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World Series preview: the offenses

Both are coming into this series hitting well

MLB: Houston Astros at New York Yankees Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

As the Phillies prepare to face the Astros, we’re previewing the major parts of the teams. Today, we start with the offenses.

Houston Astros

The Astros of postseasons past were offensive behemoths, bludgeoning opponents with an approach that was simultaneously patient and powerful at seemingly the exact same time.

Of course, knowing what we know now, we know why they were so good.

This version of the Astros comes into the World Series maybe not as well known offensively as past iterations of their team, but still one that can put runs on the board seemingly when they want to. Led by Yordan Alvarez (184 wRC+) and Jose Altuve (165), this is a group that is very dangerous at the plate. One thing that is very scary about them is that they can not only hit for power (their collective .424 slugging was 5th in MLB), but they also make a ton of contact (19.5 K%, 2nd best in MLB). They simply don’t swing and miss as much as one would think a slugging team would. In the ALCS, they didn’t hit all that well as far as average is concerned, but hitting six home runs in four games as a team qualifies them as being successful.

Of course, the regular season and the postseason can be two different animals and we’ve seen the Astros hit for a lower average in October, something that should be somewhat expected when teams are facing better pitching. That should help the Phillies here as their starting staff is capable to striking men out, but the defense of the Phillies will be a factor. With the Astros putting the ball in play as much as they do, it’ll be imperative that the Phillies field the ball cleanly when given the chances. They cannot afford to give the Astros extra outs.

Who’s hot

The Yankees had almost no answer for Jeremy Pena over the four games, his going 6 for 17 with two home runs and four RBI an impressive debut for the young shortstop. True, the two home runs came in the clinching game four, but still, that’s mighty impressive.

Who’s not

Jose Altuve, as you can see, has really struggled this postseason. He got a bit better against the Yankees, but still only went 3 for 16, a far cry from the .921 OPS he posted during the regular season

Philadelphia Phillies

We’ve watched a balanced offense hit rather well over these playoffs. We’ve written about it a bunch, but it seems as though the Phillies have going for them what teams need in the playoffs: their stars to play like stars. Could they get a little more out of J.T. Realmuto and Nick Castellanos? Of course, but their shortcomings in October were glossed over by Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins hitting dingers left and right.

If there is one concern that the Phillies have, it’s that the bottom of the order is giving them virtually nothing offensively. One through four, they’re hitting as well as any team can in October, but from the five spot on, it has been bleak. Sure, they’ve gotten some clutch hits - Castellanos’ single against Luis Garcia an example - but they have to start producing just a little bit more. With the margins for error so small for the Phillies when facing a team like Houston, production from unexpected areas of the roster could be the difference in a game or two.

Who’s hot

I mean, need we say more?

Bryce Harper is hitting the ball extremely well at exactly the right time. The deserving NLCS MVP...well, there really isn’t much else to say. He’s destroying the baseball right now.

Who’s not

Brandon Marsh has been stone cold this postseason. In the NLCS, he put up a ghastly 0 for 13 with seven strikeouts and didn’t look particularly competitive in any of his at bats. One has to wonder if the team might consider benching him even against right handed pitchers, particularly one like Justin Verlander. The hole in Marsh’s swing, fastball elevated in the strike zone, could be exploited by someone like Verlander and put the Phillies in a tough spot.

Verdict

I’m not really sure you can say one team has a huge advantage over the other. These four off days prior to game one might be the big equalizer if you were to swing the momentum towards the Phillies, but it’s also fair to point out that the Astros are facing the exact same schedule. For each bopper that Houston can provide (Alvarez, Bregman, Tucker), the Phillies can match in their own way (Harper, Schwarber, Hoskins). If we’re going to take the overall offense into consideration, even though the regular season numbers might not agree, right now, it’s probably ever so slight advantage Phillies in this department. The margin isn’t big between them, but it is there.

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