2018 World Series Preview

Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw has deep Dallas roots. Photo Courtesy: Keith Allison

By Wiley Singleton

The last two World Series have been exceptional. In 2016 the Chicago Cubs finally broke their curse. In 2017 the Dodgers and Astros had a seven incredible game series. The games were full of lead-changes, home runs, and nail-biting finishes. The 2018 World Series looks to be excellent as well. Both league champions boast potent lineups and pitching rotations.

How the Los Angeles Dodgers got Here
The Dodgers narrowly defeated the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS. The Brewers used an eccentric strategy that relied heavily on their bullpen. Luckily for the Brewers, they swept their opening round opponent and the strategy was viable. The idea of not having a legitimate ace starter proved detrimental for the Brewers. Manager Craig Counsell resorted to such tactics as pulling his starter after five pitches, and bringing in his best bullpen arm in the 3rd inning.

Counsell probably could have honestly won if Jeremy Jeffress played well. Jeffress had an ERA in the ones in the regular season but was awful in the NLCS. The successfulness of extreme bullpen strategies is predicated on multiple relievers being sharp, as opposed to just needing one starter to be solid. This was the crux of the series: Counsell made a plethora of moves and looked like a genius; until a reliever came in who was wild or ineffective. Despite having a ton of options with low ERA to go to, Counsell had to rely on each player being at the top of their game in a high pressure situation. The pressure factor increased the variance of this strategy, as relievers have a higher likelihood of being erratic due to nerves in the playoffs. The A’s vs Yankees Wild Card game this year is another good example of this. The A’s brought in some of the most consistent relievers of 2018 and they did not look like themselves. The mind of a pitcher in the playoffs is something Sabermetricians will probably never be able to fully quantify.

The 2018 NLCS taught us a valuable lesson about extreme bullpen use: it has diminishing returns. This lesson was also demonstrated in the 2017 World Series with Dave Roberts’ excessive use in Brandon Morrow that resulted in ineffectiveness. Counsell’s extreme bullpen use is forgivable on some level. He did not have a legitimate ace, or even a player that could be considered second starter tier by other playoff teams. Despite being considered worse than many of the other team’s aces, both Wade Miley and Jhoulys Chacin pitched exceptionally well. The Brew Crew bats were silenced, which must have been rather vexing for Brewers manager Craig Counsell. Counsell did a good job of cobbling together several solid pitching outings. He made the moves, pulled the strings, and his team held the Dodgers to few runs. The Brewers, who had a solid offense, could not score runs. The 2018 NLCS is an important chapter in the quickly evolving MLB bullpen metagame. It proves that aces still reign supreme in a league becoming more dominated by heavy bullpen use.

How the Boston Red Sox got Here
The 2018 ALCS was more straightforward. The Red Sox won in five games. Jackie Bradley Jr was excellent, finally finding his stroke after being known for defense all year. David Price was the really story though. He overcame his history of being shelled by the Rangers in the playoffs and turned in solid innings.

The Hitting Matchups
The Red Sox will begin the series at home. Chris Sale looked decent in his initial ALCS start. Less sharp than his ALDS start, but better than the awful September he posted. Sale will be the lynchpin in this series. He and Kershaw are both perennial Cy Young candidates. Kershaw pitched a relief inning in game 7 of the NLCS, but is slated to oppose Sale in game 1 of the World Series. In terms of matchups, this is as good as it gets. Sale is known for his filthy slider and hard fastball. Kershaw has a vicious curveball.

The lineups for both these teams are stacked. Potential MVP Mookie Betts leads the Sox assault. Betts has the highest batting average, the best defense, and great speed. He plays right field, but will probably move to center when the Sox travel to LA and have to find a spot in the outfield for JD Martinez, who usually is the DH. JD Martinez is the power bat the Sox were looking for last year. He has driven runners home all year and has a ton of power. Jackie Bradley JR will probably be the odd man out, despite his excellent defense. Bradley had big hits against the Astros, but he could see himself being subbed in late to replace Martinez. Andrew Benintendi rounds out the outfield, and is a rising star.

The Red Sox have Ian Kinsler, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers and Steve Pearce round out the infield. Kinsler is an old savvy vet that is nearly impossible to strike out. He also plays gold glove defense. Bogaerts is exceptional defensively. Pearce is solid and shares time with Mitch Moreland, another former gold glover. Brock Holt is also in the mix in the infield.

The Dodgers answer with a powerful attack of their own. Chris Taylor, the consistent speedster, usually bats around the top of the lineup. Brian Dozier and Kike Hernandez split time at second base. Dozier is known for his power. Hernandez sometimes gets starts at other positions. Notorious playoff monster David Freese gets occasional starts in this lineup, but usually sees the game at some point regardless of start. Freese has nerves of steel and a penchant for clutch hitting. His playoff ability simply cannot be understated. Max Muncy came out of nowhere and became a very good power hitter. He anchors the lineup. Manny Machado, who was accused of dirty play in the NLCS, will be facing off against Dustin Pedroia’s Sox for the first time as a Dodger on the big stage. Machado severely injured Dustin Pedroia in the past on a hard slide. Adam Barnes will do the catching for the Dodgers, after Yasmani Grandal had a horrifically bad game 1 of the NLCS. Justin Turner is a top tier threat with a massive ginger beard on the hot corner. Him and Machado make a terrifying left side infield. Machado is an exceptional talent despite accusations of dirty play, obviously. Cody Bellinger was largely figured out, but had a walkoff hit in the NLCS. Yasiel Puig is demonstrative and fun to watch. He has a cannon for an arm and plays with a special flair.

The Pitching Matchups
Sale vs Kershaw looks to be a classic to start the series off. A slight edge should be granted to Sale, as he is on more rest and playing at home. Sale could be unhealthy and ineffective, which would be immensely disappointing for everyone. Kershaw is significantly better at home, in pitchers’ friendly Dodgers stadium. This game should be a close and low scoring affair. Expect Craig Kimbrel to come out of the bullpen and be shaky but close the game successfully.

The Game 2 matchup is David Price vs Hyun-Jin Ryu. This game should be a bit more high scoring. The Dodgers bullpen has a slight edge over the Red Sox. Both Ryu and price have been brilliant at points in the 2018 playoffs. I expect Price to give up a couple early homers, maybe to Justin Turner, and the Dodgers to win the second game.

Walker Buehler will start for the Dodgers in Game 3. The Red Sox have not announced their starter, because both Rick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi could be used in relief at some point. Buehler is a young gun for the Dodgers with a ton of raw talent and a live fastball. Buehler should shut down the Sox bats for a Game 3 Dodgers win.

Rich Hill will start the Game 4 for the Dodgers. He is known for his curveball. The Sox lineup should be able to get a couple runs off of Hill, but the NL format plays to the Dodgers advantage and Dave Roberts manages a close game to win Game 4.

The final three games are far less predictable. This series is almost surely going to go to seven games, unless Craig Kimbrel blows a game.

These two teams are evenly matched, but behind the bat of Yasiel Puig and Justin Turner the Dodgers should win the World Series. Clayton Kershaw will hopefully have an all-time classic with Chris Sale in Game 7.

World Series Schedule – All Times Central

Game Date Day of the Week Network Time Home Team
Game 1 Oct. 23 Tuesday FOX 7:09 p.m. Red Sox
Game 2 Oct. 24 Wednesday FOX 7:09 p.m. Red Sox
Game 3 Oct. 26 Friday FOX 7:09 p.m. Dodgers
Game 4 Oct. 27 Saturday FOX 7:09 p.m. Dodgers
Game 5* Oct. 28 Sunday FOX 7:15 p.m. Dodgers
Game 6* Oct. 30 Tuesday FOX 7:09 p.m. Red Sox
Game 7* Oct. 31 Wednesday FOX 7:09 p.m. Red Sox

*If necessary…