Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Houston Astros
The World Series pits one team that has never won a World Series (the Astros) against one that hasn't been to the Fall Classic since winning it all in 1988 (the Dodgers).
In looking at the two managers, it appears the Dodgers' Dave Roberts has his team in full postseason mode, while the Astros' A.J. Hinch seems to be stuck in more of a regular-season mentality.
That's why I'm picking the Dodgers.
I had to chuckle a little at the stories that came out after the Astros' Game 7 win against the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series Oct. 21. Apparently, Houston's analytics department came up with the notion that the Yankees couldn't hit curveballs. That really took analytics?
I wonder how the Astros' analytics department has been unable to measure the size of Justin Verlander's heart. Because instead of Hinch taking his best shot at winning this series, he is making what I feel is the one mistake he can't make -- starting Verlander two times instead of three.
Conversely, this is the one time in Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw's postseason career that his starts have aligned, so he will be well-rested for Game 1 and rested enough to start Games 4 and 7 if necessary.
When I sat down to analyze how I truly felt this best-of-seven series would go, I started with the notion that this is Kershaw's chance to show he is truly the equal of the greatest pitcher of my lifetime, Sandy Koufax. But, fortunately for Kershaw, he has a manager who won't worry about chasing that legend.
Roberts realizes his pitching staff is so deep and versatile that he'll have answers the Astros won't easily be able to strike big blows against. Whereas the Yankees had no quality situational left-hander, Roberts has Tony Cingrani and Tony Watson, and if Kershaw is destined to start Game 4, Alex Wood will be at Roberts' beck and call.
The Dodgers are 7-1 this postseason, and Roberts' bullpen may be the prime reason. The group of Cingrani, Watson, Ross Stripling, Kenta Maeda, Josh Fields, Brandon Morrow and outstanding closer Kenley Jansen have combined to throw 28.1 innings, allowing 12 hits and three walks while striking out 33. Their collective ERA and WHIP is 0.95 and 0.52, respectively.
While in the past it was almost painful to watch Kershaw accumulate a seventh-inning ERA of more than 25.00 in the postseason, it seemed he was always pitching too many times in a series on short rest and staying well beyond any sensible pitch count should have allowed him.
I am not sure the Dodgers' analytics department is the equal of the Astros, but I believe Roberts' gut is a lot smarter than Hinch's.
I love the Houston Strong storyline and the idea of the Astros winning the World Series for a city that has shown such courage during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. And while the city will recover, it will need to do so with the 2017 World Series crown residing in the City of Angels.
Prediction: Dodgers in five games.
Photo Credit: Mitch Stringer/PressBox