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Position by Position Breakdown: Who Has the Edge in the World Series?

The 2019 World Series features the Houston Astros, a 107 win juggernat in their second World Series in third years, and the Washington Nationals, a 93 win wild-card team in their first ever World Series. Though this could be billed as David vs Goliath, both teams have talent up and down their roster. Who has the edge at each position.

Catcher: Both teams use platoons behind the dish, and while neither one provides explosive offensive numbers, their experience and defense still provide value. The Nationals acquired both veteran backstops Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki in the offseason, and the two have rewarded them with a combined 29 home runs and 106 RBIs. The Astros started the season with Robinson Chirinos as the primary catcher, and while his offensive production (105 OPS) wasn’t terrible, Houston still felt the need to acquire defensive wizard Martin Maldonado at the trade deadline. The acquisition of Maldanado gives Houston the edge on defense, but the Astros’ backstops can’t come close to matching the offensive production as their counterparts in Washington.

Slight Advantage: Nationals

First Baseman: Both teams have received clutch hits from their first baseman in the playoffs. Ryan Zimmerman, who has been with the Nationals since their inception, hit a key three-run home run in the NLDS, while Yuli Gurriel hit a three-run home run of his own in the ALCS clincher against the Yankees. But while Zimmermann battled through an injury-plagued year and is clearly on the downside of his career, Gurriel enjoyed a breakout season in 2019. Gurriel set career highs in home runs (31), RBIs (104) and OPS+ (126), which dwarfs Zimmerman’s totals (6, 27 and 86). If this series was 5 years ago, Zimmerman might have a case as the better player, but given his production as of late, the advantage lies with Gurriel.

Strong Advantage: Astros

Second Baseman: The two LCS MVPs both man the keystone position, each one coming off fantastic seasons. Altuve has been slowed a bit in recent years by injuries, but he still managed to hit a career-high 31 home runs while maintaining his usual .300 average. Though he lacks the pedigree of Altuve, Kendrick is only getting better with age. He hit for career highs in average (.344) and OPS (.966). Despite the incredible season, Kendrick had and his heroics in the postseason, the advantage lies with the 5’5 superstar.

Slight Advantage: Astros

Shortstop: One of the exciting things about the series is that we get to see two fantastic shortstops who have two completely different styles. Trea Turner is a throwback to the shortstops of yesteryear, a guy who puts the ball in play and is a threat on the bases (35 to 40 in stolen base attempts). Carlos Correa is the epitome of modern shortstop. He’s 6’4, posses a rocket arm and a powerful bat. He hasn’t lived up to the expectations that come with being the number one overall pick, but he has been a solid player when healthy. Both players battled through injuries to post excellent numbers in the regular season, but Correa’s clutch postseason gives him a very narrow edge.

Slight Advantage: Astros

Third Baseman: Not only are the third baseman in this series the best players on their respective teams, but they are also on the shortlist of the best players in the game. What makes each one so great is that they excel in every phase of the game: hitting for average, hitting for power, defense, arm strength, and baserunning. While Rendon hits for a slightly higher average, Bregman is the stronger defender and hits for more power. It’s hard not to give the possible NL MVP the edge, but that just speaks to how amazing Alex Bregman is.

Slight Advantage: Astros

Left Fielders: Above all their other skills, the two left fielders in this series have tremendous abilities to put the bat at all. Brantley struck out just 66 times all year, and while Soto nearly doubled that total, he made up for it with 108 walks. The two players are remarkably similar despite being twelve years apart in age, but the difference lies in the power department. Soto hit twelve more home runs than Brantley and that, along with the abundance of walks, has Soto’s OPS 74 points higher than Brantley. Soto’s clutch postseason thus far only adds to his advantage.

Slight Advantage: Nationals

Center Fielders: This one might be the easiest call on the board. While the Nationals are rolling with a combination rookie Victor Robles and power-hitting Michael A. Taylor, the Astros will trot out one of the best postseason performances ever in George Springer. Springer was off to an MVP-like start before missing over a month with a hamstring injury, but he still managed to hit 39 home runs. Taylor and Robles aren’t bad players by any means. They just can’t compete with the superstar Springer.

Strong Advantage: Astros

Right Fielder: With three right-handed starters going for the Nationals, the majority of the rightfield at-bats will go the left-handed hitting Josh Reddick. The veteran has been in and out of the lineup this postseason without providing much offense (3 for 22), but his track record and solid defense should keep giving him playing time. The Nationals have a veteran right fielder of their own in Adam Eaton. Eaton has solid on-base skills but, much like Reddick, he is just a role player at this stage of his career.

Advantage: Toss-Up

Designated Hitter: Being a National League team, the Nationals don’t have an everyday DH, and they don’t have any good options either. Matt Adams, a big, left-handed slugger, seems like the best bet with the Astros starting all right-handers in this series. The Nats could also go with veteran Brian Dozier or whichever center fielder doesn’t get the start. Somehow, the Astros may have even more question marks at the DH position. Yordan Alvarez is the likely AL Rookie of the year but went an abysmal 1-24 with 12 strikeouts in the ALCS. If Alvarez finds his stroke, the Astros have a clear advantage. That’s a big if however.

Advantage: Toss-up

Bench: As talented as both teams are, neither one has a strong bench. The Nationals have a few guys who can hit for power but don’t have anyone who provides speed or defense off the bench. The Astros have a more well-rounded bench even if they lack the quality hitters of the Nationals. Jake Marisnick is a great defender who can run, Alymdys Diaz can play all three infield positions, and Kyle Tucker is a quality left-handed bench bat. Though none of those players will wow you, they compliment the elite lineup nicely.

Slight Advantage: Astros

Starting Pitcher: Though both teams have potent offenses, much of the attention leading up to the series is with the starting pitching. As far as starting pitchers matchup go, it doesn’t get much better than Gerrit Cole and Max Scherzer, which will be the case in Game One. There’s not much of a dropoff for Game Two, as Stephen Strasburg and Justin Verlander will square off. Former teammates Patrick Corbin and Zack Greinke will match up when the series shifts to Washington, both coming off solid if unspectacular seasons. Even the Game Four matchup, likely featuring veterans Anibal Sanchez and Brad Peacock, will still likely be a low-scoring affair. With so much talent on both sides, it’s impossible to pick the stronger rotation.

Advantage: Push

Relief Pitcher: This is where the series could be decided. While the Nationals relievers have undoubtedly been better in the postseason, that doesn’t mask their lack of talented arms or their struggles in the regular season. Other than closer Sean Doolittle and midseason acquisition Daniel Hudson, the Nationals don’t have the type of arms that can shut down the potent Astros lineup. On the other side, the Astros have an embarrassment of talented relievers, including Joe Smith, Ryan Pressly, Will Harris, and Roberto Osuna. If the game comes down to the bullpen, the advantage lies with the Astros

Strong Advantage: Astros

Overall: It’s hard to bet against the red-hot Nationals, especially with a well-rested Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg each able to start two games in the series. However, the overall talent of the entire Astros roster and the question marks surrounding the Nationals bullpen makes Houston the clear favorites.

Advantage: Astros

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