(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
We’ve finally made it.
I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you, but the Fall Classic is upon us. It’s been 7 long and grueling months of baseball, but the end is in sight. Most of our teams never had a chance, due to a variety of reasons. But this isn’t an article about how bad the Tigers are. We’re here to talk about the two teams that overcame their issues during the season and earned a berth in the 113th World Series. In a few days, either the Houston Astros or the Los Angeles Dodgers will be World Champions. We at M-SABR have made our picks.
Let’s begin with the probable starters. The best pitcher of our generation, Clayton Kershaw, makes his World Series debut tonight for the Dodgers against 2015 Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel. Kershaw was dominant in two starts in the NLCS, while Keuchel was dominant in Game 1 but struggled in Game 5 of the ALCS. Kershaw has developed a reputation as a poor postseason pitcher, but if you remove one awful inning against the Cardinals in 2014, in which he allowed 6 runs on 6 hits while only recording 2 outs, his ERA is a more respectable 3.92. He is an elite talent, and I don’t expect it to be a problem.
Game 1: HOU- Keuchel (14-5, 2.90) @ LAD- Kershaw (18-4, 2.31)
Game 2: HOU- Verlander (15-8, 3.36) @ LAD- Hill (12-8, 3.32)
Game 3: LAD- Darvish (10-12, 3.86) @ HOU- TBD
Game 4: LAD- TBD @ HOU- TBD
Consensus Pick: Astros in 7
Going against popular opinion, M-SABR picked the Astros to win the World Series. Our voters were very split, but decided to give the nod to Houston for a few reasons.
Let’s start with the Astros. Their top two starters have been lights-out this postseason. Justin Verlander was a huge acquisition in August, putting up a 1.06 ERA and 0.647 WHIP in 5 starts down the stretch. He struck out 43 batters while walking only 5, and though the win is an outdated stat, it is interesting to note that Verlander has picked up the W in all 9 regular season and postseason starts for Houston. The bullpen was a strength for them in 2017, but it seems the Astros have made it this far despite their relievers. Ken Giles and Chris Devenski are much better than their respective 7.50 and 12.00 playoff ERAs. If they return to even a semblance of their normal form, and there’s no reason to think they shouldn’t, Houston is in good shape. And I haven’t even mentioned the fact that they have the #1 run producing offense in the majors. The Astros have an unequivocal advantage over the Dodgers in their lineup, and it could be what wins them this series.
On the other hand, the Dodgers come in looking once again like the best team in baseball. Their ERA was over a half run better than Houston’s during the regular season, and they have a strong top 4 starters, where Houston has question marks after Keuchel and Verlander. In fact, the one thing that was cited the most about the Dodgers was their depth. They easily disposed of the Cubs despite missing their best player by fWAR, 23-year-old Corey Seager. Seager is back for the World Series, giving the Dodgers flexibility with finding room for Charlie Culberson. Culberson can play 4 positions and had a 1.235 OPS in the NLCS. They can get production from all 25 men on their roster, from Clayton Kershaw to Brandon Morrow, or from Cody Bellinger to Buck Farmer. Their depth at all positions is an incredible asset in a 7 game series.
So what does all of this mean? These are clearly two great teams, and not a whole lot separates them. The Astros have an advantage in their lineup, but the Dodgers’ all around depth is second to none. Both teams have very good reasons to be confident going into this series, and it should be an exciting one. Is our prediction just a product of our club’s undying love for Justin Verlander? Probably, but we’ll all just have to wait and see.
Astros in 7.
As usual, we couldn’t come to a consensus as to the MVP of the series, but here are the cases for a few players.
Lance McCullers– He will start one game and relieve in 2 more while allowing just 1 run, allowing enough room for Altuve and Co. to score runs to win. After finishing ALCS Game 7 with 28 consecutive curveballs, the league’s most impressive spin rate will reign supreme where it matters most.
Corey Seager– He did not even play in the NLCS, but will come back and remind everyone why he’s one of the most promising players in the league. Seager hits 2 HRs and comes up with multiple clutch hits over the series.
Justin Verlander– Verlander won ALCS MVP after dominating the Yankees, who have a better lineup than the Dodgers. He’s not done yet.
Cody Bellinger– As a lefty, he will be able to hit well against the Astros’ star righties, hitting some clutch homers as he powers his team to their first World Series Championship in forever.