The Kansas City Royals may not be in the World Series. That doesn’t mean our writers can’t take a look into the crystal ball to predict the Fall Classic. Here’s how our staff sees things playing out.
Four members of the Kings of Kauffman staff decided to predict the outcome of the World Series. While this would almost certainly be unanimous if the Kansas City Royals were participating, you wouldn’t expect a consensus when two of the top teams in the game are hashing it out.
However, that’s exactly what happened — with all four picking the Los Angeles Dodgers over the Houston Astros. The more stunning thing was that all four also picked Dave Roberts‘ team to win in exactly six games. Here’s how each writer came to that conclusion, including their picks for MVP (Don’t worry, there is some variety there.):
I’ve got the LA Dodgers winning the World Series in six games. The Dodgers have been dominant during their playoff run and have looked completely unbeatable at times. Clayton Kershaw is doing Clayton Kershaw things, and they’re getting production from seemingly every spot in the lineup.
I don’t see the Astros beating Kershaw at home in Game 1, which sets them in an early hole. Rich Hill has been really good at home in 2017 (7-5, 2.77 ERA). The lefty has held right-handed hitters to a .190 BAA, which plays favorably against a predominantly right-handed Houston lineup. I think the Dodgers will find a way to win one game in Houston, and then finish the Astros off in Game 6 with Hill again at home. I’ll take Justin Turner as my World Series MVP.
It’s hard to argue this isn’t one of the best World Series matchups in history with Houston (101 wins) and Los Angeles (104 wins) each winning over 100 games. According to USA Today, the last time two teams with 100-plus wins met in the Fall Classic came back in 1970 when Baltimore faced Cincinnati. While Cleveland pipped Houston to the top spot in the AL, it could be argued the Astros were the better team for a vast majority of the season.
This World Series will feature two solid pitching staffs, two offenses with power potential and two bullpens that have held strong in the postseason. However, in each of those categories the edge would have to go to the Dodgers. The biggest advantage would seem to be in the bullpen. Kenley Jansen has been the best closer in baseball this season, and he could be the difference in the series.
Houston hasn’t shown much of a propensity for winning on the road this postseason. The Astros are 1-4 away from home, while winning all six of their home games. With Los Angeles having home-field advantage, it wouldn’t be surprising for the Dodgers to take a 2-0 lead in Chavez Ravine. After a defeat or two in Minute Maid Park, the Dodgers will steal a game. That sets them up to close out the series at home, while avoiding a winner-take-all scenario.
Prediction: Dodgers in six; Jansen wins MVP.
This World Series is great in almost every way. Not only is it the rare Fall Classic that features arguably the two best regular-season teams from each league, but also both the Astros and Dodgers bring evidence to the biggest baseball stage that new-school methods work. Both teams show why committing to an organizational rebuild when necessary, then adding external pieces afterword, is absolutely a good idea.
After years of toiling at the bottom of the six-team NL Central and bottoming out in their first year in the AL West with 111 losses, the Astros have executed a rebuild nearly to perfection. After Jeff Luhnow took over as general manager in the 2011-12 offseason, he immediately set the Astros on the course that has led them to three straight winning seasons and their first pennant in 12 years.
He went a bit outside the box by drafting a Puerto Rican shortstop who was considered toolsy but raw first overall in 2012. That shortstop was Carlos Correa, who could easily finish second in AL MVP voting this year … to the guy who plays right next to him: Jose Altuve. Most good teams have a star or superstar player in the middle infield today. But no team matches the Mutt-and-Jeff-esque tandem that Houston boasts. Not even close.
Dallas Keuchel may not be Kershaw, but he’s still an ace-caliber lefty whose ground-ball tendencies fit his small home park perfectly. Throw in their brilliantly timed and executed external acquisitions: Justin Verlander, Josh Reddick, etc., and you’ve got all the ingredients for a south-Texas dynasty.
The Dodgers overhauled their organization half a decade ago: new ownership with deep pockets and a sports background, luring top baseball minds such as Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi, and signing an obscenely large TV contract that helped vault them to the top of the league in revenue. While their baseball muscle — i.e. money, location and prestige — allowed them to avoid a full-fledged teardown and rebuild on the field, their brass has gotten them to where they are now with excellent amateur acquisitions and player development. From drafting guys like Kershaw, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager and Joc Pederson, to signing top international talent at just the right time like Yasiel Puig and Kenta Maeda, Los Angeles has shown the ability to find the right guy every time.
What the Dodgers have done better than the Astros, and why I believe they will prevail, is find something where there appeared to be nothing. Chris Taylor was a little-known quadruple-A player with one big-league homer and huge strikeout issues who had never appeared in more than 50 games in a season. The Dodgers called him up for his defensive versatility after injuries struck. All he did was have a massive breakout season at age 27. He hit .288/.354/.496 with 21 homers and 17 stolen bases, all while logging time at five different positions as needed. Turner was a journeyman infielder with an iffy glove and practically no power until the Dodgers picked him up. He has been a mainstay at third base since 2015 with double-digit homers every year. Even complementary guys like Alex Wood and Josh Fields have upped their performances since being acquired on the cheap.
Prediction: Both teams have earned their way here. Both have what it takes to win, but the Dodgers have it a little bit more. From a comparative standpoint: Kershaw is better than Keuchel, Jansen is better than Ken Giles, Seager (assuming he’s healthy) and Correa are about equal and Altuve is the best position player on either roster. But the Dodgers have a better bench, a deeper bullpen and more depth in their rotation for the crucial road games in the middle of the series that could very well decide the winner. Dodgers in six; Bellinger wins MVP.
Coming off the thrilling Game 7 win in the ALCS, Houston seems to have the momentum in this series. However, the giant elephant in the room is the Astros’ hit-or-miss offense. Manager A.J. Hinch blamed the missing offense problem on how good the Yankees pitching staff is — not their own lack of depth. I have some unfortunate news for Hinch and his Astros. Not only are they staring at Kershaw in Game 1, but they must face a red-hot Yu Darvish, who sports a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 14:1 in the postseason, later in the series.
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Overall, the Dodgers’ staff strikes out a very high number of batters. With the clear underperformance of the Houston bats for the majority of the ALCS, this could make for a troubling matchup. On the other side of the coin, Houston could find confidence in their struggles if they look at if from a different perspective. Perhaps, if they can play their worst offensive baseball of the year and still advance, they should feel great about themselves. Maybe, they can therefore beat anyone. It will be fun to watch.
From the Los Angeles side of things, it’s about time. From the beginning, 2017 has been billed as finally being their year. The Dodgers have almost the perfect mix of resilient veterans and young talent. From Puig playing his best ball of his career, to the emergence of Bellinger and Taylor, to the heroics of Turner, to the addition of Seager, and to the clearly superior bullpen, the Dodgers have a lot of reasons to feel confident heading into this series. I haven’t even mentioned Kike Hernandez‘s three-homer showing in the decisive Game 5 of the NLCS. Yeah, this is their year.
Games: 6 — I think Houston takes a game or two at the Juice Box.
MVP: Chris Taylor
Given our surprisingly unanimous World Series prediction, there’s a good chance the Astros will give us a fair dosage of egg on our face.