LOS ANGELES- The 2017 World Series is a meeting of teams that match up well in a lot of ways. The Dodgers and Astros both have deep lineups, as well as excellent rotations that feature a couple of frontline starters.
|2017 season stats||Dodgers||Astros|
|ERA||3.38 (4th)||4.27 (17th)|
|WHIP||1.15 (2nd)||1.27 (10th)|
|Strikeout rate||27.7 percent (3rd)||28.6 percent (2nd)|
|Walk rate||8.0 percent (4th)||9.2 percent (17th)|
|Batting average against||.220 (2nd)||.232 (t-6th)|
|OPS against||.660 (4th)||.719 (12th)|
There is one area where the teams differ, though. When it comes to relief pitching, the Dodgers seem to have the clear edge. This is true whether one looks at regular season or postseason stats.
Part of the Astros’ issue is that some pitchers who were expected to be great turned out to be mediocre. Luke Gregerson in particular stands out as an underperformer. Also, both Will Harris and Chris Devenski had good seasons, but didn’t live up to their performances from last year (though it should be noted that Harris missed time with inflammation in both shoulders this year). The closer, Ken Giles, has been Houston’s most reliable arm, but he’s faltered in the playoffs, allowing five runs in six innings of work so far.
While a number of things have gone wrong for the Houston bullpen, just about everything has gone right for its LA counterpart — guys with good stuff executing when asked, as well as nearly perfect deployment by manager Dave Roberts.
The Dodgers’ relief corps is an eclectic group composed of many types of pitchers. It includes trade deadline acquisitions, international and domestic free agents, and homegrown talent; it also includes both career long relievers and converted starters.
Stripling’s situation bears some similarities to Maeda’s, in that he’s made the postseason roster as a recent starter-turned-reliever. A 2012 Dodgers draft pick out of Texas A&M, Stripling seemed to be nearing a big league debut in 2014 when Tommy John surgery derailed those plans.
Instead, Stripling made his Dodger debut in 2016. Now 27, he’s worked as both a starter and a reliever for both the Dodgers and their Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City. While he’s more than willing to fill whatever role is needed, he said different roles bring different mindsets.
“As a starter, you think you’re gonna have five, six, seven innings to kind of get into a groove,” Stripling said. “And out of the bullpen, you gotta be ready from pitch one.”
Stripling cited Joe Blanton as being helpful for him in making that transition, as Blanton had also made the transition from starter to reliever.
The Dodgers are taking eight relievers to the World Series, seven of whom were on the NLCS roster that provided 17 scoreless innings. That list includes two lefties (Tony Cingrani and Tony Watson), and six righties (Josh Fields, Kenley Jansen, Kenta Maeda, Brandon McCarthy, Brandon Morrow and Ross Stripling). The much-maligned Pedro Báez made the NLDS roster, but never saw game action, and was cut prior to the NLCS.
The two Tonys were acquired at the trade deadline to fill the Dodgers’ need for solid lefty arms, with the 28-year-old Cingrani coming from Cincinnati, and the 32-year-old Watson from Pittsburgh.
Watson is responsible for two of the three earned runs the Dodgers’ bullpen has allowed this postseason. In Game 2 of the NLDS, he got two outs to finish off the sixth inning, but allowed two hits to start the seventh inning. Those runs came in to score on a Brandon Drury home run relinquished by Morrow. Since then, Watson hasn’t allowed a single baserunner (in 2 1/3 NLCS innings pitched), and the Dodgers’ bullpen hasn’t allowed another run.