, along with Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove, the continued development of Chris Lamet and possibly the arrival of MacKenzie Gore, arguably the top pitching prospect in MLB.
Caption this. pic.twitter.com/NZoLKdVach
— Dan Clark (@DanClarkSports) February 13, 2021
Finishing with a 37-23 record, the Padres had the second-highest winning percentage in the NL at .617, while their offense was better than any team not named the Dodgers or Braves.
The majority of that offense was provided by Tatis and Manny Machado, who finished with a combined 33 home runs and 92 RBI, although honorable mention also goes to Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers, who cashed in another 76 runs. The signing of Kim Ha-seong from South Korea and the continued development of rookie-of-the-year finalist Jake Cronenworth should ensure this offense keeps humming.
Giants In Limbo
At 29-31 in manager Gabe Kapler’s first year in charge, the San Francisco Giants missed the postseason by the slimmest of margins, losing out to Milwaukee courtesy of a worse intra-division record. His second year should set up for more of the same.
The Giants went just 2-8 against the Padres and 4-6 against the Dodgers, with those series growing to 19 games apiece against division foes in 2021. San Francisco’s roster will be much the same as the one that ended 2020. The few changes are the addition of arms such as former Dodger Alex Wood and right-hander Anthony DeSclafani in an effort to improve its team ERA of 4.64.
Alex Wood, Filthy 85mph Knuckle Curve (home plate view). pic.twitter.com/90IOYKJ4IW
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) October 28, 2020
That was really the team’s kryptonite, with the offense operating at a 4.98 runs-per-game clip, good enough for fifth in the NL.
— SFGiants (@SFGiants) February 4, 2021
San Francisco will be helped in that department with the return of catcher and former MVP Buster Posey, who opted out of last year over COVID fears. In addition, Tommy La Stella should help at second base.
Diamondbacks Stand Pat
A last-place finish wasn’t exactly what anyone had in mind when Arizona signed veterans like former World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner ahead of the 2020 season, but then nothing about last year really went as people expected.
The team is much the same for 2021, so manager Torey Lovullo will be wanting/expecting a better year out of Bumgarner (1-4, 6.48 ERA). However, he will have been pleasantly surprised by the development of Zac Gallen, who had a 2.75 ERA in 12 starts. On offense, the team will be led by Ketel Marte, Christian Walker and Kole Calhoun, with hopes that it can improve on its 25-35 finish.
Ketel Marte and @escobarmaracay become the 1st pair of NL switch-hitting teammates to each hit 30 HR in a season. pic.twitter.com/6IHUQiRjFD
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) September 5, 2019
Improving its results within the division will be crucial to the team returning to winning ways. While there is seemingly little shame in going 2-8 against the Dodgers, doing the same against the Giants, as Arizona did last year, puts a pin in any hopes of sniffing around the postseason.
Rockies Ready To Rebuild
Any time a team deals the face of the franchise, as the Colorado Rockies recently did in trading Nolan Arenado and his eight-year, $260-million contract, questions are asked about the commitment to winning.
🔊 Dear Rockies Fans—
— Colorado Rockies (@Rockies) February 3, 2021
For a team that suffered 91 losses in 2019 and finished 26-34 a year ago, it appears there isn’t much, if any.
The remainder of Colorado’s roster has been left to pick up the pieces in the wake of Arenado’s departure, and while the offense was good enough to place the Rockies firmly in the middle of the NL with 275 runs scored, the team’s ERA of 5.59 was the second-worst in all of baseball.
Baseball is coming… pic.twitter.com/uWeEzQV9gU
— Kyle Freeland (@KFREE_21) February 9, 2021
As a result, the team won just six of its 20 games against the division’s two heavyweights, the Dodgers and Padres. On top of that, despite posting a winning record against San Francisco (6-4), it still suffered the indignity of the second-worst loss (23-5) in franchise history against the Giants.
2021 is set to be another long year.
Can Padres Prevail?
Though it’s hard to look past a defending champion as dominant as the Dodgers, when it comes to betting value, they don’t offer a whole lot at -250. Make no mistake though, the Padres are a legitimate World Series threat.
Another year of seasoning for their core of Machado and Tatis will do no harm at all to the team’s offense, and the off-season makeover of the rotation should only have the team ERA trending in one direction. The team’s division hopes though, will be moving in the opposite direction.
Pick: Padres (+200)
2021 MLB division previews: