By Jared Spohr
After a long, hard fought battle in the ALCS, the Houston Astros will square off against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. While the Dodgers made pretty short work of the defending champion Chicago Cubs in the NLCS this year, defeating the Astros should prove a more difficult task. This is the Dodgers’ first World Series since 1988, when they defeated the Oakland A’s, and this is Houston’s first trip to the Fall Classic since ‘05, when they got swept by the White Sox.
Throughout the regular season, the Astros held the best slugging percentage in the league since the 2003 powerhouse Boston Red Sox, slugging .478. In addition, they led the league in runs scored per game with an average of 5.53. However, this red hot offense cooled down significantly against New York in the ALCS. Houston managed only .181/.271/.294 as a team while averaging under three runs per game.
Even with this drastic difference in offense from the regular season, the Astros still have plenty of talent. Their superstar second baseman Jose Altuve absolutely destroyed major league pitchers in the month of October. He has hit .400/.500/.775, tacking on five home runs, and more walks (eight) than strikeouts (seven). In the regular season he killed it with a .346/.410/.547 line, achieved his third batting title and it was his fourth straight season with 200+ hits. Across the diamond at the other middle infield position we see Carlos Correa, who has also had an amazing year at the plate. He turned in a line of .315/.391/.550 with 24 home runs on the regular season. Both players have been tremendous assets to the Astros and nothing should change that in the World Series.
Both Houston and Los Angeles’ pitching rotations are stacked with talent, with guys like Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander and Lance McCullers for the Astros, and guys like Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Yu Darvish for the Dodgers. However, with offenses as fierce as both of these teams have, the strength of the bullpen should prove to be one of the biggest factors in who wins this series.
In this department, The Dodgers have the edge. Kenley Jansen is one of the best closers in baseball, who boasts the sweetest cut fastball in the league, which he has thrown at an average speed of 93.3 mph this season. According to regular season pitch stats, Jansen threw his cutter 957 times, throwing his slider 95 times and his sinker 73 times. He is essentially a less perfect version of Mariano Rivera. However, even with his immense strength, the Dodgers have had somewhat of a difficult time setting up for him. This all changed when manager Dave Roberts decided to switch former starter Kenta Maeda to a relief role. He has absolutely thrived in the bullpen, recording a 1.38 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 13 innings, including retiring all 15 batters faced this postseason. He is on fire. The entire Dodgers bullpen is on fire this postseason. They hold a combined 0.94 ERA this postseason. If the Dodgers can successfully have their starters go deep into games and keep their bullpen arms fresh, they will have a major leg up on Houston.
Las Vegas odds are stacked up in the Dodgers favor, as one might expect. Los Angeles’ Vegas odds are -165, While Houston’s are +145. Given that the Dodgers cleaned up on the Cubs in the NLCS, that they bested the Astros by 3 games this regular season, and the fact that they are going in on four days of rest, it isn’t difficult to see why the odds are skewed in their favor. If the past is any indication, the home teams of this series are going to hold a major advantage. This postseason, home teams have a combined record of 23-8, which is the best home record in the Wild-Card era of Major League Baseball. The Astros are undefeated at home in this postseason, with a record of 6-0. While I think that beating the Dodgers will prove to be a difficult task, I think that the Astros deserve a little more respect going into this postseason. This World Series could go either way. Buckle up and get ready for some spectacular World Series Baseball, starting on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.