After an exhilarating Championship Series that featured must-watch television in both leagues, the World Series is set. Starting on Tuesday, the Houston Astros will host the Atlanta Braves in the best of seven series.
Currently, the Astros are the favorites to win the World Series at -150, but if the Braves (+125) have proven anything this postseason, it is that they can’t be counted out.
With that in mind, let’s break down these World Series teams position by position to see who has the advantage at each spot.
Catcher: Houston Astros – Martin Maldanado
Both Martin Maldanado and Travis d’Arnaud have struggled to hit much in the postseason, so this one comes down to the defense. In that regard, the Astros’ Martin Maldanado holds the clear advantage.
During the regular season, Maldanado had a fielding percentage of .993 and had an outstanding caught stealing percentage of 40%. This all while playing in 123 games.
For comparison, d’Arnaud only played in 53 games during the regular season and had a caught stealing percentage of just 16%.
If you need any indication of how much Maldanado’s defense can affect a ballgame, his throw out of would-be stealer Alex Verdugo in Game 6 of the ALCS was the defining moment of that game as he ended Boston’s most notable threat.
First Base: Atlanta Braves – Freddie Freeman
It is not too often that one team has their league’s batting champion on the team, but they still don’t hold the advantage. However, that is exactly the case in the head-to-head matchup between Freddie Freeman and Yuli Gurriel.
For Gurriel, he won the AL batting title after hitting .319 during the regular season, but Freddie Freeman is still the right call here.
The veteran first baseman is hitting .294/.455/.618 with three home runs, six runs batted in, six runs scored, and 10 walks in the postseason. Between being a threat anytime he comes up to bat as well as playing Gold Glove quality defense, he holds the slight edge over Gurriel at first base.
Middle Infield: Houston Astros – Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa
Simply put, Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson are good, but Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa are better.
This postseason, Altuve and Correa have combined for four home runs and 12 runs batted in while playing elite defense. For Albies and Swanson, they have a combined three runs batted in and no home runs.
The middle infield tandem of Altuve and Correa are playing in their third World Series in five years, but they are trying to savor it as it is likely their last together. Carlos Correa is a free agent after the season, and the chances that he returns to Houston are slim.
Third Base: Toss Up
Alex Bregman has turned into a superstar while Austin Riley is just starting to establish himself. Despite what they have done in the past, they have been virtually the same players this postseason.
In fact, here are their current postseason lines:
- Bregman: .282/.364/.385, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 8 R, 5 BB, 8 SO
- Riley: .250/.302/.450, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 6 R, 3 BB, 14 SO
While neither have set the world on fire this postseason, both of them are certainly capable of a big swing that could change the World Series at any time.
Left Field: Atlanta Braves – Eddie Rosario
There wasn’t a hotter hitter in the NLCS than Braves’ left fielder Eddie Rosario. Against the Dodgers, he hit .560/.607/1.040 with three home runs, nine runs batted in, and six runs scored.
It was this outburst that led to him being named the NLCS MVP. It isn’t to say that Michael Brantley of the Astros isn’t a great player, but there aren’t too many hotter hitters than Eddie Rosario right now.
Center Field: Toss Up
Neither team has a definitive advantage in center field. For the Astros, Dusty Baker has deployed either Chas McCormick (.316 avg, 1 RBI) or Jose Siri (.125 avg, 2 RBI).
On the flip side, Braves’ manager Brian Snitker has turned to Adam Duvall (.229 avg, 1 HR, 4 RBI).
In a series that will be full of stars, center field is a bit of a hole when it comes to elite talent.
Right Field: Houston Astros – Kyle Tucker
One of the most underrated players in baseball this season was outfielder Kyle Tucker. During the regular season, he hit .294/.359/.557 with 30 home runs, 92 runs batted in, 83 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases.
He has picked up right where he left off in the postseason. He is hitting .275/.310/.625 with four home runs, 15 runs batted in, nine runs, and three stolen bases.
It isn’t uncommon that he is hitting seventh in the Astros’ lineup, just exemplifying how deep and dynamic Houston’s lineup is.
Designated Hitter: Houston Astros – Yordan Alvarez
While Eddie Rosario won the MVP in the NLCS, it was designated hitter Yordan Alvarez that won it in the ALCS. During that series, he hit .522/.538/.870 with a home run, six runs batted in, and seven runs scored.
In fact, over the last two games of the series, Alvarez had more hits (seven) than the Red Sox did as a team (five).
Obviously, the National League doesn’t utilize the designated hitter but expect Joc Pederson (.276 avg, 3 HR, 9 RBI) or Jorge Soler (.154 avg) to fill the role when playing in Houston.
For Houston, expect Alvarez to play the field in Atlanta, with Kyle Tucker shifting to center field and Michael Brantely shifting to right field.
Starting PItchers: Atlanta Braves
This is somewhat dependent on the availability of Lance McCullers Jr., but all indications are that he will have to miss the World Series with a forearm strain.
Without him, the Astros have had to piece together their rotation, although Framber Valdez (11-6, 3.14 ERA) and Luis Garcia (11-8, 3.48 ERA) were fantastic during the regular season.
Still, the trio of Max Fried (14-7, 3.04 ERA), Charlie Morton (14-6, 3.34 ERA), and Ian Anderson (9-5, 3.58 ERA) give the Braves the edge in the battle of starting pitchers.
Left Handed Relievers: Atlanta Braves
It is absolutely remarkable the run that the southpaws in the Braves’ bullpen have been on this postseason. Tyler Matzek (2-0, 1.74 ERA), Will Smith (2-0, 0.00 ERA, 4 saves), A.J. Minter (0-0, 0.00 ERA) have all been lights out.
Right Handed Relievers: Houston Astros
On the right side, it is the Astros that have the advantage in terms of bullpen arms. The trio of Kendall Graveman 1-0, 1.29 ERA), Ryne Stanek (2-0, 1.35 ERA), and Ryan Pressly (1.50 ERA, 1 Save) have given the Astros a late inning trio that can help to shut down any opposing team in the late innings.
At the end of the day, these two definitely earned their way to the World Series, and both are extremely hot coming in. While the World Series is truly up for grabs, one thing is for sure, this should be some compelling baseball all series long.
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