Posted on October 21, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
The participants in the 2019 World Series have been decided. In one corner are the Houston Astros of the American League. They began the postseason as the top seed in the AL and endured difficult series with the Rays and Yankees to reach the Fall Classic for the second time in three years. In the other corner are the Washington Nationals, a Wild Card team that knocked off the Brewers, the favored Dodgers, and the Cardinals to reach the World Series for the first time in franchise history. The Astros are heavy favorites to win their second championship in three years and are actually the biggest World Series favorites in over a decade. But things in baseball are rarely that simple, so let’s take a closer look at how these teams match up against one another.
Offense – Push
During the regular season, the Astros had one of the most potent lineups in baseball, but they’ve been a little sluggish during the postseason. Jose Altuve has been a monster and Alex Bregman has had his moments, but the rest of Houston’s hitters have been wildly inconsistent. Those are the only two hitters with an OPS over .700 during the playoffs. The good news is that the Astros have plenty of players who could wake up and get hot in time for the World Series. But they’re going to need at least a couple of players to step up and support Altuve and Bregman.
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The Nationals have actually averaged more runs per game during the postseason than Houston. Anthony Rendon has been red hot, hitting .375 in the playoffs. Howie Kendrick, the NLCS MVP, has also come through with a lot of big hits. The Nationals have gotten a little bit out of nearly every position during their 10 playoff games, making the Washington lineup well-balanced. The Nationals don’t have as much upside as Houston’s lineup, but they’ve been a little better in October and will benefit from adding a DH for part of the series.
Rotation – Advantage Nationals
It’s a little shocking to hear, but the Astros don’t have the best rotation heading into the World Series. Both Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg have performed at a high level during the playoffs. Anibal Sanchez has also surprised everyone and added to the depth of Washington’s rotation. The X-factor is Patrick Corbin, who has had his ups and downs in October while pulling double duty as both starter and reliever. However, he showed promise in his last outing, striking out 12 over five innings before running out of steam. If he can keep that up, the Nationals will have four reliable starters.
As good as Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole have been all year, those two alone can’t match up against Washington’s quartet. Cole, in particular, has been dazzling, allowing just one run on 10 hits over 22.2 innings. Houston’s problem is that they don’t have a no. 4 starter, and they may not even have a no. 3 starter given Zack Greinke’s struggles in October. Greinke started to get it together in his last start, but he only lasted 4.1 innings, walking four in that short outing. The Astros will need to continue to rely on Verlander and Cole to carry them and hope that’s enough.
Bullpen – Advantage Astros
To be fair, Washington’s bullpen has been less of a liability than it was during the regular season. But the fact that Scherzer, Strasburg, and Corbin have combined for five relief outings in the playoffs shows how little the Nationals trust their bullpen depth. If the Nationals need to get more than one or two outs from relievers other than Daniel Hudson and Sean Doolittle, they’re playing with fire. The good news is that those two have been reliable in October.
Houston’s bullpen goes a little deeper than the Washington bullpen, which gives them a slight edge in this department. Ryan Pressly is a concern after struggling early in the postseason and getting hurt in the ALCS. However, Roberto Osuna and Will Harris are trustworthy at the back end. Joe Smith and Josh James have also given the Houston bullpen a nice boost. Brad Peacock and Jose Urquidy have also proven useful, so the Astros have plenty of depth, giving them a distinct advantage over the Nationals if the series includes a game that goes deep into extra innings.
Prediction – Astros in 6
It goes without saying that both teams have been impressive on their way to the World Series. However, the Astros are the better team when they’re playing at their best. They also have the home-field advantage while the Nationals had a chance to cool down during an extended layoff. Washington’s excellent pitching probably won’t be as effective against the Astros as it was against a pitiful St. Louis lineup in the NLCS. Houston’s lineup should mitigate Washington’s biggest strength and the Nationals aren’t quite good enough in other areas to measure up to the Astros in a long series. Houston wins in six games.
Note: This prediction is the opinion of the author and not necessarily the prediction of Jon Price or Sports Information Traders.