The Fall Classic is officially here. The Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies will be facing off in the best-of-seven series starting on Oct. 28.
The Astros are supposed to be here; they had a phenomenal season and were the No. 1 seed on the American League side of the postseason bracket. Meanwhile, the Phillies squeezed in as the National League’s No. 6 seed, hoping to be the second wild card team in the past four years to win it all.
While Houston’s lineup may not be its most dominant in recent history, it’s still well-rounded and among the best in baseball. They have a top-three hitting talent in all of baseball in Yordan Alvarez. He had the highest WAR on the Astros by almost a full game … and he doesn’t even play defense regularly. He also put up a slash line of .306/.406/.613 with an OPS over 1.000. Besides Alvarez, the lineup consists of veteran all-stars Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, as well as young studs Kyle Tucker and Jeremy Peña — who just won the ALCS MVP. In the regular season, the Astros finished in the top seven of all teams in OBP, slugging and OPS.
The Phillies are in a similar situation offensively. They have a lot of pop in the top half of their lineup with Kyle Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins, Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos. The contact is there as well, as the Phils finished in the top 10 in the MLB in batting average, slugging and OPS. Harper was looking like his true MVP self in the beginning of the season before suffering a broken thumb that slowed him down for the rest of the regular season. However, he is hitting his stride again and it shows in his postseason stats. Harper has hit five bombs with 11 RBIs, while also posting an OBP at .444 and OPS at 1.351. He also just won the NLCS MVP after hitting the game-winning homer that clinched Philly’s spot in the Fall Classic and his spot in the Hall of Fame.
Statistically, the two teams are almost neck-and-neck offensively. However, the Astros have a slight edge as they have more postseason experience. After all, it is their fourth World Series appearance in the last six seasons.
Despite their stellar offense, the defense is an issue for Philadelphia. While Houston had a collective OAA (outs above average) of 31, which was the second best in all of baseball, the Phillies had an OAA of -37, ranking second worst.
The ‘Stros pitching staff has been dealing this season, and they chose the right time to get even hotter than they already were. They have Justin Verlander leading the pack, who will win his third AL Cy Young this year, and Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier and Lance McCullers have exceeded expectations. The four starters all posted ERAs below 3.00 and WHIPs hovering around 1.00. Their bullpen might be even stronger than their rotation is. The Houston bullpen led the league this year in ERA, strikeout percentage, left on base percentage and FIP. The bullpen has looked even better in the playoffs. If anyone is going to shut down the dangerous Phillies offense, it’s the Houston Astros.
Even with Houston’s dominant pitching staff, the Phillies’ pitching can’t be underestimated. The 1-2 punch of Aaron Nola and Zach Wheeler is lethal, and they are capable of starting this series off with two Phillies wins. Wheeler is one of the best pitchers in the league this October; he has pitched 25.1 innings with only 10 hits, five earned runs, 25 strikeouts, 1.78 ERA and 0.513 WHIP. Those are video game numbers. While Nola has not quite been on that level, he has the potential to shut down a lineup. The Phillies’ starters will need to show up, as they don’t have nearly as much depth in the ‘pen as Houston.
There’s a reason people say “pitching wins championships.” Two high-powered offenses are clashing, but whichever pitching staff shoves is going to win this series.
Final Prediction: Astros in Six Games
The Phillies will steal one of the first two games; Nola and Wheeler will not let both of those games slip. The Astros have the potential to win this series in five games, but the Phillies are not going to go down quietly so they will probably squeak out another win. You simply never know what is going to happen when it comes to October baseball.
Written By: Cade Michaelson