2021 World Series Preview

Author: Jon Green

The 2021 MLB World Series is set between the National League Champion Atlanta Braves, who have been underdogs throughout the postseason will once again be underdogs against the American League Champion Houston Astros.

The 2021 Fall Classic

The Atlanta Braves had an end-of-season surge to win the National League East with only 88 wins, thus punching their postseason ticket with the fewest wins amongst all 10 playoff teams. In the first two rounds, they were able to take care of the Milwaukee Brewers and the World Series favorite Los Angeles Dodgers

The Houston Astros with their 95 win season were able to reach their third World Series in five years by taking care pushing past the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox. They have dealt with plenty of controversy that has stemmed from their 2017 season mishaps, but as much as I may want to discuss what the Astros did in previous years, it is a topic I will not cover.

Here we will look at who has the better rotation, bullpen, and hitters that will play into who wins it all. 

Starting Rotation

The Braves’ playoff rotation has included Max Fried, Charlie Morton, Ian Anderson, and bullpen games. In the regular season, these starting pitchers had an ERA of 3.04, 3.34, and 3.58 respectively. Those are very solid and in each of their three postseason games, they’ve posted 3.78, 3.77, and 2.25. It’s a short sample size, but Fried gave up five in fiving innings in his last outing on four days rest, Morton has given up only two earned runs in each of his starts, and Anderson has given up three total through 12 innings. Outside of Freid, the only other outing that was not good was Anderson’s two earned through only three innings. We can’t expect starters to be perfect every outing, but the Braves starters have largely played up to the moment this postseason. 

The Astros’ playoff rotation included the likes of Lance McCullers Jr., Framber Valdez, Luis Garcia, Jose Urquidy, and Zack Greinke. Now with McCullers out with a forearm strain, the Astros will probably rely on a three-man starting rotation with Greinke heading bullpen outings. Going from Valdez, they had ERAs of 3.14, 3.48, 3.62, and 4.16 respectively. In the postseason they have posted 4.20, 9.64, 27.00, and 7.71. It must be noted that Urquidy has only appeared in one game so far. It is also important to note that ERAs in the American League are typically higher than those in the National League due to the designated hitter. However, losing McCullers is a big loss, after having gone 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA in the regular season and only allowing 1 run in 10.2 innings of playoff baseball. The Astros have done well in pitching their last few outings after a rough first few games on the mound.  

The Braves win the starting rotation battle.

Bullpen

The bullpens have played a predominant role for these teams heading into the World Series. They each have heated up at the right time considering their pedestrian like regular seasons.

In the regular season the Braves had a bullpen ERA of 3.97, but in the postseason have an era of 3.56. The Braves have a solid closer in Will Smith, A.J. Minter, an unhittable Tyler Matzek, and a good long reliever in Drew Smyly to headline their relievers. It probably is good to point out that these four are each lefties, which is a unique situation. 

The Astros bullpen posted a 4.06 regular season ERA (remember they have a DH) and have significantly improved in the postseason to a 3.42. Only the Dodgers had a better bullpen ERA in the postseason than these World Series foes. Relievers for the Astros consist of long reliever Christian Javier, Blake Taylor, Kendall Graveman, Ryne Stanek, and closer Ryan Pressly. Pressly was able to put up 26 saves with a 2.25 ERA in the regular season, typically pitching behind the two good setup men, Graveman and Stanek. The Astros have more relievers to spend and have been able to step up when starters failed. 

The Astros win the bullpen battle.

Hitting and Fielding

Both of these offenses are hot which helped pave their way to the World Series. During the regular season, The Astros had a better offense than the Braves. In fact, the Astros were only behind the Toronto Blue Jays in terms of OPS with a great .784. The Braves were not too far behind with a .754 OPS, which put them 8th in the league. The Astros scored a league-leading 5.41 runs per game while the Braves, again in 8th, had 4.85. In the postseason the Astros have been scoring 6.7 per game beating the Braves’ 4.0. Hitters to look out for include a pair of MVPs and the championship series MVPs

Braves’ first baseman Freddie Freeman is looking for his first ring while Astros veteran star Jose Altuve is looking for his second. The championship series MVPs were the incredible Eddie Rosario for the Braves, who got a record-setting 14 hits in a six-game series against the Dodgers, and Yordan Alvarez for the Astros. Here, the Braves may have an advantage strategy-wise. When the Astros play in Atlanta, they will have to either place Alverez in the field or bring him off the bench, thus losing a great bat. There is no way they bench him, but will having him in the field affect him mentally at all? Preparation for him might be different than he is accustomed to. The Braves lost a transcendent talent to injury in Ronald Acuna Jr., but they went out and rebuilt the offense by acquiring Adam Duvall, Joc Pederson, and Jorge Soler who have each done a fair job of covering for him; but especially Rosario. 

Both teams were around the same when it came to defensive efficiency in the regular season. Since the Astros will probably place Alvarez in left, the Braves will have better luck on defense when the games go to Atlanta for three, four, and a possible fifth if necessary.

I do not have a clear-cut answer for this one. The better offense will be dependent on who is the home team due to the Braves not having to mess with their lineup much. Lucky for the Astros, they have home-field advantage due to winning more games than the Braves. 

Who wins the final game?

The Astros. It pains me, but the Astros have the best chance to win it all. While I do prefer the starters over on the Braves, the Astros hot hitting and strong bullpen will push them over the edge. I will get worried for Houston a bit when they head to a National League ballpark, but if they are as good as they have shown, it should not be a problem. Astros manager Dusty Baker is highly experienced and should know how to handle the situation. Additionally, they seemed more controlling in their latest victories. They were able to outscore Boston 23-3 in the final three games of their series. The Braves on the other hand had one dominant win over the Dodgers, but other than that, had nail biters. That does bring an excitement factor, but the Astros seem to be on a roll at the perfect time coming down the stretch with their experience. The Astros will take the crown in 6 games.