World Series 2017: Three reasons the Astros will win
One pitch — that's right, one pitch — could be the determining factor in the Fall Classic.
These are the two best teams in baseball and they have been all year. Apart from one huge winning streak by the Indians, the Astros have been the best team in the American League all season while the Dodgers have had no equal in the National League despite an extended late-summer slump.
This is the series 2017 deserved and either team could win. This is the best hitting team in baseball against the best pitching team. It's the best left-handed pitcher in Clayton Kershaw and arguably the best right-hander in Justin Verlander.
Either team could win this series, but here are three reasons the Astros will win.
1. The Astros love to throw the slider and the Dodgers can't hit it
There is no team in baseball that loves breaking pitches more than the Astros. They love their spin rates and they love their sliders. They throw them early and they throw them often and it has been their most effective pitch this season.
According to Fangraphs, Dallas Keuchel has a .176 batting average against his, and Justin Verlander has held batters to a .215 average with the pitch. While Lance McCullers Jr. and Charlie Morton both throw curveballs their pitches are closer to slurves (a pitch between a slider and curve) and they have the same effect as the pitch. McCullers has a .192 average against his breaking pitch while Charlie Morton is holding batters to a .104 clip.
In addition to that, Houston's best relievers, Joe Musgrove, Luke Gregerson, Ken Giles, Brad Peacock and Francisco Liriano all have good sliders and love to throw them a lot.
As good as their pitches are and as much as they like to throw them, the Dodgers have trouble hitting them, too. No batter amongst Los Angeles' regulars has a batting average higher than .262 against sliders while Corey Seager is hitting .221 and Game 7 hero Enrique Hernandez is batting .082.
2. In recent years the better hitting team wins
In each of the last four years the team with the better regular-season OPS (on-base plus slugging) has won the World Series. In seven of the last 10 years the same thing holds true.
Houston was the best hitting team all year long in baseball. The Astros had the most runs scored, the highest batting average, the most doubles, the most RBIs, the best on-base percentage and the highest OPS.
The first five games against the Yankees were the outlier, but the Astros found their bats again in Games 6 and 7 of the ALCS and look to be back to their old selves. That's bad news for the Dodgers.
3. Houston is the more battle-tested team
It was a fair question to ask heading into Game 6 of the ALCS if the Astros had played any must-win games this season. They hadn't and they had shown nothing to prove that they could win a game like that.
But after knocking off a Cy Young award candidate in Luis Severino in Game 6, a veteran lefty in CC Sabathia in Game 7, and scoring seven runs off the best bullpen in baseball in those two games, they proved they can win a game when they have to.
The Dodgers now face the question of how they'll hold up to a must-win game. They haven't had any pressure on them in the playoffs and the last time they had a must-win game, Games 5 and 6 of the NLCS in 2016, Los Angeles lost both times. Houston has proven it can win when it must. Los Angeles still needs to prove it can do so.