The Dodgers won their second consecutive pennant on Saturday night, beating the Brewers 5-1 in a decisive Game 7 on the road. They will now get a second chance at their own Game 7 loss in last year’s World Series. Though they will not be facing the Astros again, they will face a very tough opponent in the Boston Red Sox, and they will not have home field advantage like they did last year.
One could argue that the Dodgers had a disappointing regular season, seeing as how they needed a one-game playoff to win the division, and they won “only” 92 games as opposed to a league-best 104 last year. They were as much as nine games back in early May. They spent most of late July in first place and then fell out for awhile, only to come back to take hold of first place in late September. Even then they came awfully close to losing the division to the Rockies.
The fact of the matter is that the Dodgers were third in the league by run differential. They had the second-best BaseRuns record in baseball! In that regard, their 101 wins were two wins better than the Red Sox! They were tied with the Yankees for best offense in baseball when adjusting for league and park effects. Their starting rotation ranked third in the league by adjusted run average and second by DRA. Their bullpen was not great by adjusted run average, but it ranked sixth in the league by DRA.
This is all to say that the gap between the Dodgers and the Red Sox is a lot closer than their 16-win regular season difference might indicate. The Red Sox are rightly favored, but expect this to be a highly competitive series.
The Dodgers do not have home field advantage, but they might have a bigger advantage during their home games than the Red Sox will in theirs. As Steven Martano discussed here, the Red Sox will not be able to put out their optimum lineup in Los Angeles because there will be no DH. Mookie Betts at his original position of second base is a big upgrade over the regulars there, but the team will take a big hit defensively with J.D. Martínez in right field. Martínez is probably a good three grades worse defensively than Betts in right field. To further echo one of Martano’s points, the Dodgers do not have a lot of left-handed hitters to take advantage of that.
Dodgers’ left-handed pitchers are probably pretty happy to have to face the Red Sox hitters as opposed to that of the Astros, who led the league in offense against lefties by a wide margin. Believe it or not, the Red Sox ranked 19th in the league. That is pretty surprising with a lineup that contains Mookie Betts, J.D. Martínez, and Xander Bogaerts. Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, and Hyun-Jin Ryu should be pretty confident.
Dave Roberts appears to be a good manager, but he made more than a few tactical mistakes this postseason. He is really going to need to learn from those mistakes, because Alex Cora is not making them. If Roberts does something such as leave a starter that is not Kershaw in for more than two times through the order — and even Kershaw is debatable given his diminished velocity — this Red Sox lineup is going to punish him. They are far from a middling Brewers offense that failed to produce in the NLCS.
The Dodgers’ best hitters have hit well this postseason, but the team is going to need more in the World Series. Justin Turner has hit .279/.367/.372, and Max Muncy has hit .182/.372/.364. Turner is not hitting for any power, and though Muncy is, he is striking out about 42 percent of the time. Call me crazy, but I do not think that the team can rely on Chris Taylor to continue hitting .360/.467/.600.
Unlike with the Brewers, the Dodgers’ hitters are going to want to get into the Red Sox’s bullpen early. There were reasons why there was concern over their relievers, and their surprisingly good performance in the ALCS should not change that.
It is probably in the best interests of the Dodgers to start Austin Barnes over Yasmani Grandal. Barnes’s .281 wOBA was a whopping 71 points lower than Grandal’s during the regular season, but Grandal has looked awful during the postseason. I am not just talking about his .125/.222/.292 slash line. He has looked awful at the plate. He has not appeared to have any plan at the plate, or any idea at what he is doing. His defense appears to have cratered as well.
I am curious as to whether or not the weather will play a factor. Dodgers’ players are likely accustomed to sunny southern California, but it is going to be freezing in Boston. I live in Boston and I am freezing right now! The forecast is 49° at game time tonight. Oh, and there might be rain. It is not going to be any better tomorrow.
This should a competitive and highly entertaining World Series. It is going to be two elite offenses facing off. We’ll see if the Dodgers will be celebrating their first World Series championship in 30 years.
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Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.