The Los Angeles Dodgers are back in the World Series, and instead of getting a rematch against the team that beat them in 2017, they will play the team that beat the team that beat them. The Boston Red Sox were great in 2018, winning 108 games, and are a force to be reckoned with in the Fall Classic.
Here are some factors for the Dodgers to beat Boston.
This seems obvious, and is magnified during the postseason. But the team that executes more in crucial moments will likely prevail. I realize this is cliché and I apologize, but it is an issue for the Dodgers. They led the National League in runs scored (4.93 per game), but with runners in scoring position they were in they fell off a bit.
Dodgers offense in 2018
|Overall||.250 (8th)||.333 (3rd)||.442 (1st)||.774 (1st)||111 (1st)|
|RISP||.253 (7th)||.349 (3rd)||.412 (8th)||.760 (8th)||103 (4th)|
So far during the postseason the Dodgers have struggled in the clutch, hitting just .190/.330/.333 with runners in scoring position, so they will have their work cut out for them to keep pace with Boston. Another way to do that is ...
The Dodgers set a franchise record with 234 home runs this season, tops in the National League. They were second in baseball only to the mighty Yankees, who broke the major league mark. The Red Sox did a great job at throttling New York in the American League Division Series, holding the Yankees to just four home runs in the four-game series, including none in the final two games at Yankee Stadium.
In the NLCS the Dodgers hit only five home runs against the Brewers, but the two biggest came in Game 7. Cody Bellinger hit a two-run shot to give Los Angeles a lead, then Yasiel Puig broke it open with a three-run shot in the sixth.
The Dodgers will need more long balls in the World Series. Their best bets might be against Rick Porcello (27 home runs allowed in 33 starts) or David Price (25 homers allowed in 30 starts).
The Dodgers need to score to keep up with Boston, who led the majors in runs per game (5.41). But the Dodgers are no slouch. If we remove all the plate appearances from pitchers, here is how these two offenses hit in 2018:
- Red Sox: .269/.339/.454, 111 wRC+
- Dodgers: .257/.341/.458, 118 wRC+
Nominally that’s as close to the Spiderman meme as we will see, but after factoring in park and competition the Dodgers offense actually rates a little better, sporting a higher adjusted weighted runs created. Go figure.
Now they just have to do it over the seven-game series.
Dodgers catchers have been a problem this postseason. Yes, Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes factor in greatly in implementing game plans for opposing hitters, and that can’t be discounted. In 11 postseason games the Dodgers have allowed just 32 runs, under three per game. Something is going right.
But the Dodgers absolutely have to get something at the plate from their catchers in the Fall Classic. So far this postseason Grandal and Barnes are a combined 5-for-42, hitting just .119/.213/.214. During the regular season Dodgers catchers — with Grandal doing the heavy lifting — hit .240/.348/.438. leading the majors in walks (91), slugging percentage, OPS (.786) and wRC+ (117), and second in home runs.
Both catchers are considered excellent pitch framers, but the other defensive aspects of the position were exposed in the NLCS for Grandal, who had three passed balls and two errors in the series, and didn’t start after Game 3.
Grandal only caught two more innings the rest of the series, but managed to let a wild pitch get past him for a run in that limited time. The ball always finds a way, it seems.
Limit Boston’s big hitters
The Red Sox have a deep and stellar offense, but the focus will be on stopping Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, which is easier said than done.
The Dodgers allowed a grand slam to budding superstar Ronald Acuña Jr. in the NLDS, but held him to just 3-for-16 (.188) in the series. In the NLCS the Dodgers did a great job of keeping Christian Yelich at bay, holding the Brewers outfielder to just 5-for-28, .179/.303/.321 for the series.
After withstanding one likely MVP in Yelich, the Dodgers will have their hands full with another in Betts, who hit .346/.438/.640 during the regular season, with 32 home runs, 47 doubles and 30 steals. Betts has been relatively quiet so far in October, hitting .205/.295/.282 (8-for-39, no home runs) so far, but it seems like only a matter of time before he breaks out.
Martinez gave the Dodgers all they could handle in 2017 after getting acquired midseason by the Diamondbacks. He had a four-homer game against them in September, then was 4-for-11 (.364) with a home run in last year’s NLDS, though the Dodgers swept Arizona in three games. The Dodgers will have their hands full with Martinez, who figures to play even when the World Series moves to Los Angeles with no designated hitter, with talk of Betts moving to second base to create room for Martinez in the outfield.
Wherever they play, Betts and Martinez are tough matchups and will need to be limited to help the Dodgers’ chances.