Your Astros-Dodgers World Series Primer

The Houston Astros are in the second World Series in franchise history and face off with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who haven’t been to a World Series since 1988, when they defeated the Oakland Athletics in five games.

This is the first World Series matchup with two 100-win teams since 1970, and it features arguably the two best teams in Major League Baseball this season. At the All Star break, the Dodgers and Astros were 1-2 in the league in record, and both teams have strengths all over the field. Houston is coming off an emotional seven-game series victory over the New York Yankees, and the Dodgers dispatched the defending champion Chicago Cubs in the NLCS.

Keep reading for a position-by-position breakdown of the matchups.

Catcher

Astros: Brian McCann
Dodgers: Austin Barnes
Advantage: Dodgers

McCann was ice cold for most of the postseason before getting hot at the right time in the ALCS, contributing two doubles and a single while driving in three runs in Games 6 and 7. While Barnes is younger, he’s arguably had an even season at the plate and definitely a better season defensively, and he has been better than McCann during the playoffs.

1st Base

Astros: Yuli Gurriel
Dodgers: Cody Bellinger
Advantage: Dodgers

Before the Astros made the World Series and Game 4 conflicted with every Halloween party I was invited to, I planned to dress up as Yuli, with his trademark hair and sly grin. Gurriel has been the Astros second-best hitter during the postseason behind Jose Altuve, and is slashing .366/.409/.512 with an OPS of .921. Bellinger though is the next big thing at first base and is coming off a monster rookie season, hitting 39 homers and driving in 97 runs with an OPS+ of 142.

2nd Base

Astros: Jose Altuve
Dodgers: Logan Forsythe
Advantage: Astros

The Dodgers are 7-0 when Forsythe has played this postseason; that’s really all that he has going for him in this matchup. Altuve is the frontrunner for the American League MVP and has somehow been even better in the playoffs. He’s slashing a ridiculous .400/.500/.775, has walked 10 times compared to seven strikeouts, and has a win probability added of 0.558. Where he goes, the Astros go.

Shortstop

Astros: Carlos Correa
Dodgers: Corey Seager
Advantage: Astros

If Seager is healthy, he’s one of the most exciting young players in the game. At just 23 years old, he hit 22 homers and 77 RBIs for an OPS+ of 125. But lest we forget, Carlos Correa is even younger at 22, hit 24 homers, drove in 84 RBIs for an OPS+ of 158 in 36 fewer games. Oh, and Correa has hit safely in all but two postseason games in 2017 and has an OPS of .931 thus far.

3rd Base

Astros: Alex Bregman
Dodgers: Justin Turner
Advantage: Dodgers

Bregman turned it on in the second half of the season and finished strong but has struggled this postseason to the tune of .190/.244/.381. Turner, on the other hand, carried over his strong regular season to an even stronger postseason. .387/.500/.677 is fantastic, but his walk-off home run in Game 2 of the NLCS is the signature moment of these playoffs so far.

Left Field

Astros: Marwin Gonzalez
Dodgers: Enrique Hernandez
Advantage: Astros

Left field is the home of the unsung heroes of each team. Hernandez, a former Astro, was more than solid in the regular season and has come through time and again for the Dodgers. Gonzalez had a career year at the plate, but it has been his arm of all things that has been clutch in the postseason, as Marwin has cut down two runners at the plate. If Marwin’s bat can come to life, he is a difference-maker for the Astros.

Center Field

Astros: George Springer
Dodgers: Chris Taylor
Advantage: Dodgers

Taylor had a strong regular season, with 4.8 WAR and even 0.7 dWAR. The trade that brought him to Los Angeles looks more and more lopsided with each passing week. And Springer had an arguably better season, to the tune of 5.0 WAR and 34 home runs. But Springer’s swing is out of control in the playoffs; he’s trying to hit a homer with each swing and is missing too many pitches as a result. Taylor gets the nod as a result.

Right Field

Astros: Josh Reddick
Dodgers: Yasiel Puig
Advantage: Dodgers

Reddick has been a fun addition to the Astros, and his celebratory American flag banana hammock has been all over the internet in recent weeks. Unfortunately, his bat has been ice cold since he smacked a Craig Kimbrell heater to left field to give the Astros the lead in Game 4 of the ALDS. Puig, on the other hand, has matured into a well-rounded player and one of the game’s brightest stars. He’s hitting .414/.514/.655 this postseason and has shown no sign of slowing.

Bench

Astros: Evan Gattis, Carlos Beltran, Cameron Maybin, Derek Fisher
Dodgers: Curtis Granderson, Chase Utley, Yasmani Grandal, Joc Pederson
Advantage: Astros

Despite his struggles in the ALCS, Beltran remains the greatest postseason batter of his generation. Gattis hit the game-winning home run in Game 7 of the ALCS off C.C. Sabathia. Granderson is hitting .067 in the postseason so far, and Utley doesn’t yet have a hit. Pederson has game-changing power but only has five at bats so far in the playoffs.

Starting Pitching

Astros: Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander, Charlie Morton, Lance McCullers, Jr.
Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Rich Hill, Alex Wood
Advantage: Dodgers

Kershaw is the best pitcher in the league and is in his first World Series. Darvish is an international star who pitched well in the NLCS. Hill and Wood are guys who could be No. 1 or 2 starters on worse teams. The Astros are nearly as good in their rotation though. Keuchel and Verlander are the best 1-2 punch in the majors. Morton and McCullers combined for a Game 7 shutout on Saturday. The Astros will need more from their starters to be competitive because…

Bullpen

Astros: Ken Giles, Brad Peacock, Chris Devenski, Joe Musgrove
Dodgers: Kenlsey Jansen, Brandon Morrow, Kenta Maeda, Tony Watson
Advantage: Dodgers

…the Astros bullpen has been poor this postseason. Manager A.J. Hinch lost all confidence in his relievers after three disastrous games in New York, and only Giles has shown he’s worthy of trust. Jansen, on the other hand, is MLB’s best closer, and he, Morrow and Maeda combined to give up just one hit in 12 innings in the NLCS.

Prediction

The Dodgers are the better team; there’s no getting around that. If the script of this series follows those of others, the Astros will depend on their workhorses, Keuchel and Verlander, to shut down the opposition and put the team in a position to win the World Series in Houston in Game 5. The chances of closing out a championship grow slim if this series flips back to Los Angeles, but the Astros have the advantage of a championship-starved, disaster-stricken community rallying behind them. Minute Maid Park transformed into a rocking sea of orange this postseason, and the Astros are playing for Houston and a city in need of a distraction. Keuchel pitches on short rest to knock off Kershaw in Game 7 and deliver the Astros franchise their first World Series title.

Astros in 7.

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