After a hard-fought postseason to this point, we are down to just two teams to decide the World Series, and what a couple of teams we have here.
Of course, many could have predicted this one coming. The Red Sox led all of baseball with 108 wins while the Dodgers, albeit not on the smoothest path, were still looked upon as the team to beat in the National League, especially after their trade deadline moves.
Boston took care of the rival Yankees in four games in the ALDS before taking down the reigning champion Astros in the ALCS Best of 7 series. After losing Game 1 at home, the Red Sox rattled off four straight wins to oust the champs.
The Dodgers’ path to the World Series has been a little longer. First, they still had to decide the NL West division in game 163 with the Rockies, and they did so with a win. Next, the Dodgers took their Best of 5 NLDS series from the upstart Braves in four games. Finally, L.A. won this postseason’s most intense and entertaining series with their Game 7 victory over the Brewers in Milwaukee on Saturday night.
Thus, a couple of the more historic franchises in baseball meet in the 2018 World Series. While the Red Sox last won in 2013, the Dodgers are seeking their first World Series crown since 1988 when Tommy Lasorda’s group knocked off Tony La Rusa’s Oakland Athletics squad.
Now, Dave Roberts, infamous ALCS base running hero from the Red Sox 2004 World Series championship team, faces his old club in his second consecutive World Series appearance as manager of the Dodgers. In the other dugout, Alex Cora seeks a World Series championship in his first season as an MLB manager.
Not matter how you slice it, we couldn’t have asked for two better teams to make it to the dance.
With that in mind, let’s break down the makeup of these clubs before we make our prediction on who we think will come out on top as 2018 World Series champions.
Dodgers (+135) vs. Red Sox (-165) World Series Preview
Game 1: Tuesday, October 23rd 5:09 pm PT @ BOS
Game 2: Wednesday, October 24th 5:09 pm PT @ BOS
Game 3: Friday, October 26th 5:09 pm PT @ LAD
Game 4: Saturday, October 27th 5:09 pm PT @ LAD
*Game 5: Sunday, October 28th 5:15 pm PT @ LAD
*Game 6: Tuesday, October 30th 5:09 pm PT @ BOS
*Game 7: Wednesday, October 31st 5:09 pm PT @ BOS
Now, let’s glance in at both of these clubs and see who we should be laying our money on in the fall classic.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are built on power and starting pitching while their bullpen as held down the fort after some peaks and valleys in the regular season.
L.A. boasted the National League’s most powerful bats in the regular season as their .191 ISO mark was tops in the NL and second in the MLB to the Yankees and their .202 mark. Obviously, the Dodgers also paced the NL in homers with 235 of them on the campaign.
The home run ball ended up coming up big for the Dodgers again in these playoffs. In the first round, L.A. clubbed eight home runs in four games against the Braves. In the NLCS against Milwaukee, the Dodgers hit just five homers. However, they came at the right time as Cody Bellinger hit a two-run shot before Yasiel Puig hit a three-run shot to account for all five runs in the Dodgers’ Game 7 win at Miller Park.
While they aren’t completely reliant on the home run ball, the Dodgers can hurt you in a hurry with their power. They are never out of a game with the power they sport up and down that lineup.
Personally, I like the fact we are back to two teams who still use starting pitchers as this series will produce some dandy matchups.
The Dodgers’ rotation hasn’t been announced yet for this series, but it’s safe to say that all of Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Walker Buehler, and Rich Hill will all see at least one start in this one.
Buehler was impressive in coming back form a couple of rough outings in these playoffs to deliver a solid, albeit shortened outing in Game 7 with 4.2 innings of one-run ball to go along with seven strikeouts. As a staff, the Dodgers pitched to a 3.18 ERA in the NLCS, a figure I believe they would accept in this World Series as well.
Despite battling injuries for the vast majority of the season, this Dodgers rotation managed to finish second in baseball with a 3.19 ERA, just a few ticks behind the Astros and their 3.16 mark. As rocky of a road it might have been throughout the year with all of those injuries, the Dodgers’ starting rotation is healthy and firing when it matters most.
THE DODGERS’ BULLPEN:
Was a little bit of a question mark entering these playoffs. Kenley Jansen’s home run issues were especially concerning after yielding two home runs in the Dodgers’ game 163 win over the Rockies.
However, the Dodgers’ ‘pen allowed just five earned runs across 29 innings in the NLCS. Pedro Baez, Dylan Ferguson, Dylan Floro, and Jansen all did not allow an earned run in the series. For his part, Jansen silenced critics with 4.2 innings of one-hit ball to go along with seven strikeouts.
The L.A. ‘pen finished eighth in the regular season with a 3.72 ERA, however, that number was 2.88 over the month of September and that game 163 combined, so they were entering the playoffs on a high note despite the concerns with Jansen.
The Dodgers have displayed they can compete in all areas in these playoffs and it will be fun to see this pitching staff take on the MLB’s best offense in the World Series.
Boston Red Sox:
There just wasn’t an offense superior to the Red Sox this season.
No, Boston wasn’t the most powerful offense in the league, although their .185 team ISO still ranked fourth in the league and third in the AL. Their overall offense, best described using wOBA (weighted on-base average) ranked first with a .340 wOBA.
Boston also had the league’s best OPS at .792 and their 125 steals ranked third in baseball behind the Indians and Rays. This is a team that can both manufacture runs and hit for extra-base power.
Not too many clubs got more home runs from the first three hitters in their lineup as Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi and J.D. Martinez combined for 91 homers in the regular season. Betts and Martinez both hit for an OPS over 1.000 while Benintendi checked in at .830.
When we add in the under-the-radar elite season from shortstop Xander Bogaerts, the lefty-mashing Steve Pearce, the righty-mashing Mitch Moreland and the recent clutch postseason bat of Jackie Bradley Jr., the Red Sox lineup gets deep in a hurry and can hurt you at just about any spot. Of course, the Red Sox rotation isn’t too shabby itself as you don’t win 108 games without some starting pitching.
After an illness in the NLCS, Sale is the confirmed starter for Tuesday night’s Game 1 in Boston. Sale once again displayed Cy Young-caliber stuff again this year while finishing the regular season with a 2.11 ERA, 1.98 FIP and a whopping 38.4% strikeout clip. The only question with Sale will be how deep he can go as he hasn’t pitched more than 5.1 innings in a start since July 27th thanks to injuries down the stretch and that aforementioned NLCS stomach illness. It appeared he was ramping up his workload as the playoffs went on, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Red Sox bullpen was leaned on heavily in Game 1.
After Sale, it will be some order of David Price, Rick Porcello, and Nathan Eovaldi. Perhaps Cora will throw Roberts a curveball and use Eduardo Rodriguez as a starter, however, Rodriguez’s usage will depend on Sale’s Game 1 outing as he could be used as a piggy-back hurler in this one.
Eovaldi and Price were good in the league championship series against Houston, but Sale and Porcello didn’t enjoy much success.
THE RED SOX’S BULLPEN :
The Red Sox are, however, pretty deep in that bullpen. Craig Kimbrel’s ALCS struggles will be a storyline to keep an eye on here as the usually-dominant closer produced a 4.50 ERA in the ALCS after yielding a ghastly 11.57 mark in the ALDS against the Yankees, albeit that’s three earned runs allowed in 2.1 frames. At the end of the day, the Red Sox are going to need Kimbrel to shake off those outings in a hurry.
The remainder of the Boston ‘pen has been good as Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier, Heath Hembree and Joe Kelly have been spot on in these playoffs. Getting the ball to Kimbrel hasn’t been a problem for the Red Sox.
There just isn’t much to dislike about this club. The offense is going to be a handful. The starting pitching is good, but Sale’s stamina is of slight concern, as is Kimbrel’s recent display of work.
At the end of the day, The Boston Red Sox are still a very difficult club to beat.
Second time will be the charm for the Dodgers.
After heartbreaking Game 7 loss in last year’s World Series, the Dodgers made a concerted effort to get back to the dance in 2018, but this time win it.
Their efforts at the trade deadline indicated that. Grabbing the top prize in Manny Machado signaled they are most certainly all-in again this time around.
As deep as the Red Sox lineup is, the edge here goes to Los Angeles. Having a game-breaker such as Yasiel Puig hitting somewhere around the seven-hole illustrates how deep this group is. They have players who crush righties in Joc Pederson, Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger, Yasmani Grandal and Puig. They also have lefty-mashers in Justin Turner, Muncy, Kike Hernandez, and Machado. That said, most of these guys mash both sides.
The rotation matchup here also goes to the Dodgers in my opinion. The question marks with Sale’s ability to go deep combined with the inconsistencies of Price and Porcello gravely concern me here. The L.A. rotation wasn’t perfect in the NLCS, but Kershaw, Ryu, and Buehler have been some of the most consistent starting pitchers in the second half of this season and into the playoffs.
Lastly, the bullpen has been flat-out impressive. The shakier closer at this point is certainly Kimbrel as Jansen is entering this series full of confidence. The middle relievers for both of these clubs have been very good, so I will call that debate a wash.
I don’t want to call it destiny as consecutive World Series appearances by no means guarantees victory, however, the Dodgers have fought through a lot this season to get to this point.
The injuries to the starting pitching have been mentioned. They lost bright young shortstop Corey Seager for the season early in the year. They survived a three-team division race for the majority of the year to win the west in game 163.
Now, they’re in the World Series with the odds stacked against them again. I think it’s the Dodgers’ year and I will take them at odds that provide excellent value in the process.