By: Ryan Smithers
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, it’s not Christmas. It’s the World Series! Okay everyone, hold back your excitement. It may just be me, but I love the World Series because of the Twitter fights, actual fights, and especially all the fake fans that crawl out of their holes. It really is the perfect blend to the yearly cup of joe.
This year, the World Series is featuring the back-to-back defending National League Champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the back-to-back first-round losers, the Boston Red Sox. Just by looking at their records, you’ll see that the Red Sox have got the Dodgers beat. However, that’s how baseball normies look at baseball “stats.” The real intellectuals would go position by position, starter by starter, and reliever by reliever to see who has the real edge. I won’t waste your time with all that now, but I’ll try to sum it up for you in this article.
By comparing just the outfield offensively, the Red Sox lead that category by a wide margin. Their outfield is loaded with rising offensive stars like Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, and occasionally Jackie Bradley Jr. Talk about a scary sight! I feel like the Dodgers’ outfielders give off a weird vibe. It’s not that a lineup of Matt Kemp/Joc Pederson, Kiké Hernández, and Yasiel Puig isn’t intimidating. It’s just that these guys are always inconsistent. I won’t go into the statistics of each, but I’ll just say that one of these players is 34 years old, one is 5’11”, and two of them have been sent down to the minor league in the past two seasons. Compare only that to the league leaders in batting average and home runs in Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, then you should see why the Sox have that advantage.
The infield match-up is pretty even on both sides of the ball. Of course, you have your stars like Manny Machado, Cody Bellinger, and Justin Turner for the Dodgers, and then Xander Bogaerts for the Red Sox. But the playoffs play tricks on the minds of young stars, as they all seem to become human again in October. The only notable stat here is that Dodgers’ shortstop Manny Machado has 32 RBIs in 48 career games at Boston’s Fenway Park. That’s his most in any opposing ballpark, which opens as a good story heading into the World Series.
Fielding plays a bigger part in the playoffs than you think. Errors play a huge part on the game come playoff time, as they could shift the momentum of the whole series. Though I believe both teams won’t have any problems this series, it’s important to note that the Dodgers have committed 7 errors this postseason compared to the Red Sox’s 3. It’s really hard to point out a huge difference in each team’s defense. Both teams have enough guys to make a play, and that’s all that should matter here.
Starting rotations seem to become more see-through when entering the postseason, and that’s certainly accurate for the Sox and Dodgers. Each rotation in the league has “that guy” that only struggles in high-leverage situations. Chris Sale of the Red Sox will get the nod in Game 1 against the Dodgers’ horse, Clayton Kershaw. You could make a case for both players on why they’re the most dominating pitcher in the league, but when it comes to playoff performance, it knocks them down. Out of six starts in the postseason, Chris Sale is 3-3 with a 6.00 ERA (earned run average). For those that don’t understand, that’s not very good for one of the best pitchers in the league. It’s even more of a struggle for Clayton Kershaw, who is 9-9 with a 4.28 ERA in 23 postseason starts. This may be a decent stat line for a game 3 or 4 starter, but to get these results out of a 3x Cy Young award winner? I’d suggest that some changes should be made. That’s the thing with it, though. Both of these guys are unstoppable throughout the regular season, but come postseason, they can’t seem to find their rhythm. These are must-win games when these slingers are on the mound.
As for the rest of the rotations, each team has a pitcher that can completely shove when he wants to. Let me repeat that. WHEN HE WANTS TO. All it takes is a solid 1st inning to get the ball rolling for your team, and that’s what seems to be a problem in most playoff rotations.
Your team’s bullpen may be the only thing that matters in the playoffs, and that’s a good sign for these two teams. In the regular season, the Red Sox and Dodgers had the same bullpen ERA of 3.72, which is about league average. I’m sure the Dodgers will gladly accept that considering all the injuries to their bullpen this season. But that means it’s only natural for them to have the most dominating bullpen in the playoffs, right? I guess so. The Dodgers’ bullpen has been lights-out so far this postseason with a 4-1 record and 1.65 ERA. Though the Red Sox aren’t far behind with a 3-1 record, they still have an ERA of 3.18. Don’t get me wrong, both bullpens are suitable for the postseason. It’s just that it seems like the Dodgers have more “right” guys than “wrong” ones in their bullpen compared to the Red Sox. Confidence is a silent boost as well, so with that, I’ll take the Dodgers this round.
I’ll take the Red Sox in 5 games. In no way do I want this to happen, but by just comparing the overall offense and playing style of each team, the Red Sox should be able to dominate. The tactic of the Red Sox this season is that they’ve been able to attack the opposing starter early enough to run him out, allowing their starter to put on cruise control. They rarely seemed to push the lead late in the game.
In my opinion, the Dodgers only have 3 ways of winning this series. One way is by copying the Red Sox early attack. They have to learn to work counts and get on base early in the game. Taking early risks will play a huge role in this, as shaking the opposing pitcher gives them a huge momentum boost. The second way is by grabbing a late lead and playing the match-up game. This is just smart, conservative baseball. Matching up your reliever against the batter, making low-risk plays on defense and high risk-plays on the basepaths is how playoff baseball should be played. The third way is just to pray that Manny Machado considers staying in the off-season. That’s really it. If the Dodgers play their normal game, then they’re toast. They need a strong outing by their starting, early runs, and a lockdown bullpen. It sounds easy, but if the Red Sox’s bats get too hot, it’s hard to cool them off.