The Fall Classic is upon us, and with apologies to the Indians, it’s fair to say we are down to the two best teams in baseball. The Dodgers have made mincemeat of their postseason competition so far, while the Astros are on an emotional high coming off of a thrilling 7-game series. I’m coming off of an amazing week in which I was 9/10 in predicting games during the Conference Series including picking the two league champions. Who do I think has the edge? Let’s take a look at who will be the 2017 World Series Champions.
The Astros have won the pennant for the second time in franchise history, but it’s their first in the American League. Yes, because they switched leagues in 2013, they are the first franchise in baseball history to win both the AL and NL pennants. However, their last trip to the World Series didn’t end so well, as they were swept by the White Sox in 2005. Of course, their goals this week stretch far beyond just winning their first World Series game.
At 5’6″, second baseman Jose Altuve leads the charge for Houston as he carries his MVP numbers into the playoffs. His unreal .346 average in the regular season actually jumped to .400 in October, along with a proportionally impressive 5 home runs and 8 RBIs. Altuve is a tough out, and there is nobody more passionate about the game in either clubhouse than this superstar. Well maybe one person… but I’ll get to him.
Altuve isn’t alone on this stacked batting order. Everyone from top to bottom is a threat including George Springer and Carlos Correa. It seems as though the Astros are now on the top of their game after a slight dip towards the end of the regular season. Without a home loss this postseason, it’s hard to imagine the offense will let up anytime soon.
As for the pitching, Charlie Morton shut out the Yankees in Game 7 and proved that Houston is more than just Dallas Keuchel and ALCS MVP Justin Verlander. Morton’s contributions will be desperately needed, as the latter pitchers will not be able to hoist the trophy by themselves. Having depth at pitching is crucial, and Morton might be the unsung hero to make it happen for the Astros.
Speaking of depth at pitching, if the Astros have a weakness, it’s their bullpen. Their two best arms have combined for a 9.00 ERA in October, which puts a lot of pressure on the starters to perform. Unlike the Dodgers, the Astros don’t have that security blanket to reliably come in and bail out a bad start. If Ken Giles and Chris Devenski don’t turn it around, it just might be the undoing of the Astros.
On to the Dodgers, who appear to be on cruise control. Continuing their dominance of the regular season and putting aside their September struggles, L.A. looks to seal the deal and secure their first championship since 1988. It’s a little weird to think that the 5-time defending NL West champions haven’t won “the big one” yet, but they’re confident that the drought ends now.
Perhaps the best thing about the Dodgers is the fact that literally anyone in the lineup can be the hero on any given night. For example, none other than Enrique Hernandez hit 3 long balls for 7 RBIS in a Game 5 series-clinching victory for L.A. Six All-Stars or not, having every single man in the lineup capable of taking the game over is a nightmare for opponents.
Also a nightmare? Yasiel Puig. Love him or hate him, this man loves baseball. No one else has the guts to do a bat flip-stare down combo on a routine single. Honestly, his gumption infuriates me, but if I’m a Dodger fan, I love his heart and how he can spark the team at any moment. He might not be the most talented guy, but it would behoove the Astros to make a note of shutting Puig down.
So far, the Dodger pitching has been phenomenal, but they haven’t faced an offense like Houston’s yet. Clayton Kershaw has the worst ERA of the starts with a respectable 3.63 and 0.98 WHIP. Rich Hill is right behind him with a 3.00 ERA but a 1.11 WHIP. Those are the Dodgers’ #1 and #2 pitchers. It’s definitely concerning to see that they’ve struggled the most, but you could chalk that up to more high leverage situations because the Dodgers haven’t lost at home or lost before Game 4 in any series so far. This leeway surely takes a lot of pressure off of the back end of the rotation and the bullpen.
The bullpen is what really separates Los Angeles from the Astros. Of the 34 relief appearances, these pitchers have combined to give up only 3 runs. Kenta Maeda has yet to allow a hit, and Kenley Jansen is getting about 1.5 strikeouts per inning. While I still think the Yankees had the best bullpen in baseball, the Dodgers are certainly a close second, and that’s a big reason why they could win the World Series.
Game 1- Dallas Keuchel at Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers win 7-6
Game 2- Justin Verlander at Rich Hill, Astros win 8-2
Game 3- Yu Darvish at Lance McCullers, Dodgers win 6-3
Game 4- Alex Wood at Charlie Morton, Astros win 7-5
Game 5- Clayton Kershaw at Dallas Keuchel, Astros win 8-3
Game 6- Justin Verlander at Yu Darvish, Dodgers win 2-1 (Instant Classic)
Game 7- Lance McCullers/Charlie Morton at Rich Hill, Dodgers win 8-5
Dodgers in 7.
World Series MVP: Justin Turner