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World Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

Boston won more games than anyone in the regular season. Do the Dodgers have a chance?

League Championship Series - Boston Red Sox v Houston Astros - Game Five Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Red Sox will win the World Series because they are the best Boston team ever, and they’ve already clobbered two 100-win teams this postseason.

Oh? You want more? Okay, well, if you insist.

If there’s a National League team that could actually threaten the Red Sox, it’s the Dodgers. At least theoretically. By Pythagorean record, the Dodgers were just one game worse than the Red Sox. The Dodgers led the majors in non-pitcher wRC+ at 118 compared to Boston’s 110. Dodgers pitchers were second by SIERA at 3.47 while Boston hurlers ranked fifth at 3.72.

From top to bottom, the Dodgers’ offense is chock-full of versatile power hitters and dangerous bats. While the Dodgers have infallible depth, the Red Sox have two of the top three hitters in the game. Mookie Betts is still as good as any two Dodgers put together. Betts is the only name you can slot into the question “Is ________ better than Mike Trout?” and not be met with a dismissive scoff. J.D. Martinez was second in the majors in slugging at .629 and third in ISO at .299.

It’s not as if the Red Sox are top heavy either. Xander Bogaerts is right behind Manny Machado with the bat. Jackie Bradley Jr. can be streaky, but he’s mashing everything right now, as evidenced by his ALCS MVP. Steve Pearce had a great year at the plate. Andrew Benintendi helped fill out an all-time great outfield.

It’s true that the Dodgers don’t have an Eduardo Nuñez or a Blake Swihart weighing them down, but Boston need not fear the apparent gap in offense because the Red Sox are better equipped to neutralize the Dodger lineup.

This postseason has seen the importance of starters diminish (the Brewers nearly made it to the World Series with co-aces Jhoulys Chacin and Wade Miley), but Boston’s rotation matches or surpasses the Dodger’s formidable starters. Clayton Kershaw may have the best career of any pitcher, but right now, on October 23, 2018, Chris Sale is the better pitcher. If you believe the “Kershaw can’t pitch in the playoffs” narrative is bunk, you’d have to say the same about David Price. At 33, Price can still outduel Hyun-Jin Ryu, Walker Buehler, or Rich Hill. While the rookie Buehler is perhaps showing some signs of fatigue in his rookie season, Nathan Eovaldi is out throwing 102 MPH fastballs as he’s taken his game to another level.

With lefties Sale and Price at the top of their rotation, the Red Sox have a counter for the Dodgers’ potent offense. Over the season, the Dodgers hit .240/.324/.409 against left-handed pitchers which is actually pretty good. It’s a 101 wRC+. That’s a result of the Dave Roberts having the roster flexibility to gain platoon advantage. Left-handed Dodgers against southpaws have done much worse hitting for just an 86 wRC+. The Dodgers have gotten most of their offensive production from lefties (.804 OPS, 119 wRC+) as opposed to righties (.755, 106 wRC+)

Against a left-handed pitcher, Dave Roberts is left with two choices: play lesser-hitting righties or play his stronger left-handed hitters at a disadvantage. Thus far, Roberts has opted for the former, and he’s been quick to go to his bench. With Sale and Price starting the first two games at home, the Red Sox are primed to take a 2-0 lead.

Unfortunately for the Red Sox, they only have two left-handers to turn to out of the bullpen: Eduardo Rodriguez and Drew Pomeranz. The Red Sox could certainly have used more lefty relievers and solid relievers in general. Craig Kimbrel has been ineffectively wild in October while Kenley Jansen has been solid. Joe Kelly has remained enigmatic while Heath Hembree has continued to be Heath Hembree.

Even if you could make an argument that the Dodgers are better than the Red Sox, the Dodgers are somewhat lucky they’ve made it this far. They narrowly avoided elimination at the hands of the Milwaukee Brewers. Even if Dodgers pitchers held Christian Yelich and company to a .678 OPS, they were still outhit in the series. Los Angeles slashed .223/.305/.328 for a .632 OPS and they were outscored 24 to 23. Not to take anything away from the Brewers, but the Red Sox outclass Milwaukee and the Dodgers still struggled to beat them.

Despite putting up great numbers, the Dodgers have looked bad at times. Their worst losing streak (six games) was longer than their best winning streak (five games). They dropped six out of seven games against the Cincinnati Reds. Heck, they were below .500 until June 5.

The Red Sox, on the other hand, have been consistently dominant over the entire season. They never had a month with a winning percentage below .577 let alone a losing month. Their longest losing streak was just three games. That should come as no surprise since they won 108 games this year.

These teams are evenly matched on paper, but a seven game series can be random as hell. The World Series MVP might be Eduardo Nuñez after he has a three-homer game against Clayton Kershaw. I’d expect the Dodgers to turn in a bad series before the Red Sox falter, though. The Red Sox haven’t struggled all year, and I don’t expect them to start now.

Kenny Kelly is a writer for Beyond the Box Score, McCovey Chronicles, and BP Wrigleyville.