Can You Buy a Pennant With 35 Games to Go?

The Giants lead the Dodgers by two games with 35 to go.  The prospectively fearsome lineup of the Dodgers is inaugurated by a opening at bat from Adrian Gonzalez in his first Dodger at bat in the course of beating Miami, and the Giants lose to Atlanta.  Can teams congeal with 35 games to go with so many new components?  Hunter “Push Bunt in Cleanup” Pence has been a black hole and Melky Cabrera taken out while Hanley Ramirez has been a very effective addition for the Dodgers.  And yet…The Giants have moved from a few games back to a few games ahead as the starting pitching has congealed, sweeping a sleepwalking LA at Chavez Ravine last week.  Now the blockbuster trade that brings inconceivable amounts of disappointing salary and veterans from Red Sox to the Dodgers doubles down on the strategy.  If Crawford and Beckett return to form alongside Gonzalez then obviously trouble is brewing.  Are they the “Team to Beat in the NL West” as Tim Kurkjian says?  Curt Schilling said the Dodgers are the odds on favorite to win the World Series now.

In the remaing schedule the Giants’ opponents are .466 and the Dodgers’ .504.  But this difference is exacerbated by over .500 teams remaining in the playoff race while those under are signing off for the season.

The Dodgers and Giants play together six games of the season divided between the parks.  The Giants also besides today against the Braves and Dodgers v. Marlins have:

SF: 3 against the Cubs, 3 against Houston, 9 against Arizona, 6 against San Diego, 7 against Colorado

LA: 6 against Arizona, 6 against Colorado, 6 against San Diego, 4 St. Louis, 3 Cincinnati, 3 Washington.

Isolating similar games it leaves ten differentiated games beyond today.  SF 1 v. Colorado, 3 Cubs, 3 Houston, 3 Arizona compared to the Dodgers’ 3 Cincy, 3 Washington, 4 St. Louis — none of which are in the final two weeks when the playoff bound teams may have had playoff positions secured.  This has to be  seen as a promising lineup for the Giants.

Why the urgency to win this year among the Dodgers’ new ownership group?  At the cost of having $260 million in future salaries in a world where the luxury tax lurks?  According to USA Today:

The prospect of crossing MLB’s luxury tax threshold–currently $178 million–apparently is no disincentive.

“Mark and Magic don’t even ask me about that,” Kasten said. “Considerations like that are very secondary.”

 

The Dodgers are only 1.5 games out of the wild card.  Bovada is optimistic on their behalf:

Odds to win NL at Bovada:

Odds to win the 2012 NL Pennant
All wagers have action. Wager is on team to represent the NL in the World Series.
 Chad Billingsley goes on the 15 day disabled list and Shane Victorino’s back is hurting.  The excitement of being anchored to previously successful brand name players is exciting but Angel Pagan and Macro Scutaro have finally aligned the top of the Giants’ lineup while Barry Zito quietly returns to being a solid member of the rotation.  This is a classic overreaction to a splashy move when they needed a smart one.  The Dodgers’ farm system is drained and every cent beyond this now is painful — could they really compete for Josh Hamilton now?
The Giants don’t appear to have the firepower or bullpen to match the Nationals but they are experienced and the Nationals are young.  The Dodgers may have bought their way into the wild card game but that will use up Kershaw and anything can happen in one game.  The Giants may not win the NL but I still feel confident they’ll go further than the Dodgers.

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