The No-BS World Series Preview
The Phillies have momentum! The Astros have a chip on their shoulder! The Phillies are a team of destiny! The Astros have postseason experience! The Phillies are loaded with clutch! The Astros want revenge from their 1980 NLCS loss! The Phillies are built for the playoffs! The Astros may never lose again!
Oh, sorry, just wanted to get some of the BS out of the way before we got started.
We begin this No-BS preview — like all the other No-BS previews — with the obvious but undeniable point that we have no idea what will happen in this Houston-Philadelphia World Series … and what fun would it even be if we did? It’s a best-of-seven series between two good teams, and while we will spend some time talking about Bryce Harper and Yordan Alvarez and Justin Verlander and Zack Wheeler and some of the other stars, the reality is that Matt Vierling or Martin Maldonado might be the eventual hero. This is baseball.
And as my friend Buck O’Neil* used to say, “Anything can happen in baseball.”
*Speaking of Buck, would love it if you would head over to ThanksAMillionBuck.com and donate a buck in honor of our guy making it, finally, into the Baseball Hall of Fame. All the money goes to Buck’s favorite place, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.
Issue 1! Oh, That Astros Pitching!
OK, maybe you’ve heard of a guy named Ryne Stanek, maybe you haven’t, but he had a pretty absurd season for the Astros this year. He got into 59 games and gave up two home runs all year. The league hit .188 off of him. He throws a 98-mph four-seam fastball that moves like Jagger and a disappearing split-fingered fastball that the best hitters on earth whiffed on 44% of the time they swung. Stanek’s 1.15 ERA was the lowest in the American League for pitchers with 50-plus innings.
Ryne Stanek might not pitch in this series because the Astros have so many pitchers who are better than him.
That’s not a joke. Stanek has pitched only two innings this postseason. The first inning he threw was in that crazy 18-inning Houston-Seattle game, which doesn’t mean much because I’m pretty sure I pitched 2/3 of an inning in that one. The second inning he pitched was in Game 3 of the ALCS against the Yankees; Houston already led that game 5-0.
He struck out the side in that inning, by the way.
This is how good the Astros bullpen is — Stanek, with the American League’s lowest ERA, is behind Hector Neris, Rafael Montero, Bryan Abreu and Ryan Pressley coming out of the bullpen. And the craziest part is: He really is the fifth-best pitcher of those five guys. There has never been a bullpen quite like this in the history of baseball.*
*In the playoffs, those five pitchers have pitched 23 innings, allowed two runs (0.78 ERA if you’re scoring at home) with 33 strikeouts. It’s lunacy.
What will such dominant pitching mean against a good-hitting Phillies team that averaged five runs a game against San Diego in the NLCS and scored 27 runs in four games against Atlanta?
Well, we aren’t in the prediction business here, but it’s worth reiterating a fascinating point made by our friend Joe Sheehan (sign up for his amazing newsletter here!).