Updated: Oct 27, 2021
This is the World Series scouting report you need. You may want to print and refer to the info here a lot over the next 2 weeks.
Below are several tables that will describe various aspects of the rosters for the World Series for both the Astros and the Braves.
One of the things I am going to focus upon here is sample size and statistical significance of data. Many in the press are stating this player is hot and pretending like the sample size is significant enough to believe the trend will continue. I do not think the hot and cold streaks players are on should be assumed to be trends that hold in the World Series. The data we get from the regular season should be believed to be more representative than the data in the post season which at best is 1/10th in volume.
I will assume in this article McCullers is out and off the World Series roster. If that changes, I will change the information. Here is what I expect the Starting Pitcher matchups will be.
10/26/21 Update- Astros announced plan to have Urquidy start Game 2 and Garcia start Game 3. I don't really agree, but we will see what happens. Some speculate they want Garcia to have long rest to facilitate the increase in velocity we saw in the ALCS. Maybe
10/27/21 Update- The loss of Morton is similar to the Braves as the loss of McCullers was to the Astros - possibly worse. I am not sure how they will do SP for the rest of the series. It's not as easy as saying Game 5 can be a bullpen game if key members of the bullpen have career long appearances as Minter did in Game 1. Update continued below.
The relative ERA and wOBA home/ away is shown here.
I suspect Greinke might open Game 4 again or the team may have Orodizzi on a normal start scenario. Expect the National League rules to lead to a fairly early SP exit in Game 3, 4, and 5 unless the Astros jump out to a commanding lead.
Here is my expected Astros World Series Staff with some alternatives shown.
Here is the Post Season data for each of these pitchers and a combination ERA (the combined regular and post season) is calculated.
Some of the pitchers struggled and some of the pitchers excelled in the ALCS. It is probably safer to assume the Combo ERA reflects what is more likely in the World Series.
If you have read the previous guides, you understand the heat maps show the relative strengths and weaknesses of the pitchers. Red is good and blue is bad in all the tables. Several Astros pitchers have large platoon splits. That said, the good Braves pitchers do not have any splits as good as say Graveman vs. RHH or Pressly (or Raley and Taylor) vs. LHH. The Braves staff overall ERA was 3.89 vs. the Astros 3.78. Given the Astros played in the DH AL, the pitching is close with a slight advantage to the Astros that one can assume is nullified by the assumed loss of McCullers. The Braves have a postseason ERA of 3.41 compared to the Astros 4.50.
Here is how the Braves Staff lays out.
The Braves carried 12 pitchers for the NLCS. The starters can pitch a lot of innings. In general, the Braves staff does not have as wide of platoon splits as the Astros. In fact, many have reverse splits which allows the Braves to focus more on pitching strength matchups.
10/27/21 Update- The impact of losing Morton continued. The Braves brought only 12 pitchers to the World Series because they had four SP they thought they could count on. TWO of their World Series roster pitchers have less than 10 innings this year. They have 2 Josh James pitchers on their roster. James has been good at times but would you want him as your Game 5 starter/ opener? That is the situation the Braves could get into.
It is reported that the Braves are adding Tucker Davidson to replace Morton. The LHP went out in June with forearm issues and had a rehab start on 10/3. Consider him a similar version of Peter Solomon or Tyler Ivey. They may go tandem start Davidson and Wright in Game 5 especially if they are ahead.
Let me be clear, Davidson, Wright, and Lee may do great. Wright and Lee both had great years in AAA. The point is - losing Morton was terrible for the Braves. They had 10 pitchers they WANTED to rely on to pitch in this series and now they have nine. The longer this goes is an advantage for the Astros
This table shows how each of the Braves pitchers have done in the postseason. Some are hot and some are not.
10/26/21- Jacob Webb was taken off and Kyle Wright was added. The tables have been updated.
Let’s do a role-by-role comparison of Astros pitchers vs. Braves pitchers. I use a head-to-head weighted scoring and scored each role against each other and score like a boxing round. Here is how that plays out.
I have tried to be critical and not a homer here, but I still believe the Astros staff – even without McCullers- is SLIGHTLY stronger than the Braves staff. The back end of the bullpen – Pressly and Graveman – I believe is an advantage. We will see.
Let’s cover the batters and then we will cover how the Astros bats match up against these starting pitchers.
Batting- Projecting the Batting Orders and Benches
Here are the likely position player rosters. I am not sure if the Astros will keep Meyers on the roster. I have been told he can hit and run. He just cannot throw. As we stated in the ALCS guide, the Astros batters just are so good and balanced. The heat map bleeds a lot of red which is a good thing.
The Astros hitters have continued to hit well in the postseason as shown here.
10/26/21 Update-Meyers was announced to be off the roster and Gonzales was put on. Marwin's stats are in these tables so I am not going to update.
Overall, the Astros have hit 0.797 OPS in the postseason vs. 0.784 in the regular season. Alvarez and Tucker have been leading the charge.
Similarly, The Braves have players that are red hot. Here is the regular season and post season tables.
The Braves hit 0.754 OPS in the regular season and 0.725 OPS so far in the Postseason.
10/26/21 Update - Terrence Gore was added and Johan Carmargo taken off. Gore has no regular season MLB states and only on Postseason plate appearance. Not worth the time to update these tables.
Rosario is hotter than probably any stretch of his career. Is it sustainable? Ask Kiké Hernandez. I doubt it. Freeman is on fire too, and he poses the greatest threat to Astros pitchers. I knew Austin Riley was good, but I had no idea he had been this good in 2021. There are also several Braves hitters in relative slumps that could easily break out in the World Series.
The Braves appear to be stronger vs. RHP (0.762 OPS) than LHP (0.732 OPS). It should be an interesting Game 1 with LHP Valdez taking on this lineup. Raley and Taylor will be key LHRP and the series may hinge on them getting late outs. The bottom part of the lineup may be some key outs for RHP Yimi Garcia, Stanek, and Maton to get.
If we use the same ratings system to compare the different slots in the batting order it looks like this.
The Astros win this weighted comparison 107 to 96. A lot of this advantage comes from 5-7 in the order and from the bench.
Considering the comparison position by position also leads to similar results. I have also included some defensive metrics to consider in these comparisons position by position.
RF, SS, DH are large advantages for the Astros. 3B is a large advantage for the Braves unless the extra time off helps Bregman play like 2019 Bregman.
Deep dive into how Astros hitter matchup with Braves Starters
One of the areas we are getting more and more data for is in the area pitcher vs. batter based on what the pitcher typically throws and how well a hitter hits those kinds of pitches. I have included tables of the Astros vs. each starter and calculated an xwOBA vs. each. As a reminder Morton, Fried, Anderson, and Smyly all have relatively small (by Astros pitcher standards) reverse splits, so it will be if the pitcher or batter platoon split wins out.
In each table I have pulled the distribution of pitches the starting pitcher typically throws. For each type of I have pulled the xwOBA of each batter for that kind of pitch, one can complete the weighed calculations and one gets a batters predicted expected wOBA against that pitcher. There are additional corrections I could apply to a future generation of these calculations; I find this data interesting to use here.
Game 1- RHP Morton
Morton is a very good veteran pitcher, but several hitters (Tucker, Correa, Alvarez, and Brantley) should do well against him based on what pitches they hit well. I will go with the large Brantley platoon split to make him Game 1 MVP.
Game 2- LHP Fried
This is the generation 3 of the matchup tables I did and the Fried table is updated
- accounts for the quality of the pitcher's pitches (better or worse than average wOBA 0.315)
- accounts for the batter's platoon splits
The middle column in bold is the answer. Remember, red is good and blue is bad.
The same batters should do well against Fried. I will go with Correa for Game 2 MVP. I also believe the Astros may roll the dice based on this with Siri in CF.
I will get the other's done as I have time. Also, theAstros pitcher vs. Brave batters is coming.
Game 2- RHP Urquidy vs. the Braves
Here is the first of the Astros pitching tables. Freeman and Riley and Duvall are the key hitters in Game 2 that to whom the Astros need to be extremely careful pitching. Expect an unusually high amount of Sliders, Curveballs, and Changeups.
Game 3 – RHP Anderson (no DH)
The lack of DH makes it unclear who will be in the lineup. Bregman joins the group of players who could feast. I will go with the xwOBA of 0.415 for Tucker as MVP for Game 3.
Game 4 – LHP Smyly (no DH)
I will go with Tucker and his xwOBA of 0.426 and Smyly’s reverse splits to give Tucker back-to-back MVPs for game 4.
You may want to print out these tables and see how knowing this data you see how the Braves pitch to the Astros.
Overall, the pitching is close especially assuming the Astros don’t have McCullers, and the Astros bats and defense should help them win the World Series again.
I say the Astros win in 5 and Kyle Tucker is the World Series MVP. You saw it here first.
Questions from Twitter
A couple of folks asked how I would set the lineup for the games in Atlanta. I decided to give my lineup for every game in the series based on the previous matchup tables. Not only do I show you what I would do but also what I think the Astros will do.
As shown, I would do three primary things that I do not expect the Astros to do any of them
Swap Tucker and Brantley in the order- Tucker is hot and has matchup advantages against most starting pitchers
Have Castro catch Urquidy in Games 3 and 7 vs. Anderson- Anderson’s curve and changeup will make Maldonado a complete zero at the plate and Castro would have a huge platoon advantage
Have Tucker play CF in games 3 and 5 so that the OF can be all three LHH (Alvarez, Tucker, and Brantley) vs. the RHSP
In Game 4, I sit Brantley vs. LHSP Smyly and have Alvarez, McCormick, and Tucker in the OF that game. I am aware of the potential defensive challenges. I just think the production gap is too large to sit one of these three LHH.
I THINK the Astros will rest Brantley in Games 3 and 4 and Alvarez in Game 5. If behind going into Games 4 and 5, the Astros might utilize my plans.
Please comment and ask questions.
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Data and Stats from Fangraphs.com and BaseballSavant.mlb.com.