World Series Pick: Dodgers In Seven

  1. Out of a summer of hurricanes and wildfires, two teams that were once bitter rivals remain in the Major League Baseball postseason and both are hell-bent on destruction of the other. It should be everything baseball fans hope it will be.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have won a World Series, six in fact, but none since 1988, when they were led by Orel Hershiser and, of course, Kirk Gibson’s home run. The Houston Astros have won none. Both regularly battled for the National League West title back when there was just the west and the east. The Astros never made the World Series as a National League club despite a tremendous 1980 and 1986 club and four National League Central titles a decade later. The team did make a World Series for the first time in 2005 and were swept by the Chicago White Sox.

Twelve years later, the Dodgers and Astros will battle again. And by battle, they are incredibly well-matched in almost every phase of the game.

If I were setting a game one lineup for the Dodgers against the left-handed Astros’ co-ace, Dallas Keuchel, it would look something like this, with the accompanying regular season stats against lefties.

2B Logan Forsythe .290 BA, .418 OBP The Dodgers don’t run much, so who cares if Forsythe hasn’t stolen a base against a lefty all year? Only Justin Turner has a better OBP.
CF Chris Taylor .297 BA, .351 OBP has power and the speed to avoid double plays
SS Corey Seager .325 BA, .389 OBP, .916 OPS
3B Justin Turner .380 BA, .477 OBP 22 walks vs 15 strikeouts, 1.181 OPS
1B Cody Bellinger .271 BA, .335 OBP .903 OPS
LF Kike Hernandez .270 BA, .367 OBP, .946 OPS
C Austin Barnes .257 BA, .372 OBP, .886 OPS
P Clayton Kershaw .167 BA, .167 OBP
RF Yasiel Puig .183, .317 OBP.

The Dodgers may feel they have to start Puig in right field because of his speed and his arm. But if they do, they should bat him ninth. His OBP is decent, and he walked 24 times while striking out only 18 times. He also went six for ten in the playoffs. He would be a second leadoff hitter, in essence. Or, they could go with Charlie Culberson who has four hits in eight at bats versus lefties in the postseason.

The other lefty outfielders, Joc Pederson, Andre Ethier, and Curtis Granderson give skipper Dave Roberts three left handers with power off the bench.

Versus righties, Ethier or Culberson gets the nod over Hernandez despite Kike’s unconscious three homer effort in game seven of the NLCS.

In games three, four and five (if it goes that far and it likely will) Chase Utley’s .242 versus righties and Yasmani Grandal’s .233 versus lefties might be called upon. Neither are great options on paper, but all are experienced veterans who should be decent. Charlie Culberson has had a great postseason, though, and hit .333 vs lefties last year.

Houston has just Keuchel to start from the left side and, though I usually loathe pitching on three days of rest twice, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get him three starts given the Dodgers’ comparative weakness.

Speaking of pitching, Justin Verlander will likely get the games two and five starts with a relief appearance in game seven if there is one. All Verlander did in five starts is post a 1.06 ERA in the regular season, which he followed with a 4-0 record and a 1.46 ERA in the postseason. Brad Peacock or Charlie Morton would likely get games three and six.

Who has the advantage between Keuchel/Verlander/? and Kershaw/Rich Hill/Yu Darvish/Alex Wood? Again, the Dodgers are deeper, but in a series, that doesn’t always matter. Keuchel has been hittable, and Kershaw more so. Verlander and Hill could toss zeros on the board depending on Hill’s curve ball. Wood against Peacock or Morton should be a win for L.A., but Wood didn’t make it out of the fourth inning of his one postseason start this year. Darvish has been sporadic throughout the year, but has come up huge the last two games.

Advantage: Astros for starters in the series, but L.A.’s third and fourth starters are better than Houston’s and Los Angeles wins the bullpen battle easily with a streak of 23 consecutive scoreless innings in the later part of the game which is often when L.A. takes over offensively.

Starters for the Astros as they take on Kershaw based on their numbers vs lefties, obviously not named Kershaw.

CF George Springer .301 BA (40 points higher in the playoffs), .872 OPS.
3B Alex Bregman  .331 BA, .974 OPS.
2B Jose Altuve .353 BA, .977 OPS (playoffs: .500 1.625 OPS…wait, what?)
C Evan Gattis .241 BA (60 points higher in the playoffs), .728 OPS.
RF Josh Reddick .315 BA, .762 OPS.
SS Carlos Correa .391 BA, 1.066 OPS.
LF Marwin Gonzalez .250 BA( 40 points lower in the postseason), .795 OPS.
1B Yuri Gurriel .252 BA (70 points lower in playoffs), .695 OPS.
P Keuchel…. Well, here is where the designated hitter may really hurt Houston, especially versus lefthanders. Only Brad Peacock had any at-bats in interleague play against a lefty. He went 1-5.

How important is home? Very, for Houston. But, seven Dodger players are hitting .250 and above away from Chavez Ravine. Only three Astros have similar numbers away or overall in the playoffs. And, the Dodgers have home field advantage. So, even if they lose one at home, they can take one back on the road.

Both have played terrific defense.

So, who wins? The Dodgers in seven, in part because of their bullpen, deeper offensive production, and performance on the road.

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