World Series Preview: Phillies Look To Upset Astros

The Houston Astros will expect 2B Jose Altuve to set the plate each night for the World Series. Photo Courtesy: Dominic Ceraldi

By Wiley Singleton

Bryce Harper and the Phillies shocked the world when they won the NL pennant. The Dodgers and Braves were heavy favorites but were embarrassed in the NLDS. Both squads made it further than the New York Mets, who epically collapsed down the stretch in true Metsian fashion. The Mets managed to blow a massive division lead by choking against garbage teams like the Cubs and Nats down the stretch. It was reminiscent of their 2007 pennant choke, but this time they won over 100 games; making the Metsy ineptitude even more painful. No one expected the Phillies to make it further than the Mets or Braves, much less win a pennant. The Phillies have been irrelevant since 2011 when they lost in the NLDS to the Saint Louis Cardinals. The Phillies boasted one of the best rotations ever that season. It included Cliff Lee, who spurned the defending AL Champion Texas Rangers to move back to Philly. Lee faltered in the 2010 World Series with Texas, ran back to Philly, and lost to the Cards in 2011.

It has been one bad season after another for Philly ever since. This is their return to relevance. Defending NL MVP Bryce Harper is the hard carry of the team. He is the best hitter in the NL. He had a monster NLCS, including a game winning homer in the deciding Game 5. He won NLCS MVP. Bryce has some lineup protection this year. Rhys Hoskins is a 1st baseman with pop that usually hits on either side of Harper in the lineup. Nick Castellanos is a slugging outfielder that makes teams scared to walk Harper. The best catcher in baseball, JT Realmuto, hits for power, plays great defense, and is fast for a catcher. Beefcake outfielder Kyle Schwarber led the NL in homers this season and usually leads off. These guys are the engine of the Philly offense. The lineup is not as deep as many pennant winners. The left side of the infield is average at best.

The pitching for the Phillies is top heavy. Right-handed fireballers Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler anchor the staff. They will need to dominate their starts and go deep into games to make up for the weak bullpen. Ranger Suarez is the 3rd starter. He is a young unproven lefty who looked shaky this postseason. Kyle “Ace” Gibson and Noah “Thor” Syndergaard are two former top end starters that look washed and lack a true spot. They are not good enough to start and not trusted enough to be big bullpen assets.

Brad Hand, Jose Alvarado, and Seranthony Dominguez are the best arms in the bullpen. They are all decent and do not really inspire confidence. Their closer, Corey Knebel, is still hurt. This is the biggest weakness of the Phillies. Their bullpen is very weak and contains ZERO true shut down arms. There is not a single top end trustworthy arm in the Phillies bullpen. It is insanely hard to win in the playoffs with this style of roster. This is the crux of the issue when examining the series. The Astros have a very trustworthy bullpen. Philly does not. Houston is comfortable playing 2-1 games. Philly is not. The fact that Philly got this far with their bullpen says a lot about their Skipper Rob Thomson.

Thomson was made skipper after old school Yankees stalwart Joe Girardi was canned early in the season. The team caught fire once the boomerish Girardi was let go. Girardi used an antiquated style of managing that included things like not letting players listen to music after a loss.

Girardi lost the clubhouse after years of mediocrity.  The players love Thomson and played very well under him. This was a team that had their best player, Harper, miss half the season and weathered the storm.

The Phillies will need to bludgeon the Astros with their powerful offense to win this series. The Phillies lack depth. Their offense and pitching staff is top heavy. Their bullpen is weak. They were underdogs to win the NL and are underdogs to win the World Series. But they do have a powerful enough offense to outscore Houston. Often when the Phillies won during this pennant run they would get a five run lead early. This is not a team suited to winning low scoring games. This is a team built around offensive firepower. The Phillies will lean heavily on their two aces, Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola. If they lose the first two games in Houston with those guys going they are doomed. Just like in the NLDS, a major win condition for Philly will be winning game one on the road.

The Astros boast a deep and powerful team as they have for the past 6 years. They embarrassed the New York Yankees in the ALCS, sweeping them and shutting down the Yankees pedantic one-dimensional offense. The Yanks have spent the last 7 years filling their lineup full of clowns that swing for the fences no matter what. This dim approach is defended by YES Network company man Michael “Yankee Boy” Kay constantly. Yankee Boy Kay is the play by play guy for the Yanks. He also has a terribly boring afternoon drive sports talk show where he toes the party line and defends the Yankees no matter what.

“I’m not calling for anyone’s job,” crooned PR mouthpiece Kay during a barrage of angry phone calls during his show after the ALCS. Kay makes excuses for the Yanks no matter how many times the Yanks lose with the same tepid approach, the same manager, the same front office guys, and to the same opponent. Kay truly is the epitome of the money corrupted shill. The former print journalist is decades removed from a position that rewarded him for intellectual vigor. He exists now as a shell, a hollow pinstriped suit that mindlessly defends Spreadsheet Baseball and launch angle “analytics.”

Kay has figured out that if he paints the Yanks moronic “home run or nothing” approach as the “cutting edge analytics” he can feign being above criticism. Kay will pedantically insist that no matter who the manager is, the decisions will be the same because the Yankees “rely on analytics.” This is a nice little duplicitous trick to pass the buck year after year. What’s the point of firing the skipper if the next guy is also just a mindless puppet for some dope printing off Excel spreadsheets? What’s the point of holding Skipper Aaron Boone, GM Brian Cashman, or owner Hal Steinbrenner accountable? It’s all the fault of the shady, faceless “analytics department” which is simultaneously infallible and beyond reproach!

PR stooge Yankee Boy Kay prates the same slop at the end of every disappointing Yankees season. The Yanks might be a JOKE that have not won a pennant since the Rangers hilariously dethroned them in 2010, but it’s never anyone in the organization’s fault according to Yankee Boy Kay. They have been losing with the same insipid approach for a decade now but Yankee Boy Kay wants to keep collecting checks so he shamelessly lies and defends the organization. He is one of many journalists who lacks a single shred of integrity and intellectual honesty.

Owner Hal Steinbrenner said a couple days ago Aaron Boone will remain skipper. Thus the Yanks will march into next season with the same flawed approach, the same flawed front office, the same style of roster, and the same broadcaster that insists it’s not their fault and they are on the cutting edge. If the Yankee hitters were as good at hitting as Yankee Boy Kay is at lying they would have won a pennant in the last decade. The Yankees have entered early 2000’s Seattle Mariner territory, where the World Series is not the goal, but fielding a team that can win over 85 games is the primary goal. George “The Boss” Steinbrenner is spinning in his grave seeing what a pathetic joke his beloved Bronx Bombers have become.

Everyone knew the ALCS would be Astros/Yanks. Most people expected the Yanks to show up. Their Skipper Aaron Boone insipidly complained about the wind after the Game 2 loss. Once again the shallow lineup full of high strikeout sluggers could not hit elite pitching in the playoffs. The Yanks boasted a .162 team batting average during their annual get Slaughtered By Houston Slopfest. Aaron Judge hit .063. He had one single for the entire series. He never lives up to his regular season form in the playoffs but .063 is a JOKE. The Yanks getting embarrassed by Houston is almost a tradition at this point. “Yankee Pride” has become nothing more than collecting a paycheck and whining.

The Astros boast a lethal team. Former batting champion Jose Altuve sits atop the lineup. Kyle Tucker mans the outfield and is solid. Alex Bregman the Semitic slugger plays 3rd and does it well. The star of their squad is Yordan Alvarez, a top tier hitter. The Astros no longer have George Springer or Carlos Correa but are still very good.

The Astros pitching staff is led by Justin Verlander. He has been awful in the World Series throughout his career. Framber Valdez is an elite young starter for Houston. Same with Luis Garcia and Christian Javier. Their bullpen is deep too. Ryan Pressly is a good closer. Ryne Stanek, Rafael Montero, and Bryan Abreu are all great coming out of the bullpen.

The Astros had an easy path to the World Series. Both the Seattle Mariners and Yankees were weak, flawed teams. The Astros swept both opponents. The Astros lineup is a bit weaker than the Phillies. Their pitching is far better.

This will be an exciting World Series. The Phillies need to steal one of the first two games in Houston to win the series. Harper and Alvarez are both incredible players.

Series Prediction: Houston in 7