World Series Preview: Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Dodgers 0

The World Series begins Tuesday night as the Houston Astros travel to California to take on the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1. The Dodgers will send Clayton Kershaw (18-4, 2.31) to the hill. He will be opposed by Dallas Keuchel (14-5, 2.90). Tellus New Digest previews the series and provides our prediction.

World Series Preview

For just the eighth time in Major League Baseball history, and the first time since 1970, the two teams in the World Series have each won 100 games. The Houston Astros finished 101-61, then knocked out the Boston Red Sox in four games before defeating the New York Yankees in seven.

The Los Angeles Dodgers looked to break the Seattle Mariners nearly 20 year record for wins in a season (116), but a horrible slump where the team lost 17 of 18 ended those hopes. They still finished with 104 wins, then swept the Arizona Diamondbacks before downing the Chicago Cubs in five to advance to the World Series.

Starting Pitching

Justin Verlander

The old adage is that pitching and defense win championships, and this is where both teams shine. The most ironic part of this series is that, if you were to look at the starting rotation of either team, you would almost certainly say that this is the reason why that team would win. However, a look across at the opposing dugout will quickly change your mind. In essence, neither team has an advantage because of how good they both are.

The Houston Astros added Justin Verlander before the trade deadline, and he’s been absolutely brilliant since arriving in Texas. The big right-hander won all five of his starts in the regular season and posted a microscopic 1.06 ERA. In the playoffs, he has four wins and has posted a 1.46 ERA. Dallas Keuchel won 14 games in the regular season and is 2-1 in the playoffs. His only loss came when the Astros were blanked in Game 5 in New York. Lance McCullers, Jr. has not won a game in the post-season, but has pitched well, posting a 2.08 ERA in three appearances. Charlie Morton was rocked in Game 3 of the ALCS, but came back to blank the Yankees in Game 7, sending Houston on to the Series.

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw is arguably the best pitcher in baseball. Kershaw has been known as a great regular season starter who shrinks in stature when he steps into the national spotlight. Not this season. After winning 18 games in the regular season, Kershaw has won two of his three starts in the play-offs. Yu Darvish was added near the trade deadline and he has also been brilliant in a Dodgers’ uniform. After going 4-3 in the nine starts, he is 2-0 in the post-season with a 1.59 ERA. Rich Hill has pitched well in his two playoff starts, but has received no offensive support, posting a 3.00 ERA with two no decisions. Alex Wood has the only loss in the playoffs for Los Angeles.

Advantage: Even

Bullpen

Astros closer Ken Giles saved 34 games during the regular season and posted a 2.30 ERA. He has not looked so invincible in the post-season, however, going 0-1 with two saves and a 7.50 ERA. Luke Gregerson and Collin McHugh have looked fantastic. The two have combined to make four appearances and neither has given up a run. Much of the rest of the staff has struggled.

Kenley Janson

The Dodgers bullpen is one of the best in baseball, and it starts with closer Kenley Jansen. Jansen has appeared in seven of the team’s eight play-off games, and has three saves. He also has yet to give up a run. The bullpen for L.A. has thrown 28.2 innings of work and has only allowed three earned runs. That means Houston better get to the Dodgers starters or they simply are not going to score.

Advantage: Los Angeles

 

Hitting

Jose Altuve

The Houston Astros may have the best all-around player in baseball in second baseman Jose Altuve. He hit .346 during the regular season with 24 homers and 81 RBI. He  stepped up his game during the play-offs, hitting .400 with a team leading 5 homers and 8 RBI in the post-season. That included three homers in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Red Sox. Yuli Gurriel hit. 299 during the regular season, but is hitting .366 in the playoffs. Shortstop Carlos Correa leads the team in RBI with 9 and is batting .295. That is the good news.

The bad news is that the rest of this lineup has looked quite anemic. Leadoff man George Springer is batting .233, including going 3 for 26 in the seven game series versus the Yankees. In fact, only two regulars (Correa and Altuve) hit above .300 against New York, while five hit under .200. If the Yankees pitching staff can do that to Houston, Lord knows what the Dodgers group can do.

George Springer

If you want to know how good the Dodgers are overall, you need look no further than what happened with Corey Seager. The shortstop hit .295 with 22 homers in the regular season, but got hurt in the NLDS against Arizona. He sat out the NLCS and his replacement Charlie Culberson hit a walloping .455.

Manager Dave Roberts has done a brilliant job of not only assembling an outstanding lineup, but also building a bench that is ready to deliver big hits at a moments notice. Six players on this team hit above .300 against the Cubs. No one expects that kind of success against Verlander and Keuchel, but they will likely hit far better than the Astros.

Advantage: Los Angeles

Fielding

Charlie Culberson

Surprisingly ,the Astros are not as good defensively as you would think, despite the fact that they are as solid up the middle as a team can get. The double-play combination of Correa and Altuve combined with Springer in center is the best in the game. Correa and Altuve made just 19 errors total and are considered in the top two or three players at their position defensively. However, in the regular season, Houston made 99 errors, 10th most in the baseball, but they have stepped up their game in the post-season, committing just three miscues.

It is the Dodgers who are the better defensive unit. They have made 88 errors this year, 11th least in MLB and, during the playoffs, they have made just two errors. Seager should be back for the World Series and he is outstanding at short, making 11 errors and posting a .979 fielding percentage. If he is not ready to go, Culberson has proven to be more than ready.

Advantage: Slight Edge Los Angeles

Justin Turner

Who Will Win?

Beyond the starting pitching, the Los Angeles Dodgers are just the better team. They have four of the games at home, and they are better rested. Many experts will tell you that Game 2 is the pivotal one in the playoffs, but in this series it will be Game 1. If Houston can beat Kershaw to open the series, they can expect to win both games that Verlander tosses and only need one other win. That would give the Astros the Series in six. Sadly, for Houston, that will not be the case. Take the Dodgers in six, and expect Justin Turner to be the MVP.