Before the National League Championship Series, I wrote a preview from the perspective of a Phillies fan who really doesn’t care all that much about baseball teams who are not the Phillies. Since that preview was met with such overwhelming indifference, I decided to do something similar for the World Series.
If you’re a hard core baseball fan who can’t get enough of the playoffs and are seeking some heavy hitting #analysis, this probably isn’t the World Series preview you’re looking for. On the other hand, if you’re a Phillies fan who can’t tell Walker Buehler from Xander Bogaerts, you may find this useful.
You may recall that I predicted the Milwaukee Brewers to emerge victorious in the NLCS. As it turned out, the Brewers did not win, and instead lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers. As a result, the Dodgers have advanced to the World Series, which they will attempt to win for the first time since 1988.
Although they’re sometimes held up as one of baseball’s glamour franchises, the Dodgers have spent the last thirty years not capturing a World Series trophy. I realize that many of you reading this weren’t even alive in 1988, so here’s a brief snapshot of the world back then:
- Ronald Reagan was the president
- The Soviet Union was still around
- Rick Astley was known as a top ten musical artist and not just a way to mess with your friends
- Carl Lewis won a gold medal because Canadians are cheaters
- The two most popular TV shows starred Bill Cosby and Roseanne Barr
- ALF was a thing, and not just in pog form
How they got here
How’d they do against the Phillies?
The Phillies traveled to LA in May and split a four-game series. The Dodgers came to Philadelphia in July and the Phillies took two out of three. This serves as a friendly reminder that there was a time in 2018 when the Phillies were a good team that could go toe-to-toe with a title contender.
What are they good at?
They have a high scoring offense thanks to strong hitters throughout the lineup. First baseman Cody Bellinger was named NLCS MVP, but he’s far from the only threat. Kike Hernandez, Justin Turner, Joc Pederson, and Yasiel Puig are all capable of punishing opposing pitchers.
The pitching staff is led by one of the best pitchers in baseball (more on him later), but Rich Hill and Walker Buehler are also capable of delivering strong starts. The Brewers supposedly had a huge advantage in relief pitching in the NLCS, but it was the Dodgers who were able to consistently protect late leads with their bullpen.
What aren’t they good at?
They haven’t been very good about including Chase Utley on their postseason roster. His inclusion might have gotten Phillies fans on their side.
If there’s anything I’d like to see in the World Series that doesn’t involve Chase Utley because he probably isn’t on the roster, it would be a brawl between Machado or Puig and Sale. LA and Boston can both lose— markelle fultz revenge tour (@TheProcess10) October 22, 2018
Clayton Kershaw: Clutch or Choker?
If his career ended today, Clayton Kershaw would easily make the Hall of Fame. But for the most part, his postseason numbers haven’t matched what he’s done in the regular season. Throughout his playoff career, he’s been just as likely to deliver a clunker as he is to pitch a gem. He pitched well in his most recent start, but based on past results, there’s no guarantee that he replicates that success in the World Series.
The Max Muncy Experience
After spending parts of two seasons with Oakland, Max Muncy was released and picked up by the Dodgers in 2017. Early in the season, the Dodgers brought the versatile 27-year-old to the majors to see what he could do. Naturally, he hit 35 home runs with a .973 OPS.
This is exactly like what happened to the Phillies with Chase d’Arnaud in 2015. The Phillies picked the young infielder off the scrap heap and gave him a brief run. The only difference was that d’Arnaud continued to be bad and was released after the season. So in a way, the two situations aren’t similar at all.
Why We Should Root For Them
Because a Dodgers victory means that the team from Boston didn’t win.
Why We Should Root Against Them
Seeing the Dodgers go so long without winning the World Series makes us feel a little bit better about the failures of our own team.
How did they get here?
They won a lot of games in the regular season. Then they played two other teams who also won a lot of games in the regular season. Does this mean that the American League was remarkably strong this season? Or are those high win totals due to multiple teams not even pretending to field competitive rosters? Four American League teams lost at least 95 games, which makes it easier for the best teams to rack up high win totals.
What are they good at?
When a team wins 108 games and makes the World Series, they are generally good at a lot of things. They led the league in runs scored and gave up the third fewest runs. They have good hitters like Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, and Andrew Benintendi, and good pitchers like Chris Sale and Rick Porcello.
What aren’t they good at?
Their Pythagorean record says they played more like a 103 win team, so maybe they’re overrated?
That said, you don’t find a lot of glaring weaknesses on World Series teams. However, closer Craig Kimbrel has made Sox fans a little nervous over the past weeks. He’s a perfect five-for-five in postseason save chances, but he’s made most of them a lot more interesting than the team would prefer.
Kimbrel coming in for the 9th with a 3 run lead. pic.twitter.com/93qUGtMYTm— RED SOX STUFF (@RedSox_Stuff) October 19, 2018
How’d they do against the Phillies?
The Phillies and Sox played two-game sets in each team’s stadium, and split the series both times. If you’re paying attention, that means that the Phillies had a winning record against the two teams in the World Series. But for some reason, they couldn’t walk without tripping when they faced the Mets.
J.D. Martinez: Should of signed?
J.D. Martinez was a free agent last season. He hit 43 home runs this past season, so there are many Phillies fans who believe that the team should have signed him instead of Carlos Santana. There are a couple of problems with that thinking:
- Martinez is primarily a designated hitter, and aside from a few series of interleague play, that position doesn’t exist in the National League (Someday I hope).
- Martinez seemed pretty set on joining the Red Sox.
The second problem could likely have been overcome with the power of money, but how much money and how many years do you really want to offer a 30 year old who is primarily a designated hitter?
The Price of success?
Earlier I talked about Clayton Kershaw’s uneven postseason performances. Red Sox pitcher David Price would love to have such an uneven record. Instead, he’s been pretty consistent, in that he’s been awful in the vast majority of his postseason appearances.
His first postseason action came in 2008, and it was probably a harbinger of things to come when Eric Bruntlett took him deep in the World Series. (I had no recollection of Bruntlett hitting a home run in the World Series. Then again, it came in game two, which is the one Phillies fans don’t bother remembering.)
After getting knocked around in his first two playoff starts this year, Price actually pitched well his last time out, going six shutout innings. That lowered his career postseason ERA to a ghastly 5.04.
Price has a long, distinguished career, and will receive some strong consideration for the Hall of Fame after he retires. But those postseason numbers aren’t a good look.
Why we should root for them
Back in the good old days of 2015, when the collective baseball media was impatiently demanding the Phillies trade away Cole Hamels, one team they were often linked to was the Red Sox. The Phillies were asking for outfield prospect Mookie Betts in return, and the Red Sox were all “no” about it.
The Sox might have been smart not to surrender Betts, because he’s become one of the best players in baseball, and is one of the favorites to win the American League MVP award this season. On the other hand, if the Sox had Hamels and not David Price at the top of their rotation, maybe they would have made it past the ALDS in 2016 or 2017?
Anyway, this has been a very roundabout way of saying we should root for the Red Sox because they have a player named Mookie on the team, and everything’s better when there’s a guy named Mookie involved.
Why we should root against them
Because somehow Boston fans are still doing the whole self-pity act despite all the recent success by their teams. We’re apparently supposed to feel bad for them because the Sox, Celtics, Bruins, and Patriots all lost in the playoffs last season. (In case you were curious, the Patriots lost in the Super Bowl to the Philadelphia Eagles.)
Speaking of Boston fans, every so often I wonder what happened to Bill Simmons. It used to be that I eagerly awaited his columns, and now the only thing he’s good for are podcasts which are inevitably 15 minutes too long, and the world’s most inessential website.
We’re going to get another parade in Boston, and the fans will somehow become even more insufferable.