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Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies MLB World Collection X-factors

Alec Bohm warming up at Minute Maid Park ahead of the World Series

Alec Bohm warming up at Minute Maid Park forward of the World Collection
Picture: Getty Photos

The World Collection kicks off tomorrow night time between two groups with wildly completely different expectations heading into the postseason. On one hand, the Astros had been the highest seed within the American League. Houston reached the World Collection in three of the final 5 seasons and reached the ALCS in all 5. Everybody and their moms may’ve predicted one other ‘Stros look within the World Collection.

The Phillies, nonetheless, had been a completely completely different story. For many of the season, the Phillies had been on the surface of the playoff bubble trying in. If it weren’t for the Milwaukee Brewers actively attempting to overlook the playoffs, Philadelphia won’t have gotten in in any respect. The membership received simply seven of its final 20 heading into the playoffs, and Bryce Harper had put up fairly subpar energy numbers since his return from the IL — simply three house runs and an OPS of .676 in Philly’s ultimate 35 video games.

Most individuals — myself included — anticipated the Cardinals to eliminate the Phillies within the first spherical, however lo and behold, right here we’re practically three weeks later, and Philly continues to be kicking like an ill-tempered zebra with severe again spasms. It shouldn’t be a shock {that a} majority of consultants consider Houston holds an enormous benefit on this matchup. The Astros earned the precise to be thought-about the most effective groups within the league, however simply because a staff didn’t have the best common season doesn’t imply it doesn’t have the instruments to win all of it. (Shoutout 2021 Atlanta Braves!) If Philadelphia does pull off a championship run, it could grow to be the third-worst staff — common season record-wise — to win the World Collection, forward of solely the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals and 1987 Minnesota Twins. That stated, there have been 4 groups since 2000 to win the World Collection whereas recording fewer than 90 common season wins — so why can’t the Phillies proceed that development?

The Phils have spent some huge cash in recent times hoping to assert not less than one title. They’d didn’t win greater than 82 video games in any of their final 4 seasons (since signing Bryce Harper), thus they will’t afford to move up this golden alternative that has been thrust upon them. You’d prefer to suppose Philadelphia will likely be again, however of the seven groups to have received a World Collection whereas profitable 90 or fewer video games within the common season, just one went on to win one other World Collection throughout the subsequent 5 years (the 2010 San Francisco Giants). There’s additionally the 2021 Braves, however their five-season outlook has clearly but to be revealed.

The Astros want this World Collection for a unique motive. Having received just one title since 2017, Houston hasn’t but rid itself of the “cheaters” moniker that baseball followers have positioned upon it for taking the 2017 championship by way of doubtful strategies. Whereas one other World Collection title wouldn’t absolve them of their crimes, it could present the baseball world that maybe the Astros by no means wanted to cheat with the intention to win. Perhaps they actually had been simply that good. I, personally, disagree. In the event that they by no means wanted to cheat, why do it in any respect? I can see that argument although.

Both teams clearly have a lot at stake in this series, so here’s who needs to step up for both teams in order to give their team a chance at winning it all.

Houston Astros: Martín Maldonado & Kyle Tucker

The Astros’ pitching staff matches up incredibly well with the Phillies’ lineup. Philadelphia’s biggest strength is hitting against fastballs (fifth-highest wOBA against that pitch in 2022). Houston hurlers throw a lot of fastballs (third-highest rate in MLB). Furthermore, the Phils were especially good against fastballs with an Intended Vertical Break of 18 inches or more in 2022, ranking third in MLB in that category. The Astros have a few members of their staff with those very types of fastballs. You’d think this would bode well for the Phillies, but both the Yankees and Mariners were also elite fastball-hitting teams — ranking fifth and seventh, respectively — in wOBA against fastballs with 18 or more inches of Intended Vertical Break. Neither of those teams won a single game against Houston, and their average runs per game were just 2.57. That’s almost a full run lower than the Detroit Tigers averaged in 2022 (3.44) they usually scored the fewest runs of any staff.

Mainly, so long as the Astros’ pitchers hold doing what they’re doing, they’ll be simply effective. It comes right down to hitting for Houston and whether or not or not the likes of Martín Maldonado and Kyle Tucker can choose up the tempo.

Regardless of going 16-8 with Christian Vázquez beginning, the ‘Stros will greater than seemingly depend on Maldonado’s superior energy numbers to propel them to a title from the catcher place. He’s began all however one sport for the Astros throughout this postseason run however has recorded solely three hits and 7 strikeouts in his fourteen at-bats. In 2022, the Astros had been virtually unbeatable when Maldonado recorded an extra-base hit. He solely did so in 24 video games, however the Astros went 18-6 whereas scoring 5.67 runs per sport, over a full run greater than their common from the season as a complete.

In his profession, Maldonado has 5 extra-base hits towards the Phillies throughout 4 video games. His staff on the time — Brewers, Angeles, and Astros — received all 4 of these video games by a mixed rating of 32-3. Throughout all different video games that Maldonado has performed towards Philadelphia, his groups have gone 7-10. Particularly, with Houston, the Astros have gone 1-1, with each video games occurring within the ultimate sequence of the 2022 common season. The Astros received that sequence two video games to at least one, however within the video games the place Maldonado didn’t document an extra-base hit, the Phillies outscored the Astros 5-3.

As for Kyle Tucker, regardless of being a strong playoff performer in years previous, Tucker has struggled mightily by way of the 2022 ALDS and CS, recording a triple-slash of .214/.313/.321 by way of Houston’s seven video games. The World Collection could possibly be much more troublesome for Tucker. He’s struggled towards southpaws for many of his profession. In 2022, he hit arguably new lows towards them, slashing .228/.279/.456, good for a .736 OPS and 103 OPS-plus, which doesn’t sound too dangerous, however when in comparison with his 140 OPS-plus towards righties, you notice simply how poor he was comparatively.

The Astros haven’t needed to face too many lefties up to now of their 2022 postseason run. In reality, Tucker, regardless of taking part in everything of all seven video games, has solely had 5 plate appearances towards southpaws (Matthew Boyd, Robbie Ray, Wandy Peralta twice, and Nestor Cortes). He’s gone 1-for-3 with two walks, which is definitely fairly good, however too small a pattern measurement to imagine he’s dug himself out of his southpaw rut.

The Phillies don’t have too many southpaws to talk fondly of — Ranger Suárez, Brad Hand, José Alvarado, and possibly Bailey Falter. Nonetheless, the 4 of them have thrown a mixed 21.1 innings within the postseason to date, 20 of which have come within the NLDS or NLCS, which means when the going will get robust, the Phillies flip to those males (notably Hand and Alvarado late in video games). Tucker has primarily hit out of the fifth slot within the Astros’ lineup, which normally slots him in between Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel or Yuli Gurriel and Jeremy Peña, all three of whom are right-handed hitters (though Yordan Alvarez has often slotted in entrance of Tucker as effectively). This normally retains Tucker from having to face lefties typically, however the Phillies have proven a dependence on Alvarado and Hand. The pair had the bottom and third-lowest ERAs of anybody within the Phillies’ bullpen with not less than 30 innings pitched, so the righty-lefty matchup might not matter an excessive amount of to Phillies’ supervisor Rob Thomson. If that’s the case, Tucker is de facto going to should step up. In any other case, he could possibly be a non-factor on this World Collection.

Philadelphia Phillies: Aaron Nola & Alec Bohm

Not like the pair of Astros I listed above, these two kind of go in tandem with each other. I’m positive each Phillies fan alive is sick of listening to about their staff’s poor protection, but it surely should be famous that third baseman Alec Bohm was liable for various runs going to Philadelphia’s opponents in 2022. Why does he matter particularly? As a result of the highest of the Astros’ lineup consists of three right-handed hitters (Jeremy Peña, Jose Altuve, and Alex Bregman) who like to smash inside pitches. The Astros ranked sixth in MLB in wOBA towards inside pitches, and the Phillies threw inside pitches on the second-highest fee in MLB.

The Astros solely have three legit left-handed bats on their roster, which means lots of right-handers are going to return as much as the plate. The Astros pulled the ball on the fourth-highest fee in MLB and hit both a line drive or grounder on over 60 % of their batted balls. Bohm ranked one hundred and thirtieth in Defensive WAR amongst third basemen this season and he may get lots of work on this World Collection. I wouldn’t be shocked if a couple of Houston runs are decided by Bohm’s skill or lack of ability to flash the leather-based in key conditions.

The one Phillies’ beginning pitcher who didn’t throw inside pitches at an above-average fee this yr was ace Aaron Nola (yeah, I take into account him to be a tad higher than Zack Wheeler). Nola is an innings-eater, has the best strikeout fee of anybody on the Phillies’ beginning workers, and held right-handed hitters to an astonishingly low 80 OPS-plus this yr. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Phillies used him in the identical means the 2014 Giants used Madison Bumgarner; that’s, “Hey, it’s the tip of the season so let’s simply use this man’s arm as a lot as we will as a result of he’ll have the entire offseason to get better.”

Via three sequence, Nola has solely pitched 17.1 innings. His arm positively hasn’t been overworked and though his final outing towards the Padres wasn’t nice, he had gone 12.2 innings with zero earned runs allowed prior. I’d be keen to wager he bounces again. 



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