2018 World Series Preview

We got what should of happened.  This whole MLB season was based around one question: Who was Boston going to play in the World Series?

The AL was a powerhouse all season, with Boston reigning as king.  At one point, it felt like either Boston, Houston, the Yankees or Cleveland could be in the World Series.  Even with all that competition though, the Red Sox still felt better than all of them.  It just felt like their year.

But who am I to talk?  I picked the Astros over the Red Sox in the ALCS, citing Houston’s dominant rotation as the deciding factor.  To be fair, I did have it going seven, which meant I gave Boston a good chance.

But Boston proved me quite wrong.  The Red Sox were so much better than I even thought they were.  Once again, it just felt right.  The Red Sox should be here.

The Dodgers path was a little more confusing.  The NL felt wide open all season; no one really pulled away.  I thought the Cubs were the best team in the regular season, but Milwaukee’s extremely late rise knocked Chicago out all together.

The Dodgers were high on that totem pole.  Every NL team had a serious flaw; the Dodgers’ was their inconsistent bullpen and their ability to lose games they shouldn’t have lost.

But if you were going to rank NL teams in August based off their World Series potential, the Dodgers were probably 2nd on that list.  All the superstars, the experience and lack of competition got them to that honor.  And it got them here, to the World Series itself, too.

World Series: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Boston Red Sox

Because the Red Sox offense obliterated the best pitching staff in baseball, we might have to look at this series in a bit of a different way.

In the postseason, we always talk about pitching, pitching and more pitching.  Offense doesn’t matter.  You need above average starters and an elite bullpen to win the World Series.

But Boston has reinvented that idea.  They flipped the script into one that had a couple caveats to that ideology, like “An offense that’s REALLY good can matter in the postseason” or “An offense that has two MVP candidates can matter in the playoffs.”  Essentially, Boston’s offense is such a different beast that even the best pitchers can’t get by it.

The offense bailed them out of what was a classic David Price start (That narrative might have also changed a little bit) in Game 2, with Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts and Rafael Devers getting to Gerrit Cole.  Good pitching is… good.  But great hitters can beat it.

The Red Sox offense has been so ridiculous that Jackie Bradley Jr. managed a grand slam off of Roberto Osuna in Game 4.  Jackie Bradley Jr!  Off one of the nastiest relievers in baseball!

They did what great offenses do in Game 4, and that was take down an average pitcher.  They got to Charlie Morton, who didn’t last very long, and then the blazing Josh James, who left a couple fastballs high that Boston capitalized on.  James’ removal led to a meltdown from practically everyone in the Astros bullpen.  The Red Sox just kept piling and piling.

And they piled it on the staff in baseball.  The Dodgers certainly aren’t that.

Dodgers pitchers gave up the 9th highest home run-to-fly ball rate in the majors this season (I know I’m reusing that statistic.  I couldn’t find the postseason numbers anywhere) and the 5th highest groundball rate.  The bottom line: The Dodgers gave up a lot of contact this season.

Boston’s offense feeds off contact.  What made them one of the most prolific offenses in years was their ability to hit the long ball and score with base hits; they have a beautiful mix of contact and power hitters.  Boston’s offense had the 5th highest medium contact rate in the majors this season.  That means they didn’t kill the ball, but didn’t hit it soft either.  The Red Sox had the 2nd lowest soft contact rate in the majors and the 19th highest hard contact rate.  Talk about balance…

If anything was going to help the Dodgers case in this series, it was the stats.  And they don’t help.  Every indicator says that Boston should be able to pound the Dodgers staff.  If we stick to our guts, that’s what we get too.

The Dodgers rotation has not been one we could totally trust this postseason.  Walker Buehler had me nervous due to his age, and that came through against Atlanta and partially against Milwaukee in Game 3, where Buehler made it far but surrendered all four runs which won the Brewers the game with.  There were no meltdown moments from him in the NLCS, which is a good sign.  LA has him scheduled to start Game 3, which will be in Dodger Stadium.  That bodes a lot better than a 23 year old starting a World Series game in Fenway.

Still, Buehler against this Red Sox lineup is scary.  And there’s still more concerning elements to worry about.

For awhile, it felt like the Dodgers were going to get a good Clayton Kershaw in the postseason for the first time ever.  The playoff meltdown wasn’t gonna come.

But of course it did, and it got kicked off with a Brandon Woodruff home run in Game 1 of the series.

Kershaw rebounded with a gem in Game 5, but that doesn’t necessarily soothe the soul.  The Red Sox smacked Verlander and Cole, who were about as trustworthy as they got in October.  Kershaw’s 2-1 this postseason (That’s not using the W-L statistic, it’s using a good start vs. bad start formula) so far.  Doesn’t that mean he’s probably due?

We’re halfway through the Dodgers rotation and can’t trust anyone

Hyun-Jin Ryu has been iffy as well  He was lights out in Game 1 of the NLDS, pitched well in Game 2 against Milwaukee, and was then shelled in Game 6.  Game 6 turned into a disaster quickly.  Ryu kept throwing his breaking ball, which he didn’t have all night.  The Brewers got to it by capitalizing on its hang, and slugged him through a short three innings.

Rich Hill’s been fine this postseason, but it’s hard to say that “fine” is gonna work against the Red Sox.  Boston hasn’t hit the curveballs that Hill throws very well this season though.   According to FanGraphs’ Linear Pitch Hit Weights statistic; the finished 12th in the majors.  The Dodgers finished 11th.

LA’s bullpen looks great so far.  They haven’t been too overworked, as Dave Roberts did a good job managing once again in the NLCS.  They made an interesting decision with the roster by removing Caleb Ferguson and replacing him with Scott Alexander.  Ferguson has been fantastic in this postseason; Alexander was too in his limited innings against Atlanta.  Both have been great, and the Dodgers feel better about Alexander for whatever reason.  It seems a little odd to change things up now though.  Why fix something that’s not broken?

You could make a similar case with the Red Sox.  They removed Brandon Workman and slapped Drew Pomeranz on the roster, who isn’t exactly the most trustworthy pitcher either.   In his only appearance during the ALCS though, Workman was shelled, giving up four runs and only getting one out.  He needed to be removed. But going with Pomeranz over Steven Wright to replace him doesn’t necessarily make up for it; Pomeranz has just as good of a chance to have a meltdown on the mound.

Even though the Pomeranz addition doesn’t really strike my fancy, the Red Sox bullpen is still really good.  Ryan Brasier has been lockdown; so has Matt Barnes.  I like Joe Kelly too; his two-seamer has ridiculous movement at an incredible velocity (He can easily touch 100 on it).  That’s three relievers who are great out of the Boston pen.  Do the Dodgers have guys we can consider “great”?

Not really.  They’re just all really good.  Calling anyone great in the Dodgers pen is a stretch.  Kenley Jansen should get that honor, but the home run issues scare me, especially against this Boston lineup.  He was good against Milwaukee, an even more prolific home run hitting team than Boston, but as we explained above, the Red Sox don’t just score via the long ball.  They can get contact or hit it out, and that’s against anyone.

The bullpens are both pretty even, but I side with Boston’s.  They have more impact guys; you could argue the Dodgers have none.

This preview is written in Boston’s favor, and they are my pick to win.  But the Dodgers have some things going their way.  We’ve seen everything David Price has to offer so far this postseason.  He had a classic David Price postseason start in Game 2 of both series’; as he was shelled by Houston and the Yankees’ lineup.  Wins and losses are not used by me for obvious reasons, but if there was one W-L that was 100% accurate, it was David Price’s 0-9 postseason record before Game 5.

In Game 5, Price got his stuff together and earned his first playoff win ever.  Of course that’s the way Houston had to get knocked out.  Baseball, man.

So with Price, we’re 1-2 this postseason in terms of good starts and bad starts.  Averages say he’s due for a good start again, but this is David Price we’re talking about.  Do we ever see that good of a playoff outing from him again?

One Dodgers win in this series comes off of him.  There’s just no way David Price is slinging two good postseason starts together.

The Dodgers can pull another one.  Maybe it’s the Ryu outing, or it could come from Boston’s side.  Rick Porcello hasn’t been great this postseason (As I warned of coming in); perhaps the Dodgers can get to him.  He’s also a righty, which the Dodgers love to hit (I never like to use righty/lefty stats; I don’t think it matters much.  But in cases like the Dodgers where the difference in the numbers is so huge, it does matter.  They’ve had trouble hitting lefties for years now.  Very odd).  Porcello’s start could be a 2nd win for LA in this series; it’s also possible Kershaw outduels Sale tonight.  With Kershaw, we just never know.

I attempted to go against Boston last series and failed.  I didn’t want to do it; as I said above, they felt like the team that was going to win this thing all year.  I thought the matchup favored Houston, but Boston powered through and now looks unstoppable.  I think this series is a quick one, as this year’s team of destiny finishes the job.

Prediction: Red Sox in 5