The World Series will kick off this evening with the Los Angeles Dodgers facing the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park. The Red Sox 108-win season means they have the advantage of hosting four games in this series. That is especially key for them given that one of their best hitters is their designated hitter, J.D. Martinez. However, Martinez is just one story line among many as Ian Glendon discussed earlier. This World Series matchup has a ton of history given the Dodgers former home was in Brooklyn. When they moved many of their fans ended up turning to the Red Sox, adding some extra spice to the occasion.
So who is going to come out on top in this Series? Below I take a look at the hitting, fielding, starters and relievers to see if anyone has a clear advantage in this matchup
Both of these lineups have a ton of talent. Both teams boosted their talent with mid-season additions, but both teams have extremely solid hitting groups who can make a splash.
The Red Sox will lean heavily on the combination of Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, J.D Martinez and Xander Bogaerts at the top of their order. Betts and Martinez were ranked second and third in roster resources power rankings this season. Benintendi came out 18th and Bogaerts 30th. Four in the top-30 is pretty impressive. Behind those four there is a drop-off. No one else ranks in the top-100, and five of the other 10 rank in the top-200. In terms of platoons they will rely on Mitch Moreland and Rafael Devers against right-handed pitchers. For lefties, we should see Steve Pearce and Eduardo Nunez. The other name to watch out for is Brock Holt who has been relatively hot to end the season
As for the Dodgers, well they have just one player ranked in the top-30 this season, Manny Machado at seven. They have a further five in the top-100 and another five in the top-200. In fact just David Freese and Austin Barnes rank below 200 for this ball club. Platoon wise we have Joc Pederson who will play exclusively against righties. Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig will play most days but may sit against Boston’s two lefties. David Freese, Brian Dozier and Enrique Hernandez could all see time when left-handed pitchers are on the mound but it is by no mean a guarantee.
Boston has the better individual talent in their lineup but Los Angeles are deeper. If a couple of the Red Sox big three struggle they could be in trouble. However, it feels like the Dodgers need to put a string of hits together to score big. Whereas, the Red Sox are a team that can explode big time. I give the edge here to the Red Sox.
In terms of overall defense this season the Red Sox ranked eight with a .986 fielding percentage while the Dodgers finished 23rd with a .983 fielding percentage. They are small margins but we are talking the difference between 77 errors in the season compared to 100 errors. Over the course of a season 23 extra errors are minimal but one error could make the difference to winning or losing a game in the World Series.
The best stat to use here is Run total, which looks at the total amount of runs saved compared to an average fielder at the same position. Boston averaged 36 runs saved on the season compared to eight for the Dodgers. However, I just want to focus on some individual players. Jackie Bradley ranked first in the majors with 25 runs saved and Betts ranked 5th with 20 runs saved, with both ranking number one at their positions. In addition, Benintendi ranked top-five at his position and 45th overall. In contrast, the highest ranked Dodgers were Justin Turner, Bellinger and Barnes with five runs saved, ranking them 85th through 87th.
There is very little doubt here. The edge in the field goes to the Red Sox.
I spoke about just how good the Dodgers starting pitching was when I wrote about why the Brewers needed to stay hot. The Dodgers rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Walker Buehler and Rich Hill is incredible. All four of those guys ranked in the top-60 according to roster resources power rankings. Of the four the highest ERA this season is 3.66, an ERA most pitchers would be perfectly happy with over 130 innings.
On the other side we have Chris Sale, David Price, Nathan Eovaldi and Rick Porcello. Over the course of the season we have Sale, Price and Porcello in the top-30 and Eovaldi at 96 in the power rankings. Porcello had the highest ERA this season with 4.28 and Sale is the lowest with a 2.11 ERA.
Ranking the pitchers based on 2018 ERA it would be: Ryu, Sale, Buehler, Kershaw, Eovaldi, Price, Hill and Porcello. Ian wrote about the big Kershaw, Sale matchup in Game 1 and it is crucial for the Red Sox that their ace lays down a marker in that game. If he does not then the Red Sox are going to have some issues with the opposing rotation because the edge here belongs to the Dodgers.
This is an interesting matchup. We have the two stud closers in Kenley Jansen and Craig Kimbrel. After that there are a lot of question marks. Pedro Baez has been good this season and both Matt Barnes and Ryan Brasier have stepped up for the Red Sox in these playoffs. The issue for me is that at times Kimbrel has looked shaky in the post-season. He got away with it against the Yankees and Astros but if he is not on his game then the Dodgers depth of hitters may make him pay.
For that reason I am giving a very marginal edge to the Dodgers but it is closer to 50-50 than any of the other categories. If the Dodgers can chase the Red Sox starters early a couple of times they might make that into a major issue for the Sox. On the contrary, if the Sox get after the Dodgers starters they have virtual starters Alex Wood and Julio Urias to turn to. That is the ultimate strength there but it relies on the Dodgers doing the job early in games.
So in terms of scoring the categories it is 2-2. However, the win at relief pitching is minor for the Dodgers. I think the ability of the Red Sox guys to just step up at the plate and make things happen is key. I also think the pitching difference is not so big that the Red Sox defensive advantage cannot cover it. The first game will be crucial. If the Dodgers can steal the first game from Sale there is a chance they could take advantage of the lack of DH in LA and end it in five. However, I am going for the Red Sox to win in six but I want it there to be a Game 7, this season deserves it.