MLB: Breaking Down the 2018 World Series

Third basemen Mike Moustakas stepped into the box on a historically crisp Milwaukee night. Like the current atmosphere in the stadium and the weather outside of the closed-in confines of Miller Park, Moustakas’s bat was chillingly cold. Moustakas dug in against L.A. superstar Clayton Kershaw sporting a putrid .138 batting average on the current postseason, and with the Brewers behind 5-1 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, the city of Milwaukee hung their hopes upon this difficult to read slash line. The lefty Kershaw delivered to Moustakas, a lefty himself – ballgame.

An outside paint fastball from the Dodgers ace completed their game seven vanquishing of the Brewers, and sent L.A. to their second consecutive World Series. The occasion was incredibly joyous – the L.A. headlines had exclamation points dotted with champagne, coupled with countless congratulatory videos by celebrities and the new king of L.A. himself. Once festivities died down, however, the Blue Crew and their faithful had one painful realization – their voyage was far from over. There is still one daunting hurdle left to leap – the one hundred and eight win Boston Red Sox.

A few states east of the NLCS’s game seven, MVP frontrunners Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, and co. rested up for whomever their upcoming opponent was to be.

The team hadn’t had any job to do but to relax and stay ready to play, as they had just finished making quick work of the defending champion Astros, grabbing the American League crown after just five games. Keep in mind, this came after they answered the Yankees’ “We Want Boston!” chants with a quick 3-1 series defeat in the ALDS.

Boston was seen as the World Series favorite long before the postseason even began, however – they snagged their franchise wins record when they beat their previous record of 106, and ended up at 108-54.

So, the question then arises – does the bat-swingin’ blue man group from Hollywood have any chance to defeat the wicked-good squad from Boston? To delve into the MLB’s biggest showdown of the year, we’ll go over the three big engines that run every MLB troupe – the starting pitching, the lineup, and the bullpen – to decide who’s got the advantage in the 2018 MLB World Series.

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The Starting Pitching

Obviously, pitching is massively important to any baseball team’s championship odds. With that, a team’s starting rotation is essential to setting the tone as well as keeping the bullpen as rested as possible. The easiest way to compare these squad’s starting fives is to put their team ERA’s up next to each other.

Boston’s Starting Rotation

*Eduardo Rodriguez is Boston’s #5 pitcher, but thus far in the postseason, he has been exclusively used out of the bullpen. As such, he will not be included in their starting rotation.

  • Chris Sale: 37 earned runs, 158 innings pitched/ Postseason: 4 earned runs, 10.1 innings pitched/ ERA: 2.10, Postseason ERA: 3.56
  • David Price: 70 earned runs, 176 innings pitched/ Postseason: 7 earned runs, 12.1 innings pitched/ ERA: 3.57, Postseason ERA: 5.20
  • Rick Porcello: 91 earned runs, 191.1 innings pitched/ Postseason: 5 earned runs, 10.2 innings pitched/ ERA: 4.28, Postseason ERA: 4.41
  • Nathan Eovaldi: 47 earned runs, 111 innings pitched/ Postseason: 3 earned runs, 14.1 innings pitched/ ERA: 3.81, Postseason ERA: 1.91
  • Compiled Starting Rotation ERA: 3.46, Postseason ERA: 3.62

As can be told by the stats, Boston boasts a quality pitching rotation that has rightfully been a crucial factor in carrying them to and through the postseason. They have a true ace in the dominating presence of Sale, backed by a veteran trio of Price, Porcello, and the late season addition Eovaldi. He has been a sort of postseason hero for Boston as he has won in both starts, while allowing just one run in his first start, and two in his second.

Los Angeles’ Starting Rotation

*Alex Wood is Los Angeles’ #5 pitcher, but thus far in the postseason, he has been exclusively used out of the bullpen. As such, he will not be included in their starting rotation.

  • Clayton Kershaw: 49 earned runs, 161.1 innings pitched/ Postseason: 5  earned runs, 19 innings pitched/ ERA: 2.73, Postseason ERA: 2.36
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu: 18 earned runs, 82.1 innings pitched/ Postseason: 7 earned runs, 14.1 innings pitched/ ERA: 1.97, Postseason ERA:  4.46
  • Walker Buehler: 40 earned runs, 137.1 innings pitched/ Postseason: 10 earned runs, 16.2 innings pitched/ ERA: 2.62, Postseason ERA: 5.55
  • Rich Hill: 54 earned runs, 132.2 innings pitched/ Postseason: 3 earned runs, 10.1 innings pitched/ ERA: 3.67, Postseason ERA: 2.67
  • Compiled Starting Rotation ERA: 2.82, Postseason ERA: 3.74

The numbers tell the whole story with this group of arms. The Dodgers have a shining rotation. Kershaw has faded a bit in recent years, but still is a yearly Cy Young candidate, not to mention his permanent place in the conversation of best pitcher of all-time. Behind him are veterans Ryu, who was actually the top pitcher in their run, as well as Hill. Star rookie Buehler rounds out the group, though he has been working through some post season struggles.

The starting pitching battle between these two is close, but it goes to the Red Sox. Their rotation is filled with veteran experience, and although the Dodgers sport a very seasoned group of starters themselves, Boston’s uber-strong lineup and home field advantage may prove to be too much for Los Angeles to handle.

Advantage: Boston 

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The Lineups

The starting lineups between these two squads are absolutely star-studded. Both squads led their respective leagues in total runs. The Dodgers led their league in total home runs as well. Comparisons will be made between each team’s total slash line, with some nods to individual players, to decide which club has the upper hand within the batter’s box.

Boston’s Team Batting Line

Team batting average: .268/ Total home runs: 208/ Team On-base Percentage: .339

Individual leaders:

  • Batting average: Mookie Betts, .346
  • Home Runs: J.D. Martinez, 43
  • On-base Percentage: Mookie Betts, .438

Betts for AL MVP is the general consensus around the league and with a look at even the most basic stats, it’s easy to see why. Betts has been putting up video-game numbers this year and has been integral to his team’s success. Combined with the huge power of J.D. Martinez and the young duo of Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi, the heart of this lineup is virtually unstoppable.

Los Angeles’ Team Batting Line

Team batting average: .250/ Total home runs: 235/ Team On-base Percentage: .333

Individual leaders:

  • Batting average: Justin Turner, .312
  • Home Runs: Max Muncy, 35
  • On-base Percentage: Justin Turner, .406

One huge factor to the Dodgers’ postseason success currently and in recent years has been the performance of Turner. He flashes a .310 career postseason batting average and has been a strong point for the boys in blue season after season. Muncy has been an unexpected treat for L.A. this year as he has contributed huge power to the team during his third MLB tenure. Behind those two, a resurgent Kemp and the continuously improving Seager help to round out the brightest spots of what is a very dangerous lineup. Oh, and yeah – they picked up some shortstop named Manny Machado.

It’s difficult to find weaknesses in either one of these lineups, considering that one through nine, each team can employ strong players that can go off during any given game for their club. The difference between these squads can be found with some light digging – it’s within their strikeout and stolen base numbers. L.A. has amassed 183 more strikeouts than Boston over the course of the season, while putting together a batting average that is eighteen points lower.

Along with that, Boston stole 50 more bags over the course of the season, as well as putting together a stolen base percentage that is five percent better than that of the Dodgers. In close games, Boston has done a better job in their ability to play small ball and get traffic on the base paths to create runs. For that reason, the lineup advantage goes to Boston.

Advantage: Boston 

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The Bullpens

The players that each team deploys in the final innings of their games have got to be strong-minded, skilled, and most of all, clutch. There are countless examples of the moment being too big for the player, which gets them placed on the long list of competitors who’ve fallen victim to the rigorous environment of the MLB’s postseason.

The question is, which team’s back-end pitchers will prove clutch enough to carry their team to the top? To answer this, we’ll look at each team’s two major set up guys, as well as their closer, along with their team bullpen stats as a whole.

Boston’s Bullpen Stats

Regular Season ERA: 3.72, Batting Average Allowed: .232, Strikeouts: 628

Postseason ERA: 3.62, Batting Average Allowed: .193, Strikeouts: 35

  • Ryan Brasier – Regular Season ERA: 1.60, Innings Pitched: 33.2, Strikeouts: 29/ Postseason ERA: 0.00, Innings Pitched: 7.0, Strikeouts: 6
  • Matt Barnes – Regular Season ERA: 3.65, Innings Pitched: 61.2, Strikeouts: 96/ Postseason ERA: 1.42, Innings Pitched: 6.1, Strikeouts: 5
  • (CL) Craig Kimbrel – Regular Season ERA: 2.74, Innings Pitched: 62.1, Strikeouts: 96/ Postseason ERA: 7.11, Innings Pitched: 6.1, Strikeouts: 8

The number that sticks out here is pretty blatant – an atrocious 7.11 ERA by the supposed “star” closer, Craig Kimbrel. He’s let in a run in four of his six postseason appearances, though he was able to turn in a clean inning in his most recent trip to the mound. Brasier has been a commodity for the Sox, as he has been a star in the ‘pen for them since being called up in early July. Finally, Barnes, in his fifth year for the Sox, has turned up his game in this year’s postseason, slicing his ERA in more than half.

Los Angeles’ Bullpen Stats

Regular Season ERA: 3.72, Batting Average Allowed: .229,  Strikeouts: 625

Postseason ERA: 1.30, Batting Average Allowed: .180, Strikeouts: 51

  • Pedro Baez – Regular Season ERA: 2.88, Innings Pitched: 56.1, Strikeouts: 62/ Postseason ERA: 0.00, Innings Pitched: 6.2, Strikeouts: 10
  • Ryan Madson – Regular Season ERA: 5.47, Innings Pitched: 52.2, Strikeouts: 54/ Postseason ERA: 1.42, Innings Pitched: 6.1, Strikeouts: 6
  • (CL) Kenley Jansen – Regular Season ERA: 3.01, Innings Pitched: 71.2, Strikeouts: 82/ Postseason ERA: 0.00, Innings Pitched: 6.2, Strikeouts: 10

The odd one out in this crew is certainly Madson. His regular season was arduous, to say the least – he sported a 5.28 ERA in his time with the Nationals, and once traded, that ERA ballooned to 5.47 with the Dodgers. He’s turned it around in the postseason in a big way, however, allowing just one run over 6.1 innings of work. On the contrary, Baez had a productive regular season which has continued to roll into the postseason. Established closer Jansen has had another grand year, placing second in the NL in saves.

While both squads have dominant bullpens, the Dodgers have a clear advantage over Boston for a few different reasons. Firstly, Kimbrel’s postseason career has not been a particularly great one. He has a career postseason ERA of 3.86, and has a history of being a streaky closer. So far this postseason, his streak has not been a good one.

In comparison, Jansen has a 1.85 career postseason ERA, and has slammed the door in every opportunity presented to him thus far. Along with that, the Dodgers have a habit of pulling Kershaw out of the bullpen when their relievers need rest, and he usually delivers when his team needs him most.

Advantage: Los Angeles 

This World Series will certainly be one to remember. With talented rosters, a team who hasn’t won it all in thirty years, and a club looking to put an exclamation point on their winningest season, it’s difficult to choose one side as the group with more of an advantage. However, the Red Sox arrive into the final round of the postseason with guns blazing and, based on the breakdown above, should win the pennant.

Overall Advantage: Boston 

Prediction to Win: Boston in 6

 

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