2017 World Series Preview

 

The 2017 World Series is set. The L.A. Dodgers dominated the Chicago Cubs 4 games to 1 in the National League Championship Series. Before beating down the Cubbies, LAD dominated Arizona in 3 straight games during the National League Divisional Playoffs. The Dodgers face the Houston Astros in the 2017 World Series.

The Astros march to the Fall Classic wasn’t nearly as flawless as L.A.’s. The Stros beat the Red Sox 3 games to 1 in the American League Divisional Playoffs. In the American League Championship Series, Houston needed 7 games to beat the Yankees 4 games to 3.

Which team figures to raise the World Series trophy this year? Keep reading for a preview of each team along with my prediction.

2017 World Series Preview

Houston Astros vs Los Angeles Dodgers Oct. 24 – Nov. 1

Houston Astros

Astros Bats

The Astros offense is the most feared in MLB. The Stros average 5.53 runs per game. That ranks first in MLB. As a team, the Houston Astros bat .282. That, again, ranks first in MLB. Houston’s team OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) is an MLB leading .823.

The Astros’ offense is led by 5′ 6″ second baseman Jose Altuve. Altuve batted .346 with 24 home runs and 81 RBIs this season. His on-base percentage is .410. It’s also impossible to look past Jose Altuve’s leadership skills. He might end up the AL’s MVP this season just based on how he’s kept the Astros playing tough from the first game of the regular season all the way to the World Series.

Another reason for Houston’s dominance at the plate is that it’s impossible to pitch around a single one of the top four in the batting line-up. If you decide to pitch around leadoff hitter George Springer, you must contend with Josh Reddick. If you don’t pitch to Reddick, you’re dead because Altuve is great.  Clean-up hitter Carlos Corea can send it yard every time he steps to the plate.

The Astros can hit against any starting rotation in Major League Baseball. No pitcher, not Corey Kluber in Cleveland nor Chris Sale in Boston, scared this batting line-up during the regular season.

Astros Starting Rotation

Justin Verlander is as good as it gets. Although his regular season stats aren’t awe-inspiring, 3.36 ERA, 15 and 8 record, we can’t forget that Verlander pitched for the Detroit Tigers up until late in the season. Once Justin got onto a rotation with Dallas Kuechel, he became the future hall of fame pitcher he’s been for his entire career.

Verlander’s two best outings as an Astro arguably occurred in his last two starts. On Oct. 14, he held the New York Yankees to 1 earned run off 5 hits in 9 innings. He struck out 13 Yankees.  Houston beat the Yankees 2 to 1. Verlander pitched 7 innings, gave up 0 earned runs off 5 hits, and struck out 8 Yankees in Houston’s 7 to 1 victory over the Yankees on Oct. 20.

When Verlander isn’t striking out batters, Dallas Kuechel usually is. Save for inexplicable start versus the Yankees on Oct. 18, where Dallas allowed 4 earned runs off 7 hits in 4.2 innings, he’s been his usual stellar self in the postseason. He struck out 10 Yankees in an Oct. 13 win. He struck out 7 Red Sox in an Oct. 6 win.

The third starter is Charlie Morton. Morton isn’t an ace pitcher like Kuechel and Verlander. He’s talented enough to get the job done, though. Morton pitched 5 inning in ALCS Game 7. He allowed 0 earned runs. He’s one of the reasons the Astros beat the Yankees 4 to 0.

Astros Bullpen

The reason the L.A. Dodgers are a solid -170 to win the 2017 World Series has as much to do with the Astros’ bullpen as it does with anything else. Houston’s bullpen hasn’t been that impressive during the MLB Postseason. The Astros’ bullpen ERA is a scary bad 5.03. Houston’s relievers have allowed 31 hits. 8 of the 31 hits went for home runs.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers Batting Lineup

By no means is the L.A. Dodgers’ batting line-up fearsome. The Dodgers average a decent 4.75 runs per game. That does rank in the Top 10 in Major League Baseball. However, as a team the Dodgers only rank 22nd in batting average. LAD bats .249. The Dodgers rank 11th in home runs with 221 on the season. They rank 19th in stolen bases with 77. One good piece of news if your a Dodgers’ fan is their OPS. The Dodgers OPS is .771. That ranks 8th in MLB.

Like Houston, the Dodgers’ best hitter shows up 3rd in the batting lineup. Justin Turner has been en fuego as a batter in the MLB Playoffs. So far this postseason, Turner has gone to the plate 31 times. He’s produced a total of 12 hits. 3 of the 12 hits went for home runs. He’s got 11 RBIs. He’s struck out only 5 times.

As Turner goes, so goes the Dodgers’ offense. Without Turner, the Dodgers might not have won as many games as they did during this year’s MLB Playoffs.

Dodgers Starting Rotation

The rotation starts with ace Clayton Kershaw. Surprisingly, Kershaw hasn’t been all that fantastic during the run to the World Series. Kershaw did throw a nice one on Oct. 19. He pitched 6 innings, allowed only 1 earned run on 3 hits, and struck out 5. The Dodgers beat the Cubs 11 to 1.

One pitcher that has thrown well in 2 postseason starts is Yu Darvish. The former Texas Rangers ace has allowed 2 earned runs off 8 total hits in his last 11 innings pitched. Darvish has struck out 14 in 11 innings. The Dodgers won both of Darvish’s starts.

Rich Hill projects to be the third starter in the World Series. Although Hill didn’t go longer than 5 innings in either one of his postseason starts, the Dodgers won both games. Alex Wood, the only other player to start a game in the postseason for LAD, pitched in the Dodgers’ lone loss in the NL Playoffs.

Dodgers Bullpen

Here’s where everyone believes the L.A. Dodgers win the 2017 World Series. If it wasn’t for the Dodgers fantastic bullpen, the Houston Astros might garner favoritism in this matchup.

How good is L.A.’s bullpen? The Dodgers’ BP has been so good during the postseason that, should they continue their unreal play, they’d approach legendary MLB status. That’s how amazing the bullpen has been. Dodger relievers have a ridiculous .94 ERA this MLB Postseason. The batting average versus the BP is a crazy .125. LAD’s relievers are also 3 and 0.

The bullpen has accounted for 3 of the Dodgers’ 7 wins in the postseason. That’s a tremendous percentage.

2017 World Series Preview Analysis

This is easily one of the toughest World Series’ matchups I’ve seen in awhile. Houston enters the World Series with the much better overall batting lineup. Houston also has an edge with their pitchers. Both Verlander and Kuechel have outperformed Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish.

Speaking of Darvish, he has some history versus the Astros. Yu’s faced Houston Astro batters 163 times. He’s struck out 53 Astro hitters from those 163 at-bats. The Stros only hit .190 versus Yu. Even if Yu has a bad day, the Dodgers’ bullpen is so good it should have no trouble containing Houston batters.

Even with all that, I still like the Houston Astros to win the World Series. Why? One name, two words:  Justin Verlander. Verlander has a great shot of pulling a 2014 Madison Bumgarner. In the 2014 World Series, the Kansas City Royals entered with the absolute best bullpen. They didn’t have Madison Bumgarner, though.

MadBum dominated the KC Royals. Because KC manager Ned Yost had to pull his starters early, around the 5th or 6th innings, he had to go to his relievers early. In a couple of key games in the 2014 World Series, MadBum kept pitching while Yost kept running out of pitchers. MadBum also came in to Game 7 and pitched in relief.

Verlander is a Madison Bumgarner type of pitcher. If you take a look at how L.A. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has treated his starting pitchers during the playoffs, it’s apparent that Roberts is leaning on the bullpen and his hitters to get the job done.

If Verlander, and Kuechel to a lesser extent, can carry the Houston Astros, Roberts’ strategy of leaning on the bullpen will eventually backfire. It must because relievers step to the mound in every game. There will be 1 or 2 key games where Roberts must make a key decision with his bullpen. I’m counting on those 1 or 2 key games to go Houston’s way.

I like the Houston Astros to pull off the World Series upset.

Prediction: Houston Astros 4 games, Los Angeles Dodgers 3 games