2018 World Series Preview: Dodgers vs. Red Sox

This is a World Series matchup that has been predicted by many over the last handful of years, and it has finally come to fruition, as the Dodgers will take on the Red Sox.

The Red Sox were expected to get here. They won 108 games — four more than the juggernaut Dodgers from last year. The Dodgers, on the other hand, looked at times they weren’t going to be playing in October. These two clubs are meeting in the World Series for the first time in more than 100 years.

Here’s how the two teams stack up against each other:

By the Numbers

Offense Red Sox Dodgers
Runs/Game 5.39 4.93
AVG .268 .250
OBP .339 .333
SLG .453 .442
wRC+ 110 111
HR 208 235
SB 125 75
BB% 9.0 10.2
K% 19.9 22.6
Exit Velo 89.6 88.4

No surprise here, the Red Sox were the highest scoring team in baseball. With guys like Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi, it’s easy to see why. Betts had the 2nd-best wRC+ in baseball this season (185) behind some guy named Mike Trout. Martinez followed up his 45 home run season with a 43 home run campaign in the middle of Boston’s lineup. Aside from the big names, they also have the contributing role players that lead to the game’s highest-scoring offense. Guys like Steve Pearce, Mitch Moreland (despite the sore hamstring) and Brock Holt — who hit for the cycle earlier in the playoffs — are just some of the players Red Sox manager Alex Cora can turn to if he wants to shake things up a bit. Oh, and Jackie Bradley Jr. patrols center field, and he just won the ALCS MVP after hitting that huge grand slam in Game 3 of that series.

One thing to note here: The Red Sox offense performs much better against right-handed pitching than left-handed. The team had a .250/.325/.395 line against lefties, compared to .275/.344/.473 against righties.

The best postseason performers today for Boston have been Holt (1.145 OPS in 17 PA), Moreland (1.101 OPS in 11 PA), Martinez (.946 OPS in 41 PA) and Rafael Devers (.909 OPS in 22 PA). Guys who have struggled include the Ian Kinsler (.655 OPS in 25 PA), Christian Vazquez (.670 OPS in 23 PA) and Betts, who has amassed just a .578 OPS this postseason to date. Whatever the Yankees and Astros did to him, here’s hoping the Dodgers look at that tape very carefully.

Starting Pitching Red Sox Dodgers
ERA 3.77 3.19
FIP 3.80 3.42
xFIP 3.83 3.36
K% 25.4 25.7
BB% 7.3 6.1
SwStr% 10.4 11.3
BAA .236 .227
HR/9 1.16 1.05
Exit Velo 88.0 87.1

The Dodgers are going to have to hit to win this series, but the pitching edge should be theirs. They have the advantage in both the rotation and the bullpen, but that doesn’t mean the Red Sox don’t have a ton of pitching talent on their roster.

The rotation is spearheaded by Chris Sale, who is one of the five best pitchers in baseball. He dealt with some shoulder soreness in the second half that derailed what looked to be his first his Cy Young Award. But he still struck out more than 38 percent of the batters he faced and had a Kershawian sub-2 FIP. Also similar to Kershaw, he doesn’t have the greatest postseason resume, posting a 5.85 ERA in 20 innings of work. In Game 1 of the ALCS, Sale lasted four innings, allowed one hit, two runs, walked four and struck out five. Going in Game 2 is David Price, who isn’t the same pitcher he was three years ago, but he’s still a solid starting pitcher. With the Dodgers’ struggles against lefties over the course of the season (they were much better in the season’s last couple months), Price could look more like his former self, if he has his stuff working. He’s coming off the best start of his playoff career last time out (6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 9 K). It wouldn’t be wise to underestimate these two. While Game 3 and 4 starters aren’t yet announced, old friend Nathan Eovaldi and former Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello look likely to draw those assignments. Eovaldi has done nothing but impress since joining the Red Sox. He has a 1.88 ERA in 14 1/3 postseason innings thus far.

The Dodgers’ starters have a collective 3.86 ERA in 58 1/3 innings of work so far in October. Clayton Kershaw has turned in two great starts and one terrible start. He’ll start Game 1. Hyun-Jin Ryu has been the opposite, turning one excellent start and two clunkers. He’s, somewhat surprisingly, starting Game 2 instead of throwing Rich Hill out there and getting Ryu at home, but we’ll see if he can bounce back from a couple not-great starts in the LCS. Walker Buehler, the Game 3 starter, will have his work cut out for him against that lineup. Hill will get Game 4 against his former club.

Relief Pitching Red Sox Dodgers
ERA 3.74 3.72
FIP 3.85 3.88
xFIP 4.05 3.77
K% 25.1 25.7
BB% 9.8 8.2
SwStr% 11.9 13.2
BAA .232 .229
HR/9 0.98 1.16
Exit Velo 88.2 86.5

If the rotation doesn’t go the Dodgers’ way in settling the series, the bullpen might. During the regular season, the Dodgers’ bullpen out-performed the Red Sox’s ‘pen in almost every category. In the postseason, the Dodgers’ bullpen has been marvelous. It has a 1.30 ERA and has struck out 31.1 percent of the hitters it has faced. Kenley Jansen has been great, but so has Pedro Baez (6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 K). Outside of a couple hiccup outings from Alex Wood and Kenta Maeda, the rest of the relievers have been fantastic.

One change for this series on the Dodgers’ side is Scott Alexander is in. That’s good! What’s odd — at least at first — is the fact he replaced Caleb Ferguson. You’d think the Dodgers would want as many lefty relievers as possible, but Daniel points out this bit of info…

Sure, it’s a small sample size, but the 3 MPH drop in fastball velocity toward the end of the NLCS is potentially why Ferguson was given the boot in favor of Alexander. Here’s hoping it’s just something like dead arm and not something more serious — if it’s anything at all.

The Red Sox boast one of the best closers in the game in Craig Kimbrel. But guys like Ryan Brasier, Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly have allowed three runs (two earned) in 18 2/3 innings. One thing lacking in the Boston bullpen is left-handed options. Heath Hembree, who really should be left-handed with a name like that, isn’t. Instead, the Red Sox are using guys who are normally starting pitchers as their left-handed options out of the bullpen in Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez. Pomeranz is replacing righty Brandon Workman on the roster after not being on the roster in the first two rounds. We’ll see if that has any impact on Cora’s usage of his lefties in the bullpen. They could opt for one of them in the rotation while bumping Porcello to the bullpen, but that would severely limit Cora’s late-inning bullpen options.

One thing that has been a problem area for Boston’s ‘pen this postseason is the walks. Relievers have walked 25 hitters in 37 1/3 innings. We saw the Dodgers take advantage of the walks (a bit) against the Braves and Brewers, so this one could be determined by the Red Sox’s bullpen and its ability to keep the Dodger hitters off the bases.

Head-to-Head

The Dodgers and Red Sox haven’t played each other since August 2016. One interesting stat Stacie uncovered in her redemption piece yesterday: The Dodgers have won just one game in Boston in the last hundred or so years (2004). It’s not as bad as it sounds seeing as these teams don’t regularly play each other, but it’s still a bit of an eye-opening sentence. The last time these two organizations met in the World Series was 1916, when the Red Sox defeated the Brooklyn Robins. The two have never met in the World Series in their current capacities. For what it’s worth, the Dodgers and Red Sox are set to play a 3-game series in Boston next season.

Rosters

Note: Rosters are official.

Dodgers

Starting Pitchers (4): Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Hyun-Jin Ryu
Relief Pitchers (8): Scott AlexanderPedro Baez, Dylan Floro, Kenley Jansen, Ryan Madson, Kenta Maeda, Alex Wood, Julio Urias
Catchers (2): Austin Barnes, Yasmani Grandal
Infielders (5): Brian Dozier, David FreeseManny Machado, Max MuncyJustin Turner
Infielders/Outfielders (3): Cody Bellinger, Enrique Hernandez, Chris Taylor
Outfielders (3): Matt Kemp Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig

Red Sox

Starting Pitchers (4): Nathan Eovaldi, Rick Porcello, David Price, Chris Sale
Relief Pitchers (7): Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Heath Hembree, Joe Kelly, Craig Kimbrel, Drew PomeranzEduardo Rodriguez
Catchers (3): Sandy Leon, Blake SwihartChristian Vazquez
Infielders (7): Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Brock Holt, Ian Kinsler, Mitch Moreland, Eduardo Nunez, Steve Pearce
Outfielders (4): Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., J.D. Martinez

Likely Lineups

Dodgers vs. RHP (no DH)
Pederson LF
Turner 3B
Muncy 1B
Machado SS
Bellinger CF
Puig RF
Hernandez 2B
Barnes C

Dodgers vs. RHP (DH)
Pederson LF
Turner 3B
Muncy DH
Machado SS
Bellinger 1B
Puig RF
Taylor CF
Hernandez 2B
Barnes/Grandal C

Dodgers vs. LHP (no DH)
Taylor LF
Turner 3B
Freese 1B
Machado SS
Bellinger CF
Puig RF
Hernandez 2B
Barnes C

Dodgers vs. LHP (DH)
Taylor LF
Turner 3B
Freese 1B
Machado SS
Kemp DH
Bellinger CF
Puig RF
Dozier/Hernandez 2B
Barnes C

Red Sox vs. RHP (no DH)
Betts 2B
Beintendi LF
Martinez RF
Bogaerts SS
Pearce 1B
Devers 3B
Leon/Vazquez C
Bradley CF

Red Sox vs. RHP (DH)
Betts RF
Beintendi LF
Martinez DH
Bogaerts SS
Pearce 1B
Kinsler 2B
Devers 3B
Leon/Vazquez C
Bradley CF

Red Sox vs. LHP (no DH)
Betts 2B
Beintendi LF
Martinez RF
Bogaerts SS
Pearce 1B
Devers 3B
Leon/Vazquez C
Bradley CF

Red Sox vs. LHP (DH)
Betts RF
Beintendi LF
Martinez DH
Bogaerts SS
Pearce 1B
Kinsler 2B
Devers 3B
Leon/Vazquez C
Bradley CF

X-Factor

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

Ryan Madson

Madson has been one of Roberts’ go-to guys out of the bullpen in the postseason, and he has rewarded that trust, pitching to a 1.42 ERA in October. With the best Red Sox hitters being right-handed, he’s likely to see a lot of work in this series. His changeup is filthy, as it’s a weapon against not only lefties, but also righties. Right-handed batters hit just .048 off Madson’s changeup this season. He could help firm up that bridge to Kenley Jansen.

Steve Pearce

Pearce has always been a lefty-killer, and with Boston’s struggles against lefties, he could play a big role against the bevy of Dodger left-handed pitchers. He’s not much with the glove, but he can hit the ball against southpaws (.266/.352/.500 for his career).

——

This is going to be a difficult series. More difficult than the first two for the Dodgers. If they’re going to capture their first title in 30 years, it’s going to be a grind. They won’t win in 4 or 5 games. If they win, it’ll be in 6 or 7. Conversely, they could easily get taken out in 4 or 5 games, and that wouldn’t be at all surprising. Boston in 5 seems to be one of the more popular picks among pundits.

This iteration of the Dodgers isn’t as good as last year’s, but they do a lot of things well. If the pitching can keep the Red Sox’s offense in check, they’ll have a fighting chance.

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.