The World Series starts in Los Angeles on Tuesday night between two teams with contrasting styles of play in the LA Dodgers and Houston Astros. While both teams are obvoiusly strong all around, they have their respective strengths. Let’s take a look at which team has the upper hand during the Fall Classic.
The Dodgers can hit the ball, make no mistake, but the Astros were the best offensive team in MLB this season. And it wasn’t even close. The Astros were the best in the bigs when it came to strikeouts, runs, batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. The only team to hit more homers than them was the New York Yankees.
The advantage the Dodgers have offensively is patience. Nobody drew more walks this season than the Dodgers, which is something they should be able to use that to their advantage by working the count against pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander.
While the Astros dominate at the plate, the Dodgers are one of the best defensive teams in the bigs. LA boasts a defensive efficiency (percentage of balls in play converted to outs) of .703, compared to Houston’s .682.
Something to keep and eye on that we saw in the ALCS was the importance of defensive play by catchers. Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez continually botched big plays at the dish in the ALCS and it ended up costing them dearly. Runs will likely be at a premium in this series, as well, so keep an eye on the team who is able to make outs at the plate.
With four commanding starting pitchers in the series, two on each team, pitching could be considered nearly even. The Astros proved that their pitching was good enough to completely shut down the only team in the American League to hit more homers than them in the season for four games of the ALCS. You can expect to see a lot of strikeouts as both teams sat in the top five in MLB of strikeouts.
The problem Houston has here is that Dodger bullpen is considerably stronger. The Astro bullpen allowed 28 percent of inherited runners to score this season, compared to 25 percent for the Dodger bullpen. Houston will be looking to ride strong starting pitching as it did in the ALCS.
I predict the Dodgers win it all, but it’s close. Defense wins championships because great pitching shuts down great hitting. Houston’s combination of Verlander and Keuchel will do a lot to stop Dodger hitting, but if Dodger pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish can slow down the Astros’ offense, there won’t be much Houston can do to keep up. Combine all of that with the Astros’ inability to win away from Minute Maid Park, I don’t see this going more than six games.