The difference between a good team and a great team is on display in the World Series. Both the Dodgers and Red Sox had talent laden Opening Day payrolls at or exceeding $200 million. Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw, Justin Turner, and Kenley Jansen are not overmatched by the talents of Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Chris Sale, and Craig Kimbrel. The difference is execution.
Manny Machado’s defensive skills are unquestionable, but he has checked out at the plate. He is hitting .222, 4 for 18, obviously a small sample size. However, it is how Machado has looked, not what he has done. He turned a double into a single, is blowing bubbles while running down the line on close plays, stepping on the first baseman’s foot again, and just looks like he wants the World Series to end so he can hit free agency. Players should show emotion when they get a big hit in the World Series. Yasiel Puig watching his home run while Eduardo Rodriguez slams his glove was amazing. Both players showed their emotions on the biggest stage in the game. Machado acted like he hit the ball 20 rows deep, yet it hit maybe halfway up the wall costing the Dodgers a base, maybe more. Machado’s behavior is likely costing him millions in free agency as teams lose interest, thus reducing competition to sign him. Puig launched the ball, he celebrated the moment knowing the ball was gone.
Remember to celebrate a home run only if it clear the fence. (AP Photo/ Mark J. Terrill)
Nathan Eovaldi has done his best Madison Bumgarner impersonation. Heading into free agency his value has done nothing but rise. Eovaldi has pitched 8 innings with a 1.13 ERA and a 0.500 WHIP in the World Series. His 6 innings of relief in Boston’s Game 3 loss saved the Red Sox pitching staff for the entire series. Eovaldi’s effort prevented several members of Boston’s bullpen from working multiple innings. The Red Sox have a commanding series lead after winning Game 4 in part because their bullpen was not exhausted from Game 3.
Walker Buehler got the Jacob deGrom treatment. He pitched 7 outstanding innings, and the Dodger offense scored one run. Los Angeles wasted Buehler’s performance by allowing the Red Sox to hang around. A single bad pitch by Kenley Jansen to Jackie Bradley Jr. forced extra innings; obviously no one though the game would go 18 innings. The Dodgers wasted their chance to get back in the series without exhausting their pitching staff. They won Game 3, but at what cost?
Nathan Eovaldi pitched 6 innings of relief in Game 3 before giving up Max Muncy’s walk off home run in the 18th inning. Despite the lose he may have saved the World Series for the Red Sox. (AP Photo/ David J. Phillip)
The tough luck award of the World Series goes to Ryan Madson. Technically he has allowed 1 earned run in 2 ⅓ innings. However, he has inherited 7 Red Sox runners and all 7 have scored. His pitching did not allow them on base, but his pitching has allowed them to score. Madson has pitched in the first four games, Game 3 was his only clean outing. He threw only two pitches. Madson inherited 14 runners in the regular season, only 4 scored. Terrible timing for a rough stretch.
It is much easier to lose a game than to win a game. Winning comes down to execution. The talent of the Dodgers and Red Sox is fairly even. Los Angeles has failed to execute in some key moments. Boston is one win away from winning the series and sending the Dodgers to their second consecutive World Series defeat. The opportunity to win the World Series is rare and the Dodgers’ window may be closing. The Texas Rangers lost the 2010 World Series and were one strike away from winning in 2011. They never got that strike. Is this as close as Los Angeles will get to lifting the Commissioner’s Trophy for the first time in 30 years.
The World Series is close. Game 4 was the biggest blowout of the series so far, 6-2 Dodgers. Timely hitting in the late innings seem to be how games have been won and lost. Yes, both teams have to score runs to win, but more directly both teams need their pitching staffs to prevent runs from scoring, especially the bullpen. Pitching will win the 2017 World Series.
Both teams have pitched 37 innings through the first four games of the World Series. Houston has used nine pitchers, allowing 18 runs, 22 hits, 12 walks, 32 strikeouts, with a 4.38 ERA, and 0.919 WHIP. The Dodgers are hitting .176 with an .252 OBP. Los Angeles has used 12 pitchers, allowing 15 runs, 31 hits, 11 walks, 30 strikeouts, with a 3.41 ERA, and 1.135 WHIP. The Astros are hitting .226 with an .282 OBP.
Houston must bridge the gap between the starter and Brad Peacock to win its first World Series. (Brett Coomer/ Houston Chronicle)
Both teams have had moments of greatness on the mound and at bat. Ultimately the World Series will be decided by how the managers use their bullpen. Astros manager A.J. Hinch has relied on fewer pitchers, but for more innings per pitcher, while Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has relied on more pitchers for fewer innings per pitcher. It will come down to whether the Astros bullpen tires out before Roberts pulls a pitcher too soon and replaces him with someone who is ineffective. Both approaches could work, but only one will win the series.
Houston is averaging more than six innings from its starters. Once the game goes to the bullpen, A.J. Hinch is riding the hot hand. Hinch is relying on Chris Devenski (3 ⅓ innings), Will Harris (1 ⅔ innings), and Brad Peacock (4 innings) to finish games. Harris and Devenenski are the bridge from the starters to Peacock. Unfortunately for the Astros Ken Giles has not helped, a 27.00 ERA in only 1 ⅔ innings has hurt Houston. This late in the World Series it is doubtful the Astros can give him more chances to figure it out. The Astros bullpen is a little shorter due to Giles struggles, but they are not alone in potential bullpen issues.
The Dodger bullpen has a cast of many to bridge the gap between the starter and Kenley Jansen, but is there a week link? (Matt Slocum/ AP)
Dave Roberts is sticking with the formula that got Los Angeles to the World Series. Dodgers starters are averaging less than 4 ⅔ innings per start, less than 5 ⅔ innings if you remove the disastrous start by Yu Darvish in Game 3. Los Angeles is relying on its bullpen for more outs. Brandon Morrow (4 innings), Tony Watson (2 ⅔ innings), Kenta Maeda (4 innings), and Kenley Jansen (4 innings) have been the workmen keeping the Dodgers close. Los Angeles has seen Brandon McCarthy (18.00 ERA in 1 inning pitched) and Josh Fields (infinite ERA) not perform when called upon, and with each out being so precious there is little reason to expect them to pitch again. The Dodgers too have a shortened bullpen in the now best of three series.
Defense wins championships, while this is true, at least in part, in the 2017 World Series bullpen management and usage will decide the victor. The Dodgers and Astros are playing a great team World Series. No single player has carried either team. How each bullpen performs will dictate if Houston gets its first ever World Series championship or if Los Angeles gets to relive the glory of 1988. Time will tell, but the key to winning lies within the bullpen. Every time the call to the bullpen is made, the entire World Series could be able to change.