Daily Distractions: The Dodgers are the new World Series favorites.

Yasiel Puig fans

Dodgers fans have pushed the team to first in Major League Baseball in attendance. (John McCoy/Staff Photographer)

The Dodgers’ fortunes came full circle today, when online oddsmaker Bovada released its list of World Series favorites with the Dodgers on top at 9 to 2.

To recap, then:

The Dodgers have gone from the preseason favorites with baseball’s highest payroll, to midseason busts on the verge of firing their manager, to favorites once again by winning 40 of 48 games.

Friday served as a reminder of how things might have been when the Philadelphia Phillies, the Dodgers’ weekend opponent, fired manager Charlie Manuel with 40 games left in their season. Ryne Sandberg will take over on an interim basis.

It was supposed to be Don Mattingly not long ago. Now it’s Mattingly who will be opposing Jim Leyland from the opposite bench in the 2013 World Series, if these odds are any indication:

Los Angeles Dodgers   9/2
Detroit Tigers    5/1
Atlanta Braves    13/2
Boston Red Sox    15/2
St. Louis Cardinals    10/1
Tampa Bay Rays    11/1
Texas Rangers    11/1
Cincinnati Reds    12/1
Oakland Athletics    12/1
Pittsburgh Pirates    12/1

On a related note, Gary Sheffield is buying in. He tells Dodgers Nation: “I think they have the chips to make it.”

Some bullet points for the weekend:

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Daily Distractions: Will a day off cure what ails the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp?

Matt Kemp gameday view

(courtesy of MLB.com)

By the looks of things, the Dodgers ought to worry less about Matt Kemp‘s mechanics at the plate than what’s going on inside his head.

That image, courtesy of MLB.com’s Gameday tool, shows Kemp’s final at-bat Tuesday against Jason Marquis. Appropriate to the picture, the bat did not leave his shoulders. Kemp took an 83-mph slider, an 88-mph sinker, and an 82-mph changeup for strikes, ending the sixth inning with a whimper.

I didn’t have a chance to speak to Kemp after the game, but Kemp typically isn’t introspective in the midst of a slump. Most hitters aren’t; if they could explain why they were slumping, they would be hitting the ball better. Based on that sixth-inning at-bat, it would be tempting to pin Kemp’s problem on poor pitch selection. It might not be that simple.

Here’s how Marquis struck out Kemp to end the third inning:

Matt  Kemp

In this at-bat, Kemp’s pitch selection is pretty good. He took two pitches low and out of the zone with two strikes (#3 and #4), then swung a pitch (#5) that might have been a strike — it was about an inch higher than the pitch before. Yet Kemp missed. You have to wonder what he was thinking on the second pitch of this at-bat, a swing-and-miss on a slider over the fattest part of the plate.

Kemp saw two sinkers from Marquis in his first at-bat. The pitch chart isn’t integral here — Kemp took a ball 10 inches off the plate then flew out to right field on the second pitch, which was in the strike zone. Both pitches were sinkers.

By the time the sixth inning rolled around, Kemp should have figured he wasn’t getting any fastballs from Marquis. Yet he took three breaking balls in the strike zone without swinging the bat.

Don Mattingly said after the game that he’s considering giving Kemp a day off, even though the Dodgers have an off-day Thursday. The manager seems to believe Kemp’s slump (he’s hitting .185) begins and ends between his ears.

“Matt’s pressing pretty good,” Mattingly said. “Tonight he seemed really frustrated. The game didn’t help. It’s one of those games that you jump behind early, nothing kind of seems to go your way, and he seemed to be — obviously it didn’t go very good for him.”

From struggling superstars to …

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