2017 World Series: Dodgers vs. Astros, mirror images

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 23: Jose Altuve (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 23: Jose Altuve (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The 2017 seasons for both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros were parallel, and it’s thusly appropriate that they meet in the 2017 World Series.

Both clubs featured incredible streaks early in the year, en route to 100-plus wins. Each team had an unfathomable cold spell late in summer. Then, almost in lockstep, the organizations acquired an Ace pitcher at the deadline. With 104 wins and 102 wins, respectively, the Dodgers and the Astros were the class of their respective leagues and become the first World Series matchup since 1970 to feature two teams with triple-digit wins.

But it was not solely the journey of the Astros and Dodgers that mirrored each other, its the make-up of the clubs. The rosters, both laden with athletic, versatile players, depth, and power arms, have similar strengths. With legitimate superstars on both sides, and Aces in each rotation, this is the first true marquee World Series bestowed on the public in more than a generation.

It all starts with the Aces. Both left-handed Cy Young winners featuring surnames starting with ‘K,’ the game one matchup of Dallas Keuchel and Clayton Kershaw is salacious. Keuchel, with a 2.90 ERA and 1.12 WHIP, has been dominant at times in the 2017 postseason, striking out 25 in 17 1/3 innings. Kershaw has been Kershaw, pitching to a 0.95 WHIP and 2.31 ERA in the regular season, with a 3.63 ERA (0.98 WHIP) in the playoffs. A bit uncanny, but definitely foreshadowing the unexpected but resounding similarities these two teams may feature for seven games.

A trade deadline acquisition sealed the deal. Though both the Astros and Dodgers were comfortably ahead in their divisions at the time of the trades, the procurement of Justin Verlander for the Astros and Yu Darvish for the Dodgers exemplified the foresight preached by both front offices. The Dodgers, 14 games ahead when they acquired Darvish on July 31st, were going for the proverbial jugular.

Verlander, a last-minute waiver deadline pickup, silenced the criticism of Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and gave Houston a pitcher with a history of clutch performances in big spots. Though they likely will not matchup head-to-head (the Dodgers’ Rich Hill is on the mound for game two; the Astros have yet to name a game three starter to oppose Darvish), the value to each team is immense and provided the unbeatable veneer necessary to advance in the playoffs.

We’re talkin’ ’bout best friends. Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts and Houston manager A.J. Hinch were on the same staff with the San Diego Padres in 2011. Roberts was a coach, Hinch was the assistant general manager. The intelligence, proclivity toward analytics, and a common background of playing baseball in the fertile Pac-12 (nee, Pac-10) conference led to an immediate bond. When Roberts was interviewing for the vacant managerial job in 2015, Hinch was one of the people he reached out to for advice.

They exchanged congratulations on their respective pennant victories, but, as Roberts told the L.A. Times, “from that point on,” Roberts said, “it’s been radio silence.” Maybe after November 1 (game seven), the two buddies can resume their friendship as budding oenophiles, but not a moment sooner.

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Jacques Cousteau-level depthThe Astros feature 11 players with 34 RBI or more. So do the Dodgers. Houston has a dozen players with double-digit doubles. So do the Dodgers. That essentially makes the entire lineup of both clubs productive, and clutch.

With five players with 80 RBI or more on Houston and five with 70 RBI or more on the National League representative Dodgers, there are no weaknesses in either lineup. From one through eight – or one through nine in games three, four, and five – clubs field players that provide tough at-bats, put the ball in play, and are productive.

Time to get educated. In an era where the next high-school phenom is right around the corner, Luhnow and the Dodgers’ brain trust built these clubs using degrees and diplomas. Dodgers manager – and UCLA alumnus – Dave Roberts has the thrill of managing 22 ballplayers that played at NCAA schools.

The Astros’ AJ Hinch, himself a Stanford alum, manages 17. If there is a wonder why each club plays smart, has a heady approach to baseball, and understands nuance, this could be the common denominator.

Not going to run wild. Neither team abides by the stolen base. The Astros have two men in double-digit steals – Alex Bregman and the venerable Jose Altuve. The Dodgers have three – Yasiel Puig, Chris Taylor, Cody Bellinger. With 98 total steals as a club, the Astros are only slightly more likely to run than the Dodgers, who finished the 2017 regular season with 77.

Getting Defensive. The Dodgers made 88 errors during the regular season. The Astros made 99. During the playoffs, they tightened the screws, as Los Angeles only made two errors in their first eight games. The Astros have made only four in 11 games. These games are going to be tight and well-played. Neither team undermines its own chances of winning, and they make the plays prerequisite for championships.

Staying Disciplined. Anybody that watched the Dodgers in the NLCS was enamored with their pitch selection and plate discipline. With 28 walks against 41 strikeouts, their ratio was as good as any in the playoffs or regular season.

The Astros were the toughest team to strikeout during the 2017 regular season and kept both the Red Sox and Yankee pitchers stymied with good plate appearances, seeing many pitches and drawing out at-bats while producing results.

The 2017 World Series is one of the most anticipated, quality baseball matchups the planet has witnessed this century. With two teams playing excellent baseball, it’s going to be entertaining and tense.

Next: The unusual paradox of Yasiel Puig's criticism

These particular teams are not just evenly matched, they are counterparts – and that makes for intriguing viewing, analysis, and perception. Grab a seat, get ready for seven games of hard-fought battle, and good luck figuring out who is who – these teams are eerily similar, and that might bode well for seven games of history.