BOSTON (CBS) — With the World Series upon us, it’s time now to have a little fun. Let’s do a positional breakdown on this Red Sox-Dodgers Fall Classic, which gets underway Tuesday night at Fenway Park.
(All stats are postseason with hitting stats going average/OBP/Slugging)
The Dodgers are loaded here. Justin Turner (.279/.367/.372), Manny Machado (.250/.313/.500), Brian Dozier, Chris Taylor, David Freese, and Max Muncy rotate at different positions as manager Dave Roberts uses all of his pieces. Machado and Turner usually occupy short and third, respectively, but it’s a versatile and dangerous group.
Machado is the clear (and maybe only) villain in this series. He’s an agitator like A-Rod was to Boston when he played with the Yankees. And Machado seems to thrive off of it. Yes, he clearly likes to be booed.
The Red Sox’ one constant has been Xander Bogaerts (278/.341/.389) at shortstop and the 5-hole in the order. He’s got pop and plays the position as well as anyone. The Devers/Nunez combo at third has struggled, especially on defense, but Devers (.350/.409/.500) delivered the huge three-run homer in Game 5 of the ALCS. Maybe that kick-starts him to a great World Series.
Dozier, Taylor, Freese and Muncy occupy second and first for L.A. while the Sox use Kinsler, Holt, Pearce and Moreland. Each player has had their moments in the postseason. Moreland getting healthier could be a huge factor,
The Boston infield group is rock solid, but the Dodgers group has middle-of-the-order pop in Machado and Turner.
The Red Sox outfield is their strength with Mookie Betts (.205/.295/.282) the AL MVP during the regular season. His defense is game-changing, as we saw in Houston, and if he gets his bat going in this World Series, it’ll be a key part of another Sox title. Jackie Bradley Jr. (.185/.371/.481) has delivered some big hits when the Sox have needed it most and looks locked in at the plate. Andrew Benintendi has made some big catches and is another threat at the plate. We’ll also count J.D. Martinez (.313/.415/.531) as an outfielder, as he’ll DH at Fenway and play either left or right field at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers have pop and versatility in the outfield with 1B/OF Cody Bellinger (.139/.244/.250) and Yasiel Puig (.333/.429/.533) leading the way. Puig is all energy and shows it on a play-by-play basis. These two can change any game with one swing of the bat. Joc Pederson, Matt Kemp, and Enrique (Kike) Hernandez round out an interesting group.
The Sox get the nod here because of how well-rounded they are. They can change any game with one swing, one catch or one throw.
Edge: Red Sox
Neither group (Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez, Blake Swihart vs Austin Barnes, Yasmani Grandal) does much at the plate. Leon and Vazquez can change a game defensively with their blocking ability and/or their arm. Grandal has struggled most of the postseason and found his way to the bench in the NLCS against Milwaukee.
Edge: Red Sox
The Dodgers have a good group led by future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw (19 IP, 11 H, 5 R, 4 BB, 16 K in four games, three starts). He leads the group and does it well. Kershaw will be followed by Hyun-Jin Ryu, Rich Hill, and Walker Beuhler. Beuhler is a young stud, who was great for L.A. in their clinching Game 7 against the Brewers.
The Red Sox are hoping that rest and time off will help ailing ace Chris Sale. He may not be able to match Kershaw pitch for pitch in Game 1, but if Sale can keep his team in the game, the Sox have a chance to win late.
Which David Price will we see in Game 2? If it’s the guy who was lights out in the ALCS then he could change the series. Nathan Eovaldi has been Boston’s best starter in postseason ( 2-0, 1.88 ERA, 14.1 IP, 12 H, 2 BB, 10 K in three appearances/two starts) while Rick Porcello has been the grinder, as both starter and reliever.
Which group of starters has the biggest impact in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings may make the difference between winning and losing the World Series.
Edge: Red Sox
The Dodgers bullpen has been solid with closer Kenley Jensen (6.2 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 10 K, 3 saves) being the stud of the group. Pedro Baez, Caleb Ferguson, Dylan Flore, Ryan Madson, Alex Wood, Julio Urias, and Kenya Maeda man the rest of the pen. There’s an interesting mix of starters in here with Wood, Maeda and Urias. They’ve each performed well.
The Red Sox bullpen should be wearing “We Told You So” t-shirts after they were bad-mouthed all season long. They all said they were confident they would get the job done in the postseason and so far they have – big time.
Craig Kimbrel has, even by his own accounts, been an adventure in the playoffs (6.1 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 6 BB, 8 K, 5-for-5 in saves). However, he’s done the job and the hope is Eric Gagne helped right the ship by pointing out to him that he was tipping pitches. He had one of his best outings when he nailed down the ALCS, and he’s shown a lot of guts and heart getting through this rough postseason.
Ryan Brasier, Matt Barnes and Joe Kelly have been tremendous in getting to Kimbrel, along with whatever starter Cora turns to out of the pen (Porcello, Eovaldi and Sale). Add David Price and even Eduardo Rodriguez to that mix, and that’s a critical part of the bullpen getting the job done. It will have to continue. Heath Hembree and, surprisingly, Drew Pomeranz are also at Cora’s disposal out of the pen. Pomeranz made it on Boston’s 25-man roster to match up with L.A.’s lefties, but he hasn’t pitched since Sep. 30.
I’m hoping that this series goes seven games. I love the drama. There’s nothing better.
However, I think the Red Sox continue to show why they’ve been the best team in baseball from start to finish this season. They may start slow, as they’ve seemingly done all postseason, but in the end I think they prevail.
Red Sox in 7. Enjoy!