The Dodgers and Astros have been on a collision course all season long. The two clubs had nearly identical league-leading records at the All-Star break and went on historic tears during the second half of the season. The Dodgers, in particular, became baseball’s team of destiny after putting together the best 50-game stretch in Major League history. The Astros, not to be outdone, set new franchise records in batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, runs, and hits. Both teams finished the regular season with more than 100 wins and now are the only obstacles standing in each other’s path.
The match-up that Alex Rodriguez is calling “Goliath vs. Goliath” begins on Tuesday night in Los Angeles, and the betting action surrounding the series has already been hot and heavy. Westgate has listed the Dodgers as a -140 favorite and many of Vegas’ biggest sportsbooks are already taking in five and six-figure wagers.
Before you lay down any of your own hard-earned cash, we recommend checking out our 2017 World Series preview. We’ve watched hours of game-film and pored over voluminous scouring reports to give you a clear cut idea of who will come out on top.
Astros: We may go another thirty years before witnessing an offensive juggernaut like the Astros. Houston led the Majors with a .282 batting average during the regular season and was first in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, runs, and run-scoring percentage. They were also second in home runs behind only the Yankees. Five Astros batted over .300, and seven had 18 or more home runs and 70 or more RBIs. Pity the pitchers who have to face them over a seven-game series.
Dodgers: The Dodgers’ pitching was so dominant throughout 2017 that it was easy to overlook the team’s offensive shortcomings. L.A. was 21st in the Majors in batting average, 11th in homers, 12th in runs and RBIs, and eighth in slugging percentage and OPS. Fortunately, the bats have been a little livelier since the end of September. The team is second to the Yankees in postseason runs and home runs, and they outscored the Cubs 28-8 in the NLCS.
The Dodgers have plenty of players capable of big nights, but the Astros have a far deeper lineup with considerably more pop. George Springer, Josh Reddick, Jose Altuve, and Carlos Correa are a modern day’s Murder’s Row and should be worth a victory or two.
Astros: The Astros were in the bottom third in defense during the regular season, ranking 20th in errors and 21st in fielding percentage. Jose Altuve and Dallas Keuchel are both gold glovers, but beyond that, the Astros focus on beating opponents from the batter’s box rather than in the field.
Dodgers: The Dodgers fared slightly better, although not by a wide margin. L.A. ranked 12th in errors and 13th in fielding percentage.
The Astros had more putouts and assists, but the Dodgers were slightly more reliable. That can count for a lot when two teams are so evenly matched.
Astros: Any discussion about the Astros’ pitching prowess begins with Justin Verlander. The 6’5” righty is undefeated since being acquired from Detroit on August 31 and has easily been the team’s most consistent starter. His set the tone against Boston in the ALDS by out-dueling Chris Sale in Game 1. He then pitched a complete game in Game 2 of the ALCS, followed by seven shutout innings in the pivotal Game 6, earning MVP honors in the process. Filling out the rotation is 2015 Cy Young-winner Dallas Keuchel (who will start Game 1), 14-game winner Charlie Morton, and (potentially) All-Star Lance McCullers Jr. Though manager AJ Hinch may see more value in having McCullers come out of the pen, which would mean Brad Peacock and his .867 winning percentage would round out the rotation.
Dodgers: As daunting as Verlander and Keuchel may be, the Dodgers possess superior depth from top to bottom. LA’s starters led the league in BAA and were second in ERA, walks, and shutouts. Leading the way, as usual, was Clayton Kershaw, who finished the season with 18 wins despite missing a month with a back strain. He’s picked up two more victories in October in starts against the Diamondbacks and Cubs, and is the backbone of the team’s rock-solid rotation. Kershaw (the Game 1 starter) will be followed by Rich Hill in Game 2, four-time All-Star Yu Darvish in Game 3, and 16-game winner Alex Wood in Game 4. It’s the best rotation outside of Cleveland and it could earn the Dodgers their first title since 1988.
The Dodgers have the chance to succeed where the Yankees and Red Sox failed by shutting down the Astros’ high-octane offense. It should also be noted that, as brilliant as Verlander has been, his two previous trips to the Fall Classic have not ended well. The two-time Cy Young-winner is 0-3 with a 7.20 ERA in three World Series starts.
Astros: The Astros’ bullpen could be the team’s Achilles heel. Houston’s relievers finished 2017 with a 4.27 ERA and 22 losses, and had a nasty habit of allowing teams back into close games. Their inability to hold onto leads has clearly spooked AJ Hinch, and the fifth-year manager has turned to starters Verlander and McCullers in some critical moments this postseason (with varied success). Don’t be surprised if McCullers and Collin McHugh come out of the pen during the World Series as Hinch tightens up his rotation even more.
Dodgers: As good as the Dodgers’ bullpen was during the regular season, it’s been even better in the playoffs. LA’s relievers held the Cubs scoreless during the NLCS and have given up just four runs in the month of October. Brandon Morrow and Kenley Johnson have been spectacular, as expected, but the real surprise has been the emergence of starter Kenta Maeda as a set-up man. The Japanese hurler has been virtually unhittable since moving to the pen and has compiled a 2-0 record and a 0.00 ERA in five postseason appearances.
If the Dodgers have a clear-cut advantage over the Astros, it’s their bullpen. The team’s relivers have been lights out all season and have continued their dominance in October. If L.A.’s starters can keep things close, their pen should be able to finish the job.
Astros: The Astros ranked eighth in the Majors in stolen bases during the regular season, and have a pair of thoroughbreds in Altuve and Alex Bregman. The two swiped 32 and 17 bags, respectively, and possess the kind of speed to give opposing pitchers fits.
Dodgers: The Dodgers finished the regular season well beneath the league average in stolen bases with just 77. That number is more of a reflection on LA’s conservative approach rather than an indictment of the team’s speed. Players like Chris Taylor, Yasiel Puig, and even Cody Bellinger can all run, but they don’t always get the green light.
Neither team is known for tearing up the base paths, but Houston does have a slight advantage. The Astros have shown a far greater willingness to gamble to manufacture runs.
Astros: We could get cute and tell you this series is going to come down to baserunning or each team’s fifth starter, but we all know that the key to an Astros championship is Altuve. The 5’6 dynamo is hitting .400 with five home runs and eight RBIs in October, and single-handedly triggered pivotal wins over the Red Sox and Yankees. He may be the smallest player on the diamond, but he’s Houston’s biggest difference maker by a huge margin.
Dodgers: LA’s chances may resting squarely on the wonky back of Corey Seager. The two-time All-Star sat out the entirety of the NLCS after suffering a minor back injury against the Diamondbacks. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is confident Seager will be available on Tuesday evening, but there’s a big difference between being available and being able to contribute. Expect him to pinch hit during the first two games in LA and to DH when the series moves to Houston.
Seager is a dynamite player, but we’ll take a healthy Altuve over a banged-up Seager any day of the week.
As potent as the Astros may be, the World Series is generally decided by great pitching rather than great hitting. The Dodgers have a better rotation and a vastly superior bullpen and should be able to shut down the Astros when it matters most. This one will be close, but we’re picking Dodgers in seven.