The 2017 World Series gets underway in Los Angeles tonight with the Dodgers hosting the Astros. Though there are all sorts of creative ways you can wager on the individual games and the series as a whole, sometimes the easiest method is the best play for bettors: is this one of those years? Let’s take a look at both teams.
2017 World Series Comparison:
Dodgers vs Astros
Los Angeles: 10/17
The Dodgers’ 104 victories during the regular season were the most in baseball. They appeared on their way to a record-setting regular season, going 91-36 through late August, but then lost 11 straight games and 15 out of 16. The old Dodgers have showed up in the playoffs, sweeping the Diamondbacks in the National League Division Series and then closing out the Cubs in five in the NLCS, including a dominating 11-1 series-clinching performance.
What makes LA so good is, largely, their pitching. They were second in baseball with a team ERA of 3.38 during the regular season. Opponents only managed a .228 batting average against LA, which was the best in baseball, and things have been even better in the postseason. Over eight playoff games, Dodger opponents have hit .169, and the team has a 2.28 ERA since the regular season ended. The staff has 81 strikeouts in 71 playoff innings while yielding just 12 walks.
While Clayton Kershaw, who gets the ball in Game 1 for LA, might be the best pitcher of his generation (career ERA of 2.36), Yu Darvish has been equally as good since coming over from Texas (two earned runs while striking out 14 in 11.1 playoff innings). Rich Hill is a terrific third starter (3.22 ERA during the regular season with over 11 strikeouts per nine innings), and though Alex Wood is the only Dodger to lose a game in the playoffs, he was remarkable in the regular season (16-3, 2.72 ERA). Add to that arguably the most dominant closer in baseball in the form of Kenley Jansen (MLB-high 41 saves with a 1.32 ERA), and you have a difficult package to contend with.
As for hitting, the Dodgers 48 runs in the playoffs are four more than Houston, despite playing three fewer games. That said, they were 12th in the MLB in runs-scored during the regular season, and their .249 team average was in the bottom third. However, LA’s .334 on-base percentage was in the top 20-percent of baseball, and both Justin Turner and Yasiel Puig have been terrific in the playoffs. LA’s lineup is not star-studded, but six players hit 20 homers or more during the regular season, and generally the offense did enough. They wouldn’t have won 104 games if it hadn’t.
Like the Dodgers, Houston put away their division early. The Astros were 16-9 in April, 38-16 on June 1, and 59-28 at the All Star Break. They won the AL West by 21 games, and were one of three teams in the big leagues to surpass 100 victories. During the postseason, they have beaten the blue bloods, taking care of the Red Sox in four games in the ALCS, and then Yankees in seven. Houston is 6-0 at home in the postseason with a combined score of 31-7, and just 2-4 on the road. However, during the regular season, the Astros led the majors with 53 road wins.
In contrast to LA, the Astros winning formula is based primarily on hitting. They not only led all of baseball in scoring, but tallied 38 more runs than the second-best team, the Yankees, and were 72 higher than the third-ranked Rockies. Houston’s .282 team batting average was nine points higher than second-place Colorado, and fifteen clear of the third-ranked Marlins (.267). Houston also led the major in on-base percentage and slugging percentage, andbwere second in home runs runs. Incredibly, the Astros’ 2,681 total bases was 183 better than the second-place Yankees.
Though he is only 5’6, Jose Altuve once again led all of baseball in batting this year. His .346 average was 15 points better than Colorado’s Charlie Blackmon, and his 7.9 WAR made him the fourth-most valuable hitter in baseball. The three above him, Joey Votto, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Judge, combined for 147 home runs.
Don’t think this is a one-man offense, though. Carlos Correa, Josh Reddick, Marwin Gonzalez, Yuli Gourriel, Alex Bregman, and George Springer all posted WARs of 4.3 or better. Correa did so in only 109 game, accounting for 24 homers, 84 RBIs, and 82 runs scored in what amounted to two-thirds of a season. Springer not only hit 34 dingers, but walked 64 times, and is one of the top defenders in baseball.
As good as the Astros’ hitting is, it is hard to imagine them in the World Series without late season acquisition-turned-ace Justin Verlander. The two-time Cy Young-winner was acquired at the last moment possible (just before the waiver trade deadline on August 31) to be eligible for the postseason roster. After winning all five of his regular starts with Houston, while posting a 1.06 ERA, he has been equally as brilliant in the playoffs. Verlander has started three games and made four appearances during the postseason, and is 4-0 with a 1.46 ERA.
With Verlander as the ace, Dallas Keuchel becomes an excellent second starter (though he’ll get the ball in Game 1 of the World Series). Charlie Morton, Lance McCullers, and Brad Peacock round out the rotation. Only two will function as starters in the World Series, and it’s likely that manager AJ Hinch will move McCullers to the pen, since the team’s middle relief has been its biggest weakness.
The Best Bet
The Dodgers were slightly better during the regular season and have been dominant in the playoffs. They have home-field advantage, and are more likely to win. However, to represent value, LA needs to have better than a 63-percent chance of winning. That simply is not the case. The Astros have a pretty good chance of splitting the two games in LA, since Verlander faces Hill in Game 2. At that point, the Astros could simply take care of business at home to hoist the title. The value is on Houston, and they are very viable at a number worth playing.