Playing Pepper is a feature on BtB where members of the staff provide quick hit insight on the postseason. And now, the World Series.
Washington Nationals vs. Houston Astros
Who ya got and why?
Dan Federico: Astros/Nationals isn’t the money matchup like the Yankees and Dodgers that Major League Baseball was looking for. But the 2020 World Series looks like it’s going to be a great one. Arguably the best one-two-three starting rotation for both the American and National Leagues. Lineups that go as deep as any. Superstars aplenty.
The Nationals have been the Cinderella story of the postseason. They weren’t supposed to win the Wild Card game, let alone make it to the Fall Classic. They have enough firepower to bring the Commissioner’s Trophy to D.C. But this Astros team is battle tested. They have the best roster from one through 25 in all of baseball with firepower at nearly every position. The pitching duels alone will keep things close but Houston will go on to win yet another World Series this decade. Astros in 5
Khurram Kalim: What the Nationals did to the Cardinals was devastating. Washington pitching held St. Louis to a minuscule average, an OBP that would be a disastrous BA (.195), a slugging that would rank 19th among pitchers, and -1.73 offensive win probability added. Negative. It was also enchanting, the way they waltzed into the World Series. Not too long ago, they were 19-31 to start the season. More recently, they had less than a 12% chance of winning a single-elimination game with only two innings to play. Even more recently, they were down on the road in an elimination game with six outs to go against the best team in the NL. It’s non-sensical sometimes, playoff baseball. It’s magical all the time.
Washington crushed St. Louis. The Houston Astros? They looked more like the Cards than the Nats. Houston hit .179/.281/.318 against the New York Yankees, won two games via walk-off—meaning two wins were a wash until the winning ABs—and were lifted offensively by a statue-confirming Jose Altuve performance. The Nats didn’t have an Astros-level opponent in their LCS, but the Stros did face a comparably talented team to their World Series opponent in their LCS tilt. They got the job done, but they didn’t dominate. Or, they beat a strong opponent without being at their best.
The Nats now step up a league and a half to face one of the best teams ever assembled. Without care for the outcome, I hope these games play out as they’re expected to in broad strokes. Lots of elite starter innings, true duels to open up the series, a game 3 that can be lights out or bombs away (by playoff standards, anyway: Zack Greinke gave up four earned runs in 10.1 IP against the Yankees and was openly considered the exploit in Houston’s system. Such is the value of runs in the playoffs), and then short rest patchwork bullpen game bonanzas. If this series goes long, it has the potential to show everything that modern baseball is. And I’m excited about it.
As for my pick: like many, it’s been the Astros throughout the postseason, even throughout the year. But for no good reason, I’m switching it up now. There’s just something about a veteran team that has struggled to get close to the World Series for years and years that makes me think the Nats have something going. They beat one great team to get a shot at one of the greatest teams.
Playoff baseball is magic. Wouldn’t a Washington win be magical? Nationals in six.
Brent Sirvio: The meteor.
I’d like to think the World Series is an anomaly unlike the anomalies in the other rounds of baseball’s postseason. Further, I expect Manfred to go next-level Manfred and bring out glorified enlarged ping-pong balls while the vaunted, touted starting pitching gets shelled in every game.
This October has been bizarre, and I expect more of the same. These teams bring the pitching, but there’s a considerable amount of thunder in these lineups that I think takes center stage in a misguided marketing attempt by MLB to capture MILLENNIALZ. Astros in 6.
Dan Federico and Brent Sirvio are co-founders of Bronx to Bushville. Khurram Kalim is a senior writer.