2017 World Series Preview

Photo courtesy: IB Times

Author: Dan Labosky
It’s the Sports Illustrated cover jinx World Series. This season, SI came out with a cover with two Dodgers players with the headline: “Best Team Ever?” In 2014, SI’s own Ben Reiter came out with a cover story proclaiming: “Your 2017 World Series Champions” with the Astros’ George Springer. They have been two of the best teams throughout the year, each accumulating over 100 wins, meaning we finally get a mammoth showdown for the Fall Classic.

Schedule:
Game 1: Tuesday, 10/24 @ Los Angeles
Game 2: Wednesday, 10/25 @ Los Angeles
Game 3: Friday, 10/27 @ Houston
Game 4: Saturday, 10/28 @ Houston
*Game 5: Sunday, 10/29 @ Houston
*Game 6: Tuesday, 10/31 @ Los Angeles
*Game 7: Wednesday, 11/1 @ Los AngelesAll games are scheduled to start at 7 pm CT on FOX.

*if necessary

Odds:
LA -140
Houston +170


How did they get here?

Los Angeles Dodgers Record: 104-58: The Dodgers have had the easier of two roads to the Fall Classic. In the Divisional Series they swept the Diamondbacks rather easily, winning three games to none. In the NLCS, the Dodgers defeated the reigning World Champion Chicago Cubs in five games. They’re well-rested and haven’t been back to  World Series since 1988.

Houston Astros Record: 101-61: The Astros had home field advantage throughout the playoffs and started by defeating the Boston Red Sox three games to one. In the ALCS they recently defeated the New York Yankees in seven games. They have never won the World Series and haven’t been there since 2005 when they competed in the National League and were swept by the White Sox in four games.

Pitching:

Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers boast perhaps the most talented player in the whole series: Clayton Kershaw. He has been automatic, posting a 2-0 record with 17 innings pitched, giving up 12 hits and walking five batters. He has a 3.63 ERA and has struck out 16 batters. He will look to get the Dodgers off to a hot start as he takes the hill in Game 1. He will be eager to change his past postseason fortunes as his struggles have been well-documented. Behind him, the Dodgers are deep, with Rich Hill, Alex Wood, and acquisition Yu Darvish, whom the team got from the Texas Rangers at the trading deadline. Of the four, only Alex Wood has a losing record, so  Manager Dave Roberts will look for big things out of his starters.

After the starters, their bullpen is one of the best in the league, boasting superstar closer Kenley Jansen. He has three saves thus far in the postseason and has not given up a run, striking out 12 while only walking one batter. Kenta Maeda is another stalwart in the bullpen, as he has a 2-0 record for Dave Roberts’ club.

Houston Astros: It’s no wonder the Astros got here, because they also have a stellar pitching staff. It starts at the top with mid-season acquisition Justin Verlander. He has been virtually unhittable in the postseason, with a 4-0 record, while giving up 17 hits and striking out 24 in just 24 innings. He also has an amazing 1.46 ERA. He will be counted on to play a major role in this series as he takes the hill in Game 1. Behind him, the Astros have Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton, who was counted on to win game 7 against the Yankees. Morton has been less than spectacular with a 6.23 ERA but Keuchel has been a workhorse for manager AJ Hinch with 25 strikeouts and a 2.60 ERA in 17 innings pitched.

In the bullpen, Ken Giles and Chris Devenski will be counted on, as they have appeared in five of the Astros’ 11 games. Giles has two saves for Hinch’s squad but has a 7.50 ERA. It will be interesting to see how the bullpen holds up in this series. Look for Hinch to use starters such as Francisco Liriano and Lance McCullers Jr. to chew up the middle innings for the Astros.

Advantage: Dodgers. The combination of the starters, including Kershaw, and being able to shut down the late innings with Jansen is what separates these two. I’m not sure if the Astros bullpen can keep the Dodgers at bay.

Hitting:

Los Angeles: 27-year-old Chris Taylor leads off for the Dodgers, hitting .281 with nine hits and two home runs. His on base percentage is only .316 in the postseason so he will need to get that up to be successful against the Astros.

The middle of the order is as dangerous as any team in baseball with Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, and Yasiel Puig. Turner bats second and leads the team in RBI with 12 while hitting .387 in the postseason. Bellinger is only hitting .278, so he will have to turn it around as well for the Dodgers to ride the offense. The pleasant surprise has been Puig, who is hitting an astounding .414 with one home run and six RBI. The middle of the order will be counted on to produce, especially Turner, who has been red-hot this postseason.

Houston: For Houston, it all starts with their MVP candidate, Jose Altuve.  He has been the catalyst at the top of the order hitting .400 with five home runs and eight RBI. After him, it doesn’t get any easier for opposing pitchers with the one-two punch of Carlos Correa and the aforementioned George Springer. Correa has three home runs and nine RBI while batting .295. The former first overall pick will be counted on to provide timely hits in the middle of the order. Springer has struggled some, only batting .233 with 11 strikeouts. He’ll have to turn it around in order for the Astros to be successful.  Depth is a positive for Houston with Alex Bregman, Josh Reddick, and Yuli Gurrel. All three will be counted on to provide timely hits.

Advantage: Astros. Jose Altuve. The MVP candidate has been on a mission this postseason and I expect him to continue his dominant ways. Don’t forget about Springer and Correa. They can change any game, especially Correa, who had a walk-off double in the ALCS. The depth is also a major factor, compared to the Dodgers.

The Pick: Astros in 6. The pitching and bullpen will hold up, combined with Altuve and timely hitting, which will lead the Astros to victory. Kershaw’s struggles continue.

Enjoy the Fall Classic!