2017 World Series Preview: Dodgers vs. Astros should be a classic

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The Dodgers and Astros are meeting in the World Series for the first time ever. As former division rivals, this isn’t surprising. It’s the Dodgers’ first trip to the Fall Classic in 29 years, while the Astros have broken a 12-year drought.

These are two titans of the baseball world, and they are set for a collision course in Los Angeles beginning tomorrow night. Let’s see how they stack up against each other.

By The Numbers

Offense Dodgers Astros
Runs/Game 4.75 5.53
AVG .249 .282
OBP .334 .346
SLG .437 .478
wRC+ 104 121
HR 221 238
SB 77 98
BB% 10.5 8.1
K% 22.3 17.3
Exit Velo 87.6 87.6

The Astros’ offense just wasn’t far and away the best in the regular season, it was one of the most productive ones ever. In the last 100 years, the Astros’ team 121 wRC+ is 4th-best all-time behind Yankee teams that had some guys named Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and others. The most impressive part about the offensive production is the fact the hitters don’t strike out a lot. Their strikeout rate was best in the majors by almost a full percentage point. Most impressive of the lot is Jose Altuve, who very well might end up being the American League MVP. He struck out just 12.7 percent of the time while sporting a .202 isolated slugging mark. He hits like Mike Trout but rarely swings and misses. Also, Carlos Correa and George Springer are franchise building blocks who had career years in 2017. There are also plenty of veterans in the lineup, starting with Brian McCann behind the plate and former Dodger Josh Reddick in right field. They aren’t big-time performers anymore (though Reddick had a strong season), but they help bring some balance to the Houston lineup, mostly because they’re left-handed and most of the Astros’ premium hitters are right-handed.

Astros Hitters In Postseason

Altuve: .400/.500/.775, 5 HR, 8 BB
Bregman: .190/.244/.381, 2 HR, 2 2B
Correa: .295/.340/.591, 3 HR, 4 2B
Gattis: .250/.360/.500, 1 HR, 2 2B
Gonzalez: .162/.244/.216, 2 2B
McCann: .156/.270/.219, 2 2B
Reddick: .171/.227/.171, 3 BB
Springer: .233/.327/.349, 1 HR, 2 2B

As you can see, some of that regular season success hasn’t carried over for some players, but Altuve has done the heavy lifting thus far. One interesting stat on Altuve, though, is the fact he has done almost all his damage at home in this postseason. He’s 13-for-22 with all five of his home runs in Minute Maid Park and just 3-for-18 in five road games. But he’s such a great player that this small sample size isn’t indicative of what will or won’t happen in this series. Also surprising is the Astros’ Ben Zobrist/Chris Taylor hasn’t gotten on track yet this postseason. Marwin Gonzalez, capable of playing all positions except catcher and center field, hasn’t been able to figure out postseason pitching thus far. Also, Evan Gattis should be a good weapon for them against left-handed pitching. His only hit in the ALCS was a Game 7 solo home run. On the whole, the Astros are averaging 4 runs per game in this postseason.

Dodgers Hitters In Postseason

Barnes: .261/.370/.435, 1 HR, 1 2B
Bellinger: .278/.316/.500, 2 HR, 2 2B
Culberson: .455/.417/.818, 2 2B
Ethier: .250/.333/.625, 1 HR
Forsythe: .316/.458/.368, 5 BB
Hernandez: .417/.533/1.250, 3 HR
Puig: .414/.514/.655, 1 HR, 2 2B
Seager: .273/.467/.455, 1 3B
Taylor: .281/.410/.594, 2 HR, 2 2B
Turner: .387/.500/.677, 3 HR, 6 BB

Guys like Austin Barnes and Logan Forsythe cooled off a bit in the NLCS, but Yasiel Puig, Taylor and Justin Turner all picked up the slack. Taylor and Turner were named co-MVPs of the NLCS and Puig continued to be as locked in as he’s ever been. Culberson did quite a bit a damage in limited time trying to replace Seager. He could even see a little time in the World Series since the Dodgers don’t have an obvious must-play left-handed hitter at designated hitter in Game 3, 4 and 5. Starting Seager at DH would give his back and elbow a little extra rest while not losing anything (probably gaining, actually) at shortstop. And who could forget Enrique Hernandez‘s memorable 3-home run game to close out the NLCS. Corey Seager is due back for the World Series — at some point. Getting one of the best players in baseball back (even if he isn’t 100 percent) is a good thing, IMO. The Dodgers are averaging 6 runs per game in the playoffs.

Starting Pitching Dodgers Astros
ERA 3.39 4.03
FIP 3.74 3.95
xFIP 3.74 3.81
K% 25.2 24.6
BB% 7.1 8.2
SwStr% 11.7 11.0
BAA .229 .242
HR/9 1.16 1.15
Exit Velo 86.0 86.0

If there’s any place the Dodgers have a decided edge this series, it’s with the pitching, and it starts with the rotation. Yes, Houston’s 1-2 punch is as good as the Dodgers’ right now, but this series might decided with the Nos. 3 and 4 starters, whomever they may be.

We talk a lot about the Dodgers’ big move to acquire Yu Darvish at the non-waiver trade deadline, but the Astros snagging Justin Verlander literally seconds before the waiver trade deadline (Aug. 31) helped them get to this point. Verlander had a 1.06 ERA and 2.69 FIP in 34 regular season innings for Houston, and he has continued that dominance in October, which included a 124-pitch outing in Game 2 of the ALCS and seven shutout innings in Game 6. And despite getting hit around a bit in Game 5, Dallas Keuchel has shown he can hang with the best of them this postseason. Charlie Morton‘s numbers don’t look great, but he fired five shutout innings in Game 7 of the ALCS to help get the Astros to the World Series.

Astros Starters In Postseason
Keuchel: 17 1/3 IP, 14 H, 5 R, 5 BB, 25 K, 2.60 ERA
Morton: 13 IP, 15 H, 9 R, 5 BB, 14 K, 6.23 ERA
Verlander: 24 2/3 IP, 17 H, 4 R, 6 BB, 24 K, 1.46 ERA

Lacking here is a clear No. 4 starter for the Astros. Lance McCullers (four scoreless innings in Game 7) has the best stuff, but his command wavers at times and his stamina is a question mark. Houston could pair him and Brad Peacock for a Game 4 start, but they don’t have a guy you could hand the ball to and expect five innings from at this point. Still, a combined 6-7 innings of McCullers/Peacock could be better than most teams’ No. 4 starters. It’ll be interesting to see how the Astros handle Game 4.

Dodgers Starters In Postseason

Darvish: 11 1/3 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 14 K, 1.59 ERA
Hill: 9 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 12 K, 3.00 ERA
Kershaw: 17 1/3 IP, 12 H, 7 R, 6 BB, 16 K, 3.63 ERA
Wood: 4 2/3 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 7 K, 5.79 ERA

The Dodgers’ starters took a step forward in the NLCS — most notably Darvish and Rich Hill. They were excellent in their starts. Darvish’s was particularly impressive because he allowed just one run in 6 1/3 innings in Chicago to give the Dodgers a commanding 3-0 series lead. Hill was good in Game 2 at home, and I don’t see a reason to swap the starting pitcher order at this time. Clayton Kershaw was pretty good in Game 5 after a somewhat decent Game 1, but he’s still getting bitten by the home-run ball (six allowed in 17 1/3 innings). Alex Wood had a second-half Alex Wood outing: His velocity was down, gave up some solo homers, didn’t walk anyone and struck out more than you’d expect. Still, if he’s your 4th-best option in the rotation, your team is pretty good. If the Yankees had advanced to the World Series, I could see an argument for adding Hyun-Jin Ryu to the rotation and moving Wood into a fireman role, but the Astros hit lefties so well that Wood’s chances of success against them are probably better than Ryu’s — especially since he hasn’t thrown in a competitive game for a month.

Relief Pitching Dodgers Astros
ERA 3.38 3.80
FIP 3.55 4.08
xFIP 3.64 4.11
K% 27.7 28.6
BB% 8.0 9.2
SwStr% 14.2 14.5
BAA .220 .232
HR/9 1.13 1.27
Exit Velo 86.0 86.6

Some of these peripherals look good for the Astros’ bullpen in the regular season (especially the strikeout rate), but their bullpen hasn’t been the same this postseason.

Astros Relievers In Postseason

Devenski: 3 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 3 K, 12.00 ERA
Giles: 6 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 7 K, 7.50 ERA
Gregerson: 2 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K, 0.00 ERA
Harris: 2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 4.50 ERA
Lirano: 1 2/3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 5.40 ERA
McCullers: 13 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 5 BB, 13 K, 2.08 ERA
McHugh: 4 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K, 0.00 ERA
Musgrove: 2 2/3 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 1 K, 10.13 ERA
Peacock: 5 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 8 K, 9.00 ERA

Chris Devenski has seen the most significant regression. After posting a 3.49 FIP in 80 2/3 regular season innings, manager A.J. Hinch has only given him three innings of work, and he hasn’t been fooling anyone. It’s tough to have a guy be that reliable in the regular season and almost the opposite in the postseason. Ken Giles bounced back nicely from a tough 2016 season to re-establish himself as a legitimate closer. And while he’s missing bats, he’s been touched up a bit in the playoffs. But when these guys and guys like Luke Gregerson, Will Harris and Francisco Liriano are on, it’s a strong bullpen. The fact Houston has just one left-handed reliever (who’s a converted starter) means the Dodgers’ left-handed bats off the bench could be more of a factor should they be called on to pinch-hit late in a game.

McCullers and Peacock are listed here because they both have more relief appearances than starts, which is why their workloads look more significant out of the bullpen than they’ve actually been. This bullpen hasn’t been worked as much as the Dodgers’ because Keuchel and Verlander have pitched deeper into games.

Dodgers Relievers In Postseason

Cingrani: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, 0.00 ERA
Fields: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, 0.00 ERA
Jansen: 8 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 12 K, 0.00 ERA
Maeda: 5 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K, 0.00 ERA
Morrow: 8 1/3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 8 K, 1.08 ERA
Stripling: 1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, 0.00 ERA
Watson: 3 1/3 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 2 K, 5.40 ERA

This almost doesn’t seem real. Tony Watson‘s runs allowed were in Game 1 of the NLDS, as was Brandon Morrow‘s (on the Brandon Drury 3-run home run). And that’s it. The Dodger bullpen has thrown 28 2/3 innings of scoreless ball. Not only that, it has only allowed 12 hits and has a grand total of two walks — by Kenley Jansen and Morrow, because baseball. Speaking of Jansen, he’s pitching like a man on a mission. It’s something else. Oh, and Kenta Maeda has five perfect innings of relief work this month (46 pitches total).

We made a big deal about pitch counts in the previous series, and it turned out to be a factor. The Cubs had significantly more pitches thrown than the Dodgers before the series started. With the NLCS wrapping up in five games and the ALCS going a full seven, the Dodgers have a clear edge in workload.

Team LDS LCS Total
Astros 610 946 1,556
Dodgers 383 621 1,004

Not only did the Astros throw significantly more pitches (almost four games worth), the innings/pitches were in much higher-leverage situations than the Dodgers have faced. I mean, all postseason pitches are high-leverage, but the Astros had to fight through a grueling 7-game series with the Yankees, so this is something to keep an eye on in this series. Factor in that the Dodgers are working counts this postseason and making pitchers work, and this could end up being very significant to the series outcome.

Head-To-Head

The Dodgers and Astros didn’t face each other this season, but Verlander faced the Dodgers on Aug. 23. Unsurprisingly, he was really good: 8 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 9 K. Curtis Granderson, of all players, hit a solo home run off Verlander for his only blemish of that game.

These teams are old NL West rivals, but the Dodgers and Astros haven’t matched up since 2015. Back then, the Dodgers lost all three games in Houston, which included a no-hitter by Mike Fiers. The Dodgers took 4-of-6 from Houston back in 2012, which means absolutely nothing in 2017.

Rosters

Note: Rosters not yet official.

Dodgers

Starting Pitchers (4): Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Yu Darvish, Alex Wood
Relief Pitchers (8): Luis AvilanTony Cingrani, Josh Fields, Kenley Jansen, Kenta Maeda, Brandon Morrow, Tony Watson, Ross Stripling
Catchers (2): Austin Barnes, Yasmani Grandal
Infielders (6): Cody Bellinger, Charlie Culberson, Logan Forsythe, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Chase Utley
Outfielders (5): Andre Ethier, Enrique Hernandez, Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Chris Taylor

The biggest change here, obviously, is Seager coming back. I’ve also swapped in Avilan for Kyle Farmer, who wasn’t much of a factor in the first two rounds. With Barnes basically taking over the starting role, there isn’t a big need for a third catcher. Instead, Culberson benefits and gives the Dodgers an extra infield defender.

Astros

Starting Pitchers (3): Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, Justin Verlander
Relief Pitchers (7): Chris Devenski, Ken Giles, Luke Gregerson, Francisco Liriano, Will Harris, Collin McHugh, Joe Musgrove
SP/RP (2): Lance McCullers, Brad Peacock
Catchers (3): Juan Centeno, Evan Gattis, Brian McCann
Infielders (4): Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel
Outfielders (6): Carlos Beltran, Derek Fisher, Marwin Gonzalez, Cameron Maybin, Josh Reddick, George Springer

I’m going to admit: I’m not an Astros expert. I don’t foresee them making many changes, so I just stuck with their ALCS 25-man roster. There’s some quality depth here, just as there is on the other side.

Likely Lineups

Dodgers vs. RHP

Taylor CF
Seager SS
Turner 3B
Bellinger 1B
Puig RF
Ethier LF
Grandal C
Forsythe 2B

Dodgers vs. RHP w/ DH

Taylor CF
Seager SS
Turner 3B
Bellinger 1B
Puig RF
Ethier DH
Barnes C
Hernandez LF
Forsythe 2B

Could also envision a scenario in which Grandal starts at designated hitter and Ethier starts in left field.

Dodgers vs. LHP

Taylor CF
Seager SS
Turner 3B
Bellinger 1B
Hernandez LF
Forsythe 2B
Puig RF
Barnes C

Dodgers vs. LHP w/ DH

Taylor CF
Seager DH
Turner 3B
Bellinger 1B
Puig RF
Forsythe 2B
Hernandez LF
Barnes C
Culberson SS

Astros vs. RHP

Springer CF
Reddick RF
Altuve 2B
Correa SS
Gonzalez LF
Gurriel 1B
Bregman 3B
McCann C

Astros vs. RHP w/ DH

Springer CF
Reddick RF
Altuve 2B
Correa SS
Gonzalez LF
Gurriel 1B
Beltran DH
Bregman 3B
McCann C

Astros vs. LHP

Springer CF
Bregman 3B
Altuve 2B
Correa SS
Gurriel 1B
McCann C
Gonzalez LF
Reddick RF

Astros vs. LHP w/ DH

Springer CF
Bregman 3B
Altuve 2B
Correa SS
Gurriel 1B
Gattis DH
McCann C
Gonzalez LF
Reddick RF

X-Factor

Who’s the one player on each side — not a superstar — who could help determine the outcome of this series?

Kenta Maeda

Maeda has been a godsend out of the Dodgers’ bullpen. With Wood perhaps a bit shaky, he might be more important in this series than he was in the first two. He was used as a 1-inning guy and mostly against right-handers, but if Wood struggles a little, the Dodgers might look for some length out of Maeda. He has looked great this month.

Yulieski Gurriel

With three left-handed starters and at least two left-handed relievers, you’d think Gurriel could play a big role in this series in that respect. But, he’s actually way better against righties (.865 OPS vs. .695 OPS), and that could be important in the late innings. It’ll be interesting to see if Dave Roberts opts for a lefty or righty in the late innings.

——

This is it. The World Series begins at Dodger Stadium at 5:09 p.m. tomorrow night. This should be a great series, especially when you consider this:

Incredible that it’s been almost 50 years since this happened. The Dodgers won 104, the Astros 101. Despite Cleveland’s late-season push, I do believe these have been the two best teams in baseball all season long. This should be quite the clash and it wouldn’t be surprising to see it go the full seven games. Is it Tuesday yet?

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin’ Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif., and has yet to be shot.