I have been spoiled in my life. Very spoiled. In my life, I have seen each of my childhood teams win a championship. I have seen 5 Super Bowl wins, 3 World Series celebrations, an NBA Championship at the Garden and a Stanley Cup Victory that caused over $5 Million Canadian Dollars worth of damage in downtown Vancouver. I’ve been very lucky.
When I tell people that I’ve converted to the New York Mets, most people call me a bandwagon fan. Fine. First off, hop on over to Our Kings of Queens and tell me who’s bandwagon. Secondly, absolutely. I went to my first Mets game in 2013 and what I connected to was the longing, the desire, the heartbreak. the anguish… something that I grew up with. I wasn’t adopted by the darkness, I was born into it and once I got out, I turned right back around and decided to go back in for more.
What does this have to do with the 2017 World Series? It’s about desire, perseverance, and finally, after all these years of waiting, it’s about overcoming obstacles. It’s about rising from the ashes and taking your rightful place atop the league. It’s about winning after so much losing.
To say that we have two incredible teams in this World Series is the understatement of the Century. From Opening Day onward we’ve been talking about how good both of these teams are. If the Indians didn’t make their fantastic winning happen, we’d be talking about how both contenders were the top teams in their respective leagues. In fact, oddly enough for the second year in a row the 2nd place American League is facing off against the 1st place National League team. So how did we get here? Some roads were easier than others.
In the case of Los Angeles, the Dodgers were looked at as the perennial favorites to make it to the World Series going into the postseason, and their 7-1 record in October has only magnified how strong a team they are. The Dodgers seemed on a mission from their first game of the NLDS against the Wild Card Winner Arizona Diamondbacks.
In their 8 games this postseason, the Dodgers have outscored their opponents 48-19, specifically stifling the Cubs 28-8 in the NLCS. Their offense, powered by young stars like Chris Taylor, Cody Bellinger, and Justin Turner, is crisp, flashy and powerful. They’re a team very capable of putting the ball in play and making you pay for it. The other thing they have is depth off the bench. Remember Kiké Hernandez? Gets the start in Game 5 of the NLCS, hits 3 home runs, one of them a Grand Slam. That’s not a secret, folks. Check out his numbers against Madison Bumgarner. THe kid is a solid bat, and he rides the pine.
However, the biggest difference between last year’s Dodgers and this year’s Dodgers is the starting pitching. The Bullpen has let up 2 runs ins 28.1 innings this postseason. That’s the only stat you need. They are the baseball equivalent of a pillow to the face.
In 2016, there was no starter on the Dodgers who had a postseason ERA less than Rich Hill’s 3.46. Kenta Maeda and Julio Urias posted numbers north of 6.00 and Kershaw finished walked off the mound in Chicago posting a 4.46 ERA in October, slightly better than his career total. In 2017’s Quest for the Fall Classic, Clayton Kershaw owns the third highest ERA for the Dodgers, posting a 3.36 ERA. Quite the turnaround. Yu Darvish’s stifling 1.59 ERA through 3 starts, however, is exactly what the doctor ordered.
The midseason addition of Yu Darvish has been the back up that the Kershaw needed to get through the postseason. When you look back at the 2016 Dodgers rotation, it was essentially Kershaw, an insane out of his mind Rich Hill, and a flurry of young guys. The addition of Darvish has given the Dodgers another Ace up their sleeve. All the Dodgers need to do is win more than half of those two pitcher’s starts and they’re already in great shape. Win all four? Get a ring.
Seeing Clayton Kershaw pitch in a World Series is something I have been dreaming about. If you don’t think that Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher of 2010’s, you’re an idiot. The guy has a closet of awards that he has rightfully deserved and his ability to control strike zones, at-bats and a slew of pitches is baffling. Clayton Kershaw is borderline witchcraft on a pitchers mound. However, in the postseason he’s been less than his usual self.
In the regular season, Kershaw holds the 3rd best Win-Loss percentage for a pitcher, holding a 144-68 career record and 2.36 career ERA. By 3rd best, I quite literally mean, 3rd best of all pitchers of all time. The closest modern era starter? Pedro Martinez. With his 2.36 Career ERA, Clayton doesn’t have a better seat, but he’s the only modern player besides Mariano Rivera to crack the top 25. Kershaw is pitching in a completely different class.
In the postseason? Completely different story. Kershaw is 6-7 with a 4.40 ERA through 17 postseason starts and three relief appearances. When you look at his career stats versus his postseason stats, Kershaw pitches like his rookie season, and it’s not something to write home about. Since 2009 Kershaw hasn’t thrown a season where is WHIP is above 1.25. In the postseason, he averages 1.129. He’s a completely different guy in October. Here’s hoping he can change that.
For Houston, this Road has been a long one. Following their World Series loss in 2005, the Astors franchise went into a tailspin, capping off with 3 consecutive 50 win seasons, and switch to the American League. Within two years, the Astros were in business, making the postseason and coming within 8 outs of advancing to their first Championship Series in 10 years. Then the Royals happened.
The Astros are a young team, and people tend to forget that based on how professional and veteran their young guys seem. George Springer in Center, Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve up the middle, these young guys are the crown jewels of this organization, and they made sure to surround them with talent. The additions of Josh Reddick, Brian McCann, Yuli Gurriel and even Cameron Maybin, have made this team an offensive powerhouse. Especially facing off against young teams like the Red Sox and Yankees on their way to the World Series, you forget just how dominant this team was at the plate.
The Houston Astros lead the league in almost every major offensive category this year. Seriously. The only way to get this team out it would seem is to pitch perfectly, and even when that happens, they still dominate. In fact, when the Astros are ahead or even in counts, they are hitting above .302, with OPS of .825 (even) and 1.017 (ahead). This is a team that, much like Jose Altuve, makes you pitch to them or their terms.
We talked about depth on Dodgers, but the main thing to watch out for here is how the Astors play without a DH. Granted Houston hasn’t seen too much production out fo the DH spot, only putting up a measly .220 average for the season, but it’s all about lineup flow.
The addition of a pitcher can break the stride of an American League team, especially one that is used to having a second leadoff guy at the top of the order. If the Astros rhythm gets off and George Springer is coming up with a pitcher at first, or even 2 outs, you’re taking the bat out of his hands. This is a team whose bottom of the order capitalized on Yankees hitting and put their studs up to the plate with men on and in scoring position. That’s how this team scores.
Pitching-wise, it’s going to come down to how well Keuchel and Verlander do for the ‘Stros. Verlander has been THE guy for Houston and rightfully so. What an amazing pick up he was at the deadline for this team. A complete game in the ALCS? Sure. We ALL saw that coming.
Keuchel has been a little hit or miss for me so far this postseason. I know, I hear you screaming. He pitched very well against Boston, but while his strikeouts were up in the ALCS, he was also getting a lot of calls his way. BEsides, this is not the Dallas Keuchel who won the Cy Young in 2015, this is a different man who saw some struggles since then.
The main question here is can the Astros keep going back to Charlie Morton and if he goes down, what’s the plan? Lance McCullers, Jr. has earned a World Series start in my eyes, throwing 13 innings of 2.08 ERA baseball. In fact, McCullers has very similar numbers to Keuchel this postseason, so I would give him the ball in Game 3, Game 4 at the very least. Pitching is going to be the biggest question mark for Houston going forwards. This Offense is nasty, but can the pitching match?w
LOS ANGELES DODGERS IN 6
While I think that this Houston squad is the future, I just don’t see how they can beat Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish twice. Once is tough enough. Twice is miraculous. The Dodgers have a squad who has been close to this before and a group of veteran players who will not take “No Rings” for an answer. In the MLB climate, we’re in you don’t just make it to the World Series and walk away Champions. No. You have to climb the mountain, fall back down and climb back with a vengeance. Something the Dodgers have been doing since 1988.