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Can the Dodgers live up to hype of being runaway favourites?


The Los Angeles Dodgers are far and away the favourite to win the 2024 World Series. And after spending more than a billion dollars in free agency this winter, they better be.

The Dodgers are +320 to win it all right now at FanDuel. The next closest team is the Atlanta Braves at +450, and then the Houston Astros at +700.


That means the Dodgers have an implied probability of 23.8 per cent to win the World Series. Of course, betting odds always favour the house a tad, so their title odds aren’t really 23.8 per cent. But it’s still sky-high considering they’re just one team out of 30.

On paper, the Dodgers are the best team in baseball. They reached the 100-win mark for the third consecutive season last year and ranked second in runs scored (906) and second in run differential (plus-207), with the Braves taking first in both categories. And while the Braves beefed up their outfield and bullpen this off-season, it wasn’t close to what the Dodgers did.

Nobody’s off-season came close. 

A recap: After winning the third-most games in all of baseball and second most in the National League, the Dodgers signed Shohei Ohtani to a 10-year, $700 million deal that should keep him in Los Angeles for the rest of his career. Ohtani travels up the 5 Freeway from Anaheim coming off one of the best individual seasons in history, where he won his second unanimous American League MVP. Ohtani has some business to attend to off the field but will help the Dodgers a bunch on it. 

A week after Ohtani, the Dodgers acquired right-hander Tyler Glasnow from the Rays in a blockbuster deal that sent a pair of promising, yet unproven players back to Tampa. While often injured, Glasnow’s high-90s fastball and devastating off-speed combination makes him a severely uncomfortable at-bat for opposing hitters. The Dodgers then extended Glasnow on a five-year, $136.5 million deal, ensuring he’ll be in L.A. longer than the one season he was under contract for.

By that point in the off-season, many felt the Dodgers were mostly finished. How could they not be? They’d made the biggest signing in North American sports history and acquired an arm with ace potential to bolster an injury-riddled pitching staff. As Yoshinobu Yamamoto sat on the open market as the top free agent left on the board, wasn’t he destined for one of the big-market teams that missed out on Ohtani?


As we now know, Ohtani’s contract includes $680 million of the $700 million coming via deferred payments, meaning he will receive $2 million in salary for the next 10 years, and then $68 million for the next 10 years starting in 2034. The deferred money meant the Dodgers still had cash to spend, and spent it they did, signing Yamamoto to a 12-year, $325 million deal.

The Dodgers’ off-season haul was so good, it made the additions of two-time Silver Slugger Teoscar Hernandez and former Seattle Mariners ace James Paxton footnotes.  


How good are the Dodgers?

Here was L.A.’s lineup for their season-opener against the San Diego Padres in Seoul last week:

1. Mookie Betts (SS)
2. Shohei Ohtani (DH)    
3. Freddie Freeman (1B)   
4. Will Smith (C)   
5. Max Muncy (3B) 
6. Teoscar Hernandez (OF)
7. James Outman (OF)
8. Jason Heyward (OF
9. Gavin Lux (2B)

That’s a total of 21 All-Star nominations, four MVP Awards, 13 Silver Slugger wins and 12 Gold Gloves.

The Dodgers should mash all season. They finished second behind the Braves in most major offensive categories and now add Ohtani, who would have led an already strong lineup last year in home runs (44), on-base percentage (.412), OPS (1.066), OPS+ (184) and slugging (.654). 

The now-departed J.D. Martinez was productive as the Dodger DH in his age-35 season, but Ohtani is a sure upgrade. Add in Hernandez and a healthy Gavin Lux, and the lineup only gets stronger.

Heading into the off-season, the Dodgers had a pitching problem. Clayton Kershaw is out until at least July with shoulder surgery. Walker Buehler is working his way back from Tommy John surgery and won’t be ready to start 2024. Dustin May is going to miss most of this season with an elbow injury after missing most of last season with an elbow injury. And Tony Gonsolin is expected to miss all of 2024 after Tommy John.

Of course, the additions of Yamamoto, Glasnow and Paxton patch that hole right up. Those three, coupled with Bobby Miller and Gavin Stone, give L.A. an elite rotation heading into 2024.
At least we think?

Yamamoto is coming off three straight pitching triple crowns in Japan, but has just one MLB start under his belt. And that one did not go well as he lasted just one inning in Seoul against the Padres. Glasnow’s career-high in innings came last year at 120.0, showing just how much he’s struggled with durability during his eight seasons. Paxton has too, and pitchers don’t usually get healthier as they hit age 35 and older. Miller and Stone each looked promising in their debut seasons, but have only combined for 26 big-league starts.

So, there are some risks in the rotation… meaning the Dodgers’ starting five is one of 30 others that has question marks. A big-league staff is among the hardest units to piece together in all of sports, and one of the most vulnerable to injury and performance variances that are difficult to foresee.

The bottom line is the Dodgers will be good, maybe even historically so. The only question for them is how they’ll carry that into October. 


Will it translate?

In 2022 and 2023, the Dodgers combined to win 211 regular-season games.

And one playoff game. One!

The Dodgers’ 111 wins two seasons ago was the most in their 140-year history. And they were picked apart by the 89-win Padres in the National League Division Series. Last year, they won 100 games, but the Arizona Diamondbacks swept them, sending the Dodgers home in the first round for the second year in a row.

They aren’t alone. The 104-win Braves and the 101-win Baltimore Orioles also lost in the Division Series, while the 90-win Texas Rangers went on to win their first World Series. The 101-win Braves were bounced in round one the year before, too. In 2021, the Tampa Bay Rays and San Francisco Giants were the only teams to win 100 or more games, and they both lost in the Division Series.

It’s a good reminder that quite often, the best teams in the regular season don’t go on to win it all.

Teams to win 100+ games since 2014

Year Team Wins Result
2023 Atlanta Braves 104 Lost NLDS
2023 Baltimore Orioles 101 Lost ALDS
2023 Los Angeles Dodgers 100 Lost NLDS
2022 Los Angeles Dodgers 111 Lost NLDS
2022 Houston Astros 106 Won World Series
2022 Atlanta Braves 101 Lost NLDS
2021 San Francisco Giants 107 Lost NLDS
2021 Tampa Bay Rays 100 Lost ALDS
2019 Houston Astros 107 Lost WS
2019 Los Angeles Dodgers 106 Lost NLDS
2019 New York Yankees 103 Lost ALCS
2019 Minnesota Twins 101 Lost ALDS
2018 Boston Red Sox 108 Won World Series
2018 Houston Astros 103 Lost ALCS
2017 Los Angeles Dodgers 104 Lost World Series
2017 Cleveland  102 Lost ALDS
2017 Houston Astros 101 Won World Series
2016 Chicago Cubs 103 Won World Series
2015 St. Louis Cardinals 100 Lost NLDS

But sometimes they do.

In 2022, the 106-win Astros won their second World Series in six years and the two teams with the best records in the pandemic-shorted season – the Dodgers and Rays – met in the 2020 Fall Classic, with L.A. prevailing in six games.

In the past 10 seasons, 19 teams have won 100 or more games. Four have won the World Series and 11 have gone on to lose in the American or National League Division Series.

This year’s Dodgers are in a unique position. In a sport where teams aren’t often labelled ‘championship or bust,’ L.A. is exactly that. Maybe that’s fair, maybe it isn’t.

But when a team already as strong as the Dodgers wins the off-season the way they did, a World Series title is the only thing that will satisfy expectations.