Boston’s beloved Red Sox and Los Angeles’ low-rated Dodgers will square off and give everyone outside of those fan bases one giant headache. These are the last MLB games of the season and on the one had we should all feel grateful for what little baseball we have, but on the other hand...
Yeah, of course, invoking fake Hitler quotes to defend your belief in an unfettered second amendment doesn’t equal an adult child wagging his tongue and generally acting like a goofball, but still: these are the two teams we have to watch?
For we Giants fans, it will be odd watching well-played baseball with above average major league talent at virtually every position. Chances are, viewers won’t have a lot of “golly wow, how did he hit the ball three times??” moments when both teams possess the best players in the sport. The Dodgers were #1 in fWAR (33.0) and the Red Sox were #3 (29.6). There is no true underdog in this series.
So, who to root for? Doug already covered ex-Giants on all the playoff teams. If you miss Eduardo Nunez and Heath Hembree, then you should be pulling for the Red Sox. If for some reason you liked when Alex Cora played against the Giants as a Dodger, then you should also pull for the Red Sox. Love #ForeverGiant Dave Roberts? Then you’re a-pullin’ for the Dodgers. And if you still can’t decide (why would you ever pull for the Dodgers though?), consider this matchup breakdown.
By fWAR, Red Sox posted a 20.6 to the Dodgers’ 20.5, so call this a push. Does the Dodgers’ recent playoff experience with their current roster give them an edge? I think so. Clayton Kershaw is still the best pitcher on the planet and while Chris Sale might be his equal in many respects, I’ll still give him the edge here, but it’s very close.
From the Giants’ perspective, their team pitching WAR of 12.2 was good for only 21st in MLB, compared to Boston and LA’s fourth and fifth places, respectively. As solid as the pitching seemed, it simply did not compare to the top of the league.
Amazingly, the Giants did excel in the bullpen, at least by WAR. Their 5.0 was good for 8th in MLB, ahead of both the Red Sox (9th with 4.9 fWAR) and the Dodgers (16th with 3.1). In the closer matchup, it’s Jansen over Kimbrel. Postseason management will be a bit different, though, so it won’t be all about the closers — we’ll see a lot of starters find their way into the ‘pen. Will Alex Wood and Kenta Maeda outpitch Drew Pomeranz and Rick Porcello?
It’s not fair. The Dodgers hit 235 home runs, a franchise record, and 102 more than the Giants hit in 2018. Their total was still only good for second in MLB (behind the Yankees’ 267) and the Red Sox’s 208 was good for only 9th. The Giants hit 235 once before, back in 2001, which is a bit misleading because Barry Bonds and Rich Aurilia combined for 110 home runs.
But back to this year... Mookie Betts was 0.6 wins better than Mike Trout and led Major League Baseball in that category. J.D. Martinez hit four home runs against the Dodgers in Dodger Stadium just last season.
On the other hand, the Dodgers have so much lineup depth that they can matchup any occasion, and the DH would seem to be a big help to them. They still seem susceptible to lefties, though, and Boston opening the series with the 1-2 punch of Sale and David Price could very well mean they struggle to score runs.
On the other hand, the beauty of this series is that since we’re seeing the two best teams, anything is possible for any reason. One team could totally trip over itself and get swept, this one could go seven like last season, Boston could get enough timely hits and timely outs, the Dodgers could do the same. [Tie]
This feels like a push. I might give the Red Sox’s’s’s outfield bench the edge (their only extra outfielder is either J.D. Martinez or Andrew Benintendi), but I might like the Dodgers’ infield bench a little bit more (Freese, Dozier/Hernandez, Muncy). Nary a Gorkys or Chase d’Arnaud in this bunch. Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes are much better hitting options, though, than any of the catchers the Red Sox have on the roster (-2.1 fWAR, based on a -54.3 offensive runs above average). [Dodgers]
The Brewers managed to hang around in the NLCS because of the Dodgers’ inconsistent defense and Yasmani Grandal’s total collapse. Meanwhile, the Red Sox suffocated the Astros in the ALCS with super duper defense all over the field. Say what you want about the tenents of Jackie Bradley Jr.’s 25.6% strikeout rate, at least he’s got defense. Both he and Mookie Betts are in the top three in all of baseball in defense runs above average (10.1 and 11.6, respectively), meaning that over the course of the season, they combined two win two games just with their defense.
Meanwhile, expect Yasiel Puig to airmail a throw to Worcester or Manny Machado to overthrow Max Muncy to peg Stephen King in the stands. [Red Sox]
Just going off of FanGraphs’ Base Running stat...
Base Running (BsR) is FanGraphs’ all encompassing base running statistic that turns stolen bases, caught stealings, and other base running plays (taking extra bases, being thrown out on the bases, etc) into runs above and below average. It is the combination of Weighted Stolen Base Runs (wSB), Weighted Grounded Into Double Play Runs (wGDP), and Ultimate Base Running (UBR) which are all available on the leaderboards and player pages.
The Dodgers are far better than the Red Sox: 11.4 to -5.1. I’m still gonna give the edge to the Red Sox here, though, because I expect Yasiel Puig to make a baserunning mistake or five. [Red Sox]
These managers seem like they have similar temperaments and treat their players with the same degree of respect. This is a tough call. Since I do not care about the American League, I haven’t watched Cora manage much. Dave Roberts is not Don Mattingly and that has been a problem for the Giants. Having incredibly talented teams makes managing a lot easier, of course, but I’m going to guess here that the Dodgers are going to surprise the Red Sox and force Cora to consider situations he hasn’t had to deal with yet. [Dodgers]
Not to be confused with “xFACTR”, FanGraphs’ stat that seeks to determine the fun value of a game (this stat is not real and this is a bad joke). In other years, I might consider this a plum category for Yasiel Puig to carry, but I’m feeling David Freese or Brian Dozier has the x-Factor vibe around them. And several teams that have gone to back-to-back World Series have won it the second time around. This season is the 30th anniversary of the Dodgers’ last World Series victory. Is this their year? Let’s hope not.
In any case, I don’t know what or who the x-Factor might be, and I don’t know if the x-Factor will be enough to beat the other team, but for now, I’m going to say the [Dodgers] have it... although I do like this note from MLB.com’s series preview:
• The Red Sox hope to continue their dominance against NL opponents. During the regular season, the Sox went 16-4 in Interleague Play. In their last three World Series appearances, Boston combined to go 12-2 against the Cardinals (2004 and ‘13) and Rockies (‘07).
This will be the GameThread for the first two games of the series.