Previewing the 2017 World Series- Houston Astros versus the LA Dodgers

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Credit to MLB.com

On the eve of the World Series, baseball fans of every fandom get more excited by the moment for what promises to be an entertaining World Series matchup between the 101-win Houston Astros and the 104-win Los Angeles Dodgers.  The Dodgers made quick work of the Chicago Cubs in 5 games, showing exactly why they had 104 wins on the 2017 season. However, the Houston Astros had to battle their way through a very resilient New York Yankees team that went down swinging, but provided every sports fan with a piece of history in Game 7.  That piece of history is that it was the first ever shutout in any Game 7 of the ALCS.

As a baseball fan, I am very excited for the simple fact that we may actually have the 2 best teams from the current season in the World Series.  This is the first time we have had two 100-win teams since the 1970 World Series that featured the 108-win Baltimore Orioles and the 102-win Cincinnati Reds.  In the Wild Card era, it is hard to find a World Series matchup that hasn’t featured a team that got hot entering the playoffs or during the postseason schedule.  The last time we saw both #1 seeds put on display for fans in the World Series was in 2013 between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals.  The Dodgers and Astros were two of the best teams all season and two of the most fun to watch. So let’s break down just how these two pennant winners match up against each other.

Starting Lineup/Offense

The Houston Astros had the most potent offense during the 2017 season as they scored 896 runs through the 162 game season, which averages to 5.53 runs per game. The Los Angeles Dodgers were 12th in the league in runs scored with 770 runs, an average of 4.75 runs per game.  Both teams are able to score and put them up in a hurry thanks to the long ball with both of these squads surpassing the 220 team home run mark (221 for the Dodgers and 241 for the Astros).  The biggest difference between these two teams is way the Los Angeles Dodgers are able to control the strike zone to their advantage as they drew 649 walks compared to the 509 walks drawn by the Houston Astros.

The Dodgers offense has been great this postseason thanks to amazing performances from Yasiel Puig, Justin Turner, and lead-off man Chris Taylor, but the Houston Astros have the more explosive offense because of Carlos Correa, Jose Altve, and lead-off man George Springer.  The speed and power combination from all 3 of these position players will force the Dodger pitching staff and bullpen to limit the mistakes made inside the zone while also having to keep a close eye on the basepaths when runners do get on.  The Dodgers lineup will be even better than the NLCS thanks to the recent addition of shortstop Corey Seager to the World Series roster, who should be a huge factor for this Dodgers lineup.

Advantage: Houston Astros

Bench/Designated Hitter

Both Dave Roberts and A.J. Hinch will have opportunities to mix and match their lineup to different situations during the World Series since the first two games will be played without the benefit of the DH, thanks to Los Angeles having home field advantage.  This will force Hinch to be without Gattis or McCann in the starting lineup for the first two games at least.  Hinch is likely to go with the left-handed veteran Brian McCann, who posted a 102 wRC+ against southpaws during the season while Gattis mustered up a wRC+ of 92.  The Astros haven’t utilized their backup outfielders recently as Cameron Maybin and Derek Fished only combined for five total plate appearances in the ALCS against the Yankees.  The Dodgers are going to base their daily lineup on the health of Corey Seager’s back, but they have a reliable backup in Charlie Culberson who is more than able to cover the position. Dave Roberts can also call upon veterans Yasmani Grandal, Chase Utley, Andre Ethier, and Curtis Granderson in pinch hitting situations.  The Astros have some depth, but the Dodgers bench has been more consistent and is slightly deeper thanks to all of the veteran leadership.

Advantage: Los Angeles Dodgers

Starting Rotation

The Los Angeles Dodgers have one of the best rotations in the game after going out and acquiring the right-handed Yu Darvish to go along with lefties Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, and Alex Wood.  However, the Houston Astros strengthened their rotation by going out and acquiring Justin Verlander from the Tigers, who has been wonderful to pair with Dallas Keuchel .  Verlander pitched a complete game against the New York Yankees during the ALCS to earn the ALCS MVP honor, but these two starters alone cannot carry the team. Charlie Morton pitched wonderfully during Game 7 of the ALCS, but he also hit some bumps in the road during Game 3 when he allowed 7 earned runs to the Yankees in less than 4 innings of work. On top of that, it is still unclear who will start Game 4 for the Astros between Lance McCullers Jr. and Brad Peacock.  Kershaw is the tipping factor in this matchup, even if we haven’t seen the same dominance in the playoffs by Clayton Kershaw as we do in regular season.

Advantage: Los Angeles Dodgers

Relief Pitchers

The Astros were able to trot out the previously mentioned Lance McCullers Jr. in Game 7 out of the bullpen for his first ever save as he went 4 innings and only allowed 1 hit and 1 walk while punching out 6.  That was about one of the only strong outings they have had from their bullpen this entire postseason.  The rest of the Houston Astros bullpen has been shaky as they have pitched 34 innings to the tune of a 5.03 ERA while dealing out 14 walks to 33 strikeouts.  The Dodgers bullpen has been otherworldly this postseason as they have compiled a 0.94 ERA through 28.2 innings while punching out 32 batters and only issuing 2 walks.  Kenley Jansen has only pitched 8 of those innings during the 2017 postseason while Tony Cingrani, Brandon Morrow, and converted starter Kenta Maeda have been stellar in relief.  The bullpen has usually been a weakness for LA, but this year, they have the ability to shut down any opposing offense they have seen in the postseason.

Advantage: Los Angeles Dodgers

Manager

This is A.J. Hinch’s first ride through the playoffs and he has done well so far, but now it is time for Hinch to face the pressure that comes along with the World Series berth.  Roberts is making his first World Series appearance as a manager as well, but he has been through the ringer that is the playoffs when he lost to the Cubs in 2016 in the NLCS.  He has clearly learned from last year as he has yet to let Kershaw get into too much trouble during the 2017 postseason.  Kershaw has had issues with limiting the damage during the playoffs, especially in the later innings. Roberts has learned from previous mistakes and is going to the bullpen before Kershaw can get into too much trouble. Roberts has been able to make all the right decisions so far this postseason and the previous playoff berth gives Roberts that little edge he will need in the chess game that goes on during every baseball game.

Advantage- Dave Roberts, Los Angeles Dodgers

This is going to be one of the most entertaining World Series matchups that we have seen in a long time. With 2 younger managers and lots of youth on both rosters, anything can happen.  This is the first time a team has actually earned home-field advantage for the World Series based on their regular season record and it will be interesting to see how much that plays into the flow of the series.  The Dodgers have a lot of slight advantages, but anything can happen from game to game with all of the pressure on both teams.  Either way, we will see a drought end for one of these ball clubs come to an end, but this isn’t a one and done opportunity for either team.

Prediction: Dodgers in 6 games

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