They’ve done it. After 29 long, trying years, the Dodgers have finally reached the World Series. Their counterpart, the Houston Astros, had their challenge as well, but they prevailed and the two teams are set to meet in a World Series for the first time ever. Well, that’s cheating seeing as the Astros couldn’t have played them in the World Series until recently. But it’s the first time they’ve met in the playoffs since 1981.
The Astros are very balanced team, and alongside the Dodgers, were one of the top 2 most consistent teams throughout the year. Around Mid-July, it looked as though these two teams were on a crash course for each other and they did not disappoint.
As per the usual, we’ll review the pitchers and catchers along with the position players for each team in a part two series.
Let’s take a look at the starting pitching. Below, I’ll list the likely starters for each team, and then compare each individual match up.
*stats include time with Dodgers, only.
The Astros have are relatively top-heavy, with the punch of Keuchel and Verlander a very strong Left-Right 1-2. Morton and McCullers are both solid mid-rotation pitchers who will keep their team in the game, and both are coming off strong postseason performances.
Game 1: Kershaw vs Keuchel – Advantage: Dodgers
Dallas Keuchel had a solid season, while dealing with some injuries that limited his time. He went 14-5 in 145.2 IP with a 2.90 ERA/3.79 FIP. He attacks with a sinker roughly 60% of the time, peppering in a cutter and a slider. He’s increased the usage of the cutter and slider so far this postseason, and he’s generated a lot more strike outs.
Overall this postseason, he’s allowed 5 ER in 17.1 IP, striking out 25 and walking 5. He’s looked dialed in and could pose a a worthy challenge to the Dodgers patient strategy.
Kershaw hasn’t quite put up the postseason that Keuchel has, but he hasn’t needed to. In the same amount of innings (17.1), Kershaw has 16 strike outs and 5 walks. He’s gotten bit a little by the home run ball, but he’s done a good job of limiting the amount of people on base.
Overall, Keuchel is very talented and coming off some strong postseason performances, but so is Kershaw. This should be a tight matchup, but Kershaw is the best pitcher on the planet for a reason.
Game 2: Hill vs Verlander – Advantage: Push
Verlander was an end of August acquisition, notably coming over in the last seconds of the waiver-trade deadline. He’s been a completely different pitcher since the All-Star break, throwing 101.1 IP with a 10-2 record and 121/21 K/BB ratio. He’s also been pretty impressive in the postseason, throwing 24.2 IP with 24 strike outs and 6 walks. Though he’s no longer a spring chicken, he can still dominate a game and he’s shown that ability multiple times so far this postseason.
Rich Hill has become a fan favorite, and he’s put up quite a performance. Though he’s only pitched 9 innings thus far, they’ve been pretty solid with 12 strike outs and 4 walks. His opportunities have been limited, simply because the Dodgers haven’t needed to use his services.
This one could swing the Astros way. It has the feeling of trap game, with Verlander pitching strong game after game. If the Astros jump on Rich Hill, we could see a quick hook. But Hill’s curveball could exploit the Astros.
Game 3: Darvish vs Morton – Advantage: Dodgers
Charlie Morton has been a middling pitcher for a few organizations now. Dominantly a sinker pitcher for most of his career, he began to work in a cutter and use his curveball more with the Astros and had the best results of his career. His postseason numbers haven’t been great, but he pitched an excellent Game 7 and completely shut down the Yankees alongside Lance McCullers.
Morton does have a walk problem, and the Dodgers could potentially exploit that. But they’ll need to keep practicing what the preach and keep the ball off the ground, because Morton can be a groundball machine.
The Astros are quite familiar with Darvish. He’ll draw the road start and step to face Houston in Minute Maid Park, where he’s pitched well in his career. His OPS against of .415 is the lowest in any park that he’s made more than 2 starts in, and he’s started in Minute Maid 6 times. He’s also been pretty effective against the Astros this year, allow 4 runs in 12 IP with 12 strike outs.
Both of Darvish’s postseason starts have been great, as he’s managed to limit his walks. He still has a bit of a home run problem, and this is something the Astros could exploit.
Game 4: Wood vs McCullers – Slight Advantage: Astros
Lance McCullers put up a solid year with the Astros. After fighting through injuries last year, he again struggled with them this year. He ended up throwing 118.2 IP during the regular season, with a 4.25 ERA/3.10 FIP and a pretty strong K/9.
His playoffs have been even better. Trough 13 IP, he has 13 strike outs and 5 walks, but half of that was from game 7. McCullers threw a solid back up to Charlie Morton, as he came into the game in the 6th and finished it off, with 6 strike outs. He’ll pose a tough test for the Dodgers. He strangely has reverse splits, so the Dodgers may pull a start for Hernandez after his NLCS Game 5 performance.
Wood struggled with his velocity and early command in his first start in 3 weeks, but overall things were encouraging. Javy Baez took him deep twice, but one of those was a golf shot off his shoe tops. The strike out numbers were there, but he needs to get his velocity back to first-half Alex Wood if the Dodgers are going to pull this one.
Rotation Overall – Advantage: Dodgers
The Astros bullpen hasn’t necessarily struggled, but they haven’t flourished either. They held their own, but they did allow 9 runs to the Yankees during the postseason. The bullpen will sport top-end names like Ken Giles, but it drops off after that. Chris Devinski had a nice season but a poor postseason. Luke Gregerson, Joe Musgrove, Will Harris, Brad Peacock, Collin McHugh and Francisco Liriano will round it out. Not many confidence inspiring names are in that list.
The Dodgers bullpen completely dominated the Cubs. They allowed less hits than the Astros bullpen did runs. This is one of the few areas where there is a very clear advantage for one team. This goes the Dodgers way, and its not close.
Big Advantage: Dodgers
McCann and Gattis have both seen time in the playoffs, partially due to the presence of the designated hitter. Neither are really good catchers, but they both have a ton of power that is capable of changing a game.
Gattis has had the better postseason though, so he could draw the bulk of the starting time in the National League games. Though he saw a massive power drop off this year, he also reduced his strike out rate to a career low.
What started as a platoon has become the Austin Barnes show relatively quickly. Barnes has a postseason OPS of .805 and has been influential in a lot of Dodger wins this postseason. He’ll probably draw the bulk of the playing time again, as Grandal has struggled to get into a rhythm.
This will be the strongest test the Dodgers have had this season. It is a very refreshing feeling to see the two best teams in the World Series, and this series shouldn’t disappoint. Overall, I think the Dodgers will win in 7.
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