Judging the Royals

A preview of Game 7 of the World Series: Who’s hot right now?

The Los Angeles Dodgers celebrated after their 3-1 win against the Houston Astros in Game 6 of the World Series on Tuesday.
The Los Angeles Dodgers celebrated after their 3-1 win against the Houston Astros in Game 6 of the World Series on Tuesday. The Associated Press

Sports reporting has a tradition of making predictions that are usually inaccurate and quickly forgotten, so let’s skip that. I can’t tell what will happen, so let’s talk about what has happened and stick to recent events: the first six games of the 2017 World Series.

If you like numbers you might think a larger sample size is better and in many cases it is, but the Astros and Dodgers aren’t drafting a fantasy team or building a roster for 2018, they’re much more interested in who’s performing well right now and who’s likely to perform well Wednesday night in Game 7.

The starting pitchers

In Game 3 Yu Darvish and Lance McCullers were the starters and they’ll face each other again in Game 7. In Game 3 McCullers was not great — three earned runs in 5  1/3 innings — but that was good enough for the win because Darvish was worse.

Darvish had trouble getting his slider down and gave up four earned runs in 1  2/3 innings. So when Darvish throws a slider, pay attention, they might decide whether he goes deep in the game or takes an early shower.

The bullpens

This postseason the Dodgers bullpen has put up an ERA of 2.70 and the Astros bullpen ERA is 5.89. (OK, I fudged a bit on the let’s-just-look-at-the-series premise because relievers’ sample sizes are ridiculously low, but the hot-hand theory still applies.)

In the Series, Houston’s most reliable reliever has been Brad Peacock. In Game 3 Peacock threw 3  2/3 innings after McCullers was through and got the save. He’s had two days rest so Peacock might get leaned on heavily in Game 7.

Houston’s closer, Ken Giles, has a postseason ERA of 11.74 and in his two World Series appearances his ERA is 27.00. You’d think A.J. Hinch wants to avoid using Giles if at all possible. This is not the time to show faith in a young pitcher; you do that in the middle of the season, not in Game 7 of the World Series. If Ken Giles gets his feelings hurt he has all winter to get over it.

The Dodgers most reliable middle reliever in the Series has been Kenta Maeda. Because Maeda had 25 starts in 2017 and pitched multiple innings at a time, he’s the logical guy to relieve Darvish if Darvish makes an early exit.

The Dodgers closer, Kenley Jansen, has a postseason ERA of 1.72 and a World Series ERA of 3.52. Jansen pitched two innings in Game 6 so you might wonder if he’s available for Game 7, but on June 2 Jansen threw two innings and then pitched again the next day. If Jansen will pitch back-to-back against the Brewers, you’d think he’d do it again in Game 7 of the World Series.

And don’t forget the starters.

Clayton Kershaw pitched on Sunday, but on Tuesday night was seen stretching in the Dodgers’ bullpen; in Game 7 of the World Series it’s all hands on deck. Royals fans aren’t likely to forget Madison Bumgarner coming out of the pen and throwing five innings of relief in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series.

(We will now have a moment of silence while Royals fans do some deep-breathing exercises and get over the fact that I reminded them of what Bumgarner did in 2014.)

The lineups

OK, the moment’s over.

Here’s the Astros lineup from Tuesday night and what those guys are currently hitting in the World Series:

Springer .375

Bregman .269

Altuve .214

Correa .280

Gurriel .250

McCann .227

Gonzalez .143

Reddick .182

Here’s the Dodger’s lineup from Tuesday’s game and what those guys are currently hitting in the World Series:

Taylor .227

Seager .217

Turner .130

Bellinger .167

Puig .167

Pederson .357

Forsythe .267

Barnes .211

What might jump out at you is hitters like Jose Altuve and Justin Turner scuffling and a hitter like Joc Pederson — he hit .212 during the regular season — tearing the cover off the ball. Given enough at-bats, Altuve and Turner would outhit Pederson and it wouldn’t be close. But we’re not talking about what happens over 162 games; we’re talking about one game and maybe five trips to the plate.

Playing the game according to the who’s-hot-right-now game plan means you’d go after Altuve and Turner because they’re cold. But be careful; those guys are great hitters and able to make adjustments and get hot in a hurry.

So in tonight’s game when Altuve and Turner come to the plate, pay attention to how aggressive the pitchers are about throwing strikes. If a pitcher falls behind either one of those hitters he might say to heck with it and put them on base.

Is there anything better than a Game 7?

Back on Feb. 15, the Astros held their first pitchers and catchers workout, one day later, the Dodgers did the same thing. Both teams played their first spring training game on Feb. 25 and they’ve been playing baseball ever since.

And now after eight-and-a-half months of baseball, it all comes down to one game.

Is there anything better than a Game 7?