The Washington Nationals make their first appearance in the World Series to take on the 2017-champion Houston Astros. With Game 1 on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park, we have a quick preview to get you up to speed on betting this historic series.
Raise your hand if you have a preseason Washington Nationals World Series betting ticket on hand. Bet there aren’t too many hands up in this room which I’ve constructed in my brain here. A few sure, but not nearly as many as say, bets on the Astros during Spring Training. And look, I get it, the Nationals we’re coming off yet another disappointing season along with the loss of their franchise player, Bryce Harper.
Turns out, however, that losing Harper may have been a case of addition by subtraction as the Nationals stormed through the Wild Card, NLDS, and NLCS to reach the final boss. The Nationals once again find themselves an underdog in a playoff series with +175 odds to shock the world just one more time. A Houston Astros World Series win is currently -225, with odds for them to win in six is +350.
There has not been a World Series sweep since the Giants shocked the favored Tigers back in 2012. The total for runs scored in the series is 50.5 with the overcoming in as a slight favorite. An over win would require a six-game series, averaging 8.4 runs per game.
Let’s dive into each team’s pitching and hitting resume and make some predictions on the World Series to come.
Superstar Starting Pitching on Display
Perhaps the best asset each team has comes in the form of their starting pitching. Between the two teams, they have 5 of the top-10 starting pitchers in the league right now. This year’s World Series boasts three Cy Young Award winners, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Zack Grienke. Gerrit Cole has yet to win the award but is the current betting favorite which leaves just Stephen Strasburg as the odd ace out. This marks the first-ever postseason series to feature five of the top 10 pitchers in terms of strikeouts with Cole leading the league with 326 while Verlander nabbed second best with 300. Also, the trio of Strasburg, Scherzer, and Corbin became the first in MLB history to each strike out more than 220 batters in a season.
Despite that, the Astros have a slight edge in the pitching category in my book, especially when you start digging into the bullpen. The one-two punch of Verlander and Cole are the first teammates to reach 300 strikeouts since 2001 when Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson did it en route to a World Series title. These guys also eat up innings, which leaves the bullpen well rested for whenever they are called upon. The Astros logged the 7th fewest innings for relief pitchers with just 555 on the season and saw their bullpen post a 3.75 ERA which is good for third-best in the majors. Sometimes overlooked amidst the superstar roster is closer Roberto Osuna who has been lights out so far this season recording 38 saves in 2019.
Not to be outdone, the Nationals have their own potent 1-2 punch with Strasburg and Scherzer followed by three and four pitchers Corbin and Anibal Sanchez. There will be a lot of pressure on the former pair as they will be matchup up in Games 1 and 2 with Cole and Verlander and will need to limit all the damage they can. A split at Minute Maid Park would be ideal and really about the most this rotation could hope for. Strasburg might have the best postseason stats I’ve seen in quite some time with an absurd 1.10 ERA in 41 total innings of work.
As far as the starting pitching goes, I would give the slightest of advantages to the Nationals just based on their depth. But their bullpen is very troubling, leading the league in ERA and also setting a new record for loss probability and therefore lose out on the overall pitching advantage.
Small Ball vs Big Bats
The Houston Astros have a lineup that epitomizes the term ‘elite’. They are a real Murderer’s Row of swinging lumber and would be hard for any team to deal with. The ‘Stros led the majors with a .274 team batting average, .352 OBP, .495 SLG, and .848 OPS. At home, they smacked 150 home runs in 81 games to lead the league in that statistic as well.
Leading the charge are DH Yordan Alverez who hit .313, Michael Brantley who hit .311, Jose Altuve at .298 and Alex Bregman who hit a whopping 41 home runs this year. Not to be forgotten is George Springer who hit .292 with 39 home runs. Long story short, this lineup is a nightmare for opposing teams and has not a single weak spot.
Despite the first three games featuring the best six starters to ever share a World Series stage, one has to wonder just how much damage they can reasonably limit.
Not to be outdone, the Nationals present a potent lineup as well. Albeit with a different skill set. Washington hitters finished the year sixth in runs per game with a 5.39 average and ranked first with 116 total steals. They have leadoff hitter Trea Turner to thank for that with him serving as a true spark atop the order and Dave Martinez really knows how to use his speed to help win ball games.
Sharing the lineup card with Turner is Howie Kendrick, who had a huge NLCS for the Nationals, Anthony Rendon, who is a legit MVP candidate in the National League and of course, Juan Soto. Soto might be the most important and exciting bat on either side of the field this World Series. The youngster has helped Washington forget all about Bryce Harper with his electric bat and stellar defensive play. He is a true asset to this team and will probably become a superstar in the league in no time.
Who has the Edge?
I believe the edge in this World Series comes down to two things. Home run power and bullpen prowess, both things the Astros possess. I have been reticent to trust the Nationals so far this postseason due to their bullpen issues and it’s come back to bite me each time. But, be that as it may, the stats don’t lie and I am unwilling to accept the notion that their bullpen woes just magically disappeared come postseason play. Truth is, they have enjoyed a bit of luck mixed with a strategy in order to minimize the use of their bullpen.
But this will not be a quick series for the Nationals if they have any real hope of winning. It will turn into a long hard series and I don’t see the Nats being able to continue using starting pitchers instead of relievers as much as they have been up to now. Starting pitching depth will only get you so far and if that is truly the only edge the Nationals have, they better start praying for a miracle come Tuesday night in Texas.
Best Bet: Astros win the World Series -225