2017 World Series Preview: Astros vs Dodgers

So it’s all come down to this. 2 teams remain from the 30 that came into Spring Training with such high hopes. Only one will end the season having accomplished the goal they set back in late February. The Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers were my picks to go to the World Series back around the All Star break, but I changed my mind after how hot the Indians got in the AL and how cold the Dodgers went. You can check out how wrong my playoff picks were here. Nonetheless, both teams won 100 games this season (Dodgers won 104, Astros won 101), which hasn’t happened in the World Series since 1970, when the 108-win Baltimore Orioles beat the 102-win Cincinnati Reds. I picked the DBacks to represent the National League on a hunch and while they did win the NL Wild Card game, they got promptly disposed of by the Dodgers, whose number the DBacks seemed to have had in the regular season. The Astros were consistently good all season but were surpassed in the overall record department by the Indians, thanks in large part to a 22-game win streak. The Indians then choked away a 2-0 lead against the Yankees in the ALDS while the Astros convincingly dispatched the Red Sox. The Dodgers then proceeded to spank the Cubs in the NLCS in 5 games while it took 7 games for the Astros to defeat the Yankees. For this prediction segment, I’m going to go position by position to determine which team has the advantage at each. The rosters for the World Series aren’t set in stone, which may be a big factor at one of the positions later in this blog, but I will do my best to try and get an accurate projection of what each team will put forth in the best-of-7 series. So let’s get to it.

Starting Pitchers:

Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Yu Darvish, Alex Wood

Astros: Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander, Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton

Advantage: Dodgers

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photo credit: Bleacher Report

My reasoning behind this is simple: the fourth starter. It’s pretty neck-and-neck for the first three guys but I’m not sure if I can trust Charlie Morton. He was terrific in his start in game 7 of the ALCS against the Yankees, going 5 innings, only letting up 2 hits and striking out 5. But prior to that he had an ERA over 10 in the playoffs. Alex Wood has had his issues in the postseason for the Dodgers, but he had been lights out all season prior to that and I’m more confident in him than I am in Morton. We may also see Brad Peacock for the Astros instead of Morton, or maybe even instead of McCullers. Since his relief effort in game 7 went so well, it wouldn’t shock me if Manager AJ Hinch decides to use McCullers in an Andrew Miller-type role, going multiple innings to set up the closer. But Keuchel and Verlander have already been announced for Games 1 and 2, respectively. Keuchel was back to his Cy Young form this season but dealt with some injuries. He appears to be healthy now, though. Justin Verlander has been absolutely ridiculous in the postseason, as he had an ERA of 0.56 in the ALCS, garnering him series MVP. Kershaw is still the best pitcher on the planet and his playoff performance is finally catching up to that reputation. While his ERA is only 3.63, those numbers were inflated by letting up 4 runs in the NLDS against the DBacks. Since then his ERA is 2.45, which is right around his career regular season average.

Bullpen:

Dodgers: Kenley Jansen, Kenta Maeda, Tony Watson, Tony Cingrani, Brandon Morrow, Ross Stripling, Josh Fields

Astros: Ken Giles, Will Harris, Collin McHugh, Brad Peacock, Francisco Liriano, Chris Devenski, Luke Gregerson, Joe Musgrove

Advantage: Dodgers

ASA1704051049_Padres_at_Dodgers

photo credit: Fan Rag Sports

Kenley Jansen was probably the best reliever in baseball this season and he’s carried that success into the playoffs. He’s pitched 8 innings so far and has yet to allow a run while striking out 12. This Dodgers bullpen is also loaded with former starters, such as Maeda, Cingrani, Morrow, and Stripling, who are all capable of going multiple innings if need be. The Astros have a similar situation with McHugh, Peacock, and Liriano, but I trust the Dodgers’ guys a little more. This one was really tight but Jansen was the difference for me.

Catcher:

Dodgers: Yasmani Grandal, Austin Barnes

Astros: Brian McCann, Evan Gattis (DH)

Advantage: Astros

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photo credit: Houston Chronicle

Defensively I give the edge to the Dodgers but I think there is too much potency amongst the Astros backstops. McCann and Gattis were arguably the two most important bats in the Astros Game 7 victory, as they drove in 3 of the 4 runs, including a BOMB by Gattis to get the scoring started in the fourth. Both Grandal and McCann are good at handling a pitching staff and Barnes is solid relief, but I still have to give the edge to Houston.

First Base:

Dodgers: Cody Bellinger

Astros: Yuli Gurriel

Advantage: Dodgers

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photo credit: Yahoo Sports

Bellinger will more than likely win NL Rookie of the Year this season, as he set an NL rookie record with 39 home runs this season. Gurriel, also a rookie (a 33 year-old at that), has finally provided some stability at first base for the Astros, something they’ve lacked for a few years. Gurriel had a big hit that set up McCann’s 2-run double in Game 7 but Bellinger has been one of the offensive powerhouses for this Dodgers team this season. Got to give the advantage to LA.

Second Base:

Dodgers: Chase Utley, Logan Forsythe

Astros: Jose Altuve

Advantage: Astros

Jose-Altuve

photo credit: Baseline Times

No shit. Jose Altuve is one of the five best players in baseball and is my pick for AL MVP this season and he’s been dynamite in the postseason. After lighting up the Red Sox in the ALDS, the 5’6 phenom continued to give the Yankees problems, including a big home run in Game 7. Utley and Forsythe are two guys whose best years are behind them and I don’t envision them being major factors in this World Series.

Third Base:

Astros: Alex Bregman

Dodgers: Justin Turner

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers

photo credit: Dodgers Nation

Advantage: Dodgers

Justin Turner was Co-NLCS MVP with Chris Taylor against the Cubs, which included a walk-off home run to win Game 2. Bregman has been good in the postseason, hitting a couple of clutch home runs against the Red Sox in the ALDS and making a great play at third in which he made a beautiful throw at home to nab Greg Bird in Game 7. Bregman’s got a bright future in this league but Justin Turner has been too good for the Dodgers all year for there to be any other choice.

Shortstop:

Dodgers: Corey Seager*, Charlie Culberson

Astros: Carlos Correa

Advantage: Depends on Seager’s availability, but probably Astros

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photo credit: Houston Chronicle

This is tricky because Seager was left completely off the NLCS roster due to a back injury. He’s one of the brightest young stars in the game and if he’s healthy enough to go, I think I would give a slight edge to him over Correa, who is a fantastic shortstop in his own right. But I think I’m going to give a bit of an edge to Houston because I would take a healthy Correa over an unhealthy Seager 10 times out of 10. I’m also not super confident Seager will even be able to go. Culberson is a nice player for the Dodgers but he’s not anywhere near Correa’s level, who reminds me of a young Alex Rodriguez.

Outfield:

Dodgers: Curtis Granderson, Kike Hernandez, Chris Taylor, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier

Astros: Marwin Gonzalez, George Springer, Josh Reddick, Cameron Maybin, Carlos Beltran (DH)

Advantage: Astros

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photo credit: Fan Rag Sports

Marwin Gonzalez was a guy the Astros had used as a super utility guy for most of his career until he really started to hit this season and they decided they needed to find a way to get this guy’s bat in the lineup on a regular basis. He will slot into left field in what is an outstanding outfield. George Springer is one of the brightest young stars in baseball as a guy who can do it all from the leadoff spot. Josh Reddick struggled mightily in the ALCS (he started out 0-22 before getting his first hit in Game 7, which tied a record for longest hitless drought in a single playoff series) but he hit well all season so I expect him to pick it up a bit in the World Series. Chris Taylor is a super utility guy, much like Gonzalez, who may even see time at shortstop if Seager can’t go. He did play a couple games at short in the NLCS but one way or another, Dave Roberts will pencil him in to the starting lineup. Yasiel Puig’s antics have been a lot of fun in the postseason and his bat has backed it up on the brightest stage. The Astros get the advantage mainly because they are a bigger part of this offense than the Dodgers guys are, however the Dodgers outfielders, particularly Kike Hernandez, showed up big in Game 5 against the Cubs, as Hernandez hit 3 home runs including a grand slam in the clinching game.

Score: 4-4 Dodgers-Astros

Tie Breaker: Manager

Dodgers: Dave Roberts

Astros: AJ Hinch

Advantage: Dodgers

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photo credit: MLB.com

Dave Roberts is arguably the best manager in the game today. He has had to deal with a lot of injuries in his 2-year stint at the helm of the Dodgers yet he still wins the NL West by a wide margin in both seasons and led the Dodgers to baseball’s best record at 104-58. AJ Hinch has led the Astros’ huge franchise turnaround from a team that would consistently lose 100 games into a team that went 101-61. I have to give the advantage to Roberts, though, as he has had to deal with more adversity.

My World Series Pick: Dodgers in 7

This is going to be a really good series. Both teams match up really well and it may come down to whose bullpen can lock it down. I have total faith in Kenley Jansen to get the job done for the Dodgers and I think they win their first World Series since 1988.

That’s my World Series preview. Agree with my picks? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

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