It’s the Astros versus the Phillies.
The Astros have been a juggernaut throughout the season, going 106-56. They are 7-0 in the postseason. If they happen to sweep the WS as they did to the Mariners and Yankees, it would be the first perfect postseason since the advent of the wild card. (Two teams have gone 11-1…the 1999 Yankees and 2005 White Sox.)
The Phillies were the NL’s sixth seed, a seeding that did not exist in the playoffs after a full season until this year. However, they are a prime example of getting hot at the right time of the year, being 9-2 this postseason with none of their opponents being particularly competitive against them. Bear that in mind before going too heavy on the David versus Goliath portrayal.
So, who has the advantage?
Defense: Astros led the majors in defensive runs saved. The Phillies defense has been suspect all season.
Hitting: These are the #s 7 and 8 teams in the majors in terms of OPS, and are separated by a whopping .004.
Starting pitching: The Phillies have Zach Wheeler and Austin Nola. They’re really good. The Astros have Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Chiristian Valdez, Lance McCullers, and Jose Urquidy. They’re better.
Relief pitching: Seranthony Dominguez has been lights out, but the Astros top flight relief corps goes 5 deep. Those 5 are all righties though, so they’ve added Will Smith to the WS roster for when they feel they must send a lefty to the mound.
On paper this looks like the Astros should win, and that’s been my prediction all along. Do bear I’m mind though, that the Phillies absolutely can win the series if the bats stay hot. Their best shot is to try to out-slug the Astros. To me, that means that if they get up early they can win a short series. Pitchers contests and a long series favors the Astros. Of course I also pointed out that the separation in OPS this season between these two teams was .004–it’s no given that the Astros would not win a slugfest. That’s why I’m predicting the Astros; they simply have more ways to win.
Notable “hot” players: This has to start with Bryce Harper—he’s hitting .419 and has 5 home runs this postseason. Supposedly he is vulnerable to inside fastballs, but he’s destroying outside ones. So…throw him fastballs, but don’t miss.
Kyle Schwarber of course hits mammoth home runs. He is also tops in walks this postseason. In the NLCS he did not swing and miss at a single pitch in the strike zone. Phillies Phans pray he stays that locked in.
Rhys Hopkins also has 5 homers.
The Astros have three guys over .300–Gurriel, Bregman and Peña.
Who isn’t hot? Jose Altuve started the postseason 0-25. He’s had numerous weak infield pop-ups on high fastballs. Expect him to get a steady diet of those until he shows he can handle them again.