Welcome to the real October. The World Series begins on Friday, October 28 in Houston, where the first two games will be played, then three in Philadelphia, then the final two games (if necessary) back in Houston.
The 2022 World Series is set between the Houston Astros and the Philadelphia Phillies. Both teams had incredible seasons, but had completely different paths to get here. Before we make a case for each team to win it, let’s talk about what it took for both teams to get here.
Following each case will be my pick to win it all, as well as who will be the World Series MVP.
The Astros Dominated
The Houston Astros were supposed to be here. Houston opened as -140 favorites to win their division, the lowest odds to come out of the American League (+450) and had the second-best odds (+900) to take home the Commissioner’s Trophy. Is it naive to say their road was easy?
The Astros lost Carlos Correa to the Twins in the off-season, left with a hole at shortstop. Correa was one of the team’s leaders and was coming off a platinum glove along with his best offensive season to date. He expected big money in the free-agent market but the Astros weren’t willing to match these high offers. At the time, it seemed as if the Astros appeared weaker than in previous years.
The Astros trotted out rookie shortstop Jeremy Peña instead. Peña is a University of Maine product that was always seen as a glove-first infielder. He was expected to fill the hole with defense, but nobody expected the offense to be there so early. He was fine in his first month, putting up a .763 OPS with four home runs. Once he settled in, he never looked back. He put up a .872 OPS in May and solidified the shortstop position for the Astros moving forward. The only predicted weakness of the Astros wasn’t such a weak spot anymore. The kid won the ALCS MVP.
The pitching was never a question, even though Lance McCullers Jr. didn’t return until August. The rotation was even better than most expected. Justin Verlander put up a Cy Young-caliber season. Framber Valdez set a record for quality starts. Christian Javier seamlessly transitioned from the bullpen and performed as one of the best pitchers in the American League. Luis Garcia was the same old stud he was last year. Jose Urquidy filled the back-end role, putting up a 3.94 ERA.
The bullpen is what sealed the deal for the Astros. They were elite from the jump, putting up the best bullpen ERA in the game at 2.80 behind Ryne Stanek and Ryan Pressly. The defense was elite, putting up the fifth-most DRS and second-most OAA to give them the fourth-highest Defensive WAR.
The Astros were a bit quieter than other contenders, only making three moves at the trade deadline. They traded for Trey Mancini, Chrisitan Vasquez, and Will Smith. They could have made bigger splashes, but they didn’t need to.
The Astros were the class of the American League, winning 106 games with a +219 run differential. They swept the Mariners in a close series and dismantled the Yankees. They won seven straight games to get here. Houston was strong on every front and now are the prohibitive favorites to win the World Series at -185.
The Phillies Have The Momentum
The Phillies were not supposed to be here. The Phillies opened as +325 underdogs to win the NL East, the third-best odds among five teams. They had the same odds (+3000) as the Los Angeles Angels, tied for 14th, to win the World Series. This team was projected as a fringe wild card team. If everything went right, they could challenge for the top wild-card spot. Now they find themselves as the only team left in the National League.
The Phillies had a big off-season that was slightly questionable at the time. They doubled down on a lack of defense, signing Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos to multi-year deals. They added veterans to the bullpen like Brad Hand, Corey Knebel, and Jeurys Familia. While they all contributed in some way in the regular season, none have made much of an impact in the postseason.
Early season predictions for this team were mild. Everyone knew they’d hit and they had two horses at the front of the rotation. Most people, including myself, didn’t think it would be enough to make a true impact over 162 games with their perceived weakness in the bullpen coupled with one of the worst defensive teams in the game. I assume they are laughing at these predictions now.
The Phillies got off to a rough start and questions about the manager became louder and louder. After a 22-29 start, Philadelphia needed a change. They relieved manager Joe Girardi of his duties and named Rob Thomson the interim manager. They proceeded to go 65-46 with Thomson at the helm with some deadline additions to keep this team rolling.
General Manager Dave Dombrowski saw a window and attacked. He dealt former number-one pick Mickey Moniak for Noah Syndergaard and traded top-catching prospect Logan O’Hoppe for much-needed defense in Brandon Marsh. He added veteran reliever David Robertson to sure up his bullpen. He had holes to fill and he did just that.
This team hit all year, landing in the top 10 of pretty much every offensive metric that you can find. They even did it without Bryce Harper for a while. The bullpen wasn’t great, but the back end was fantastic. The emergence of Seranthony Dominguez was enormous, and Jose Alvarado became the left-handed flamethrower they needed.
Aaron Nola became ace-like, Zack Wheeler returned and dominated, and Ranger Suarez became a solid three-starter. The back end was an issue, but all they needed to do was make the playoffs. They took down the Cardinals in the Wild Card round. They upset the 2021 World Series Champion Atlanta Braves and then they took down the red-hot Padres in five games. This team has an incredible amount of momentum but are still the underdog to win the series at +165.
Why the Astros Win
Stat Rankings (Regular Season)
- fWAR: 29.4 (6th)
- wRC+: 112 (6th)
- wOBA: .324 (7th)
- Home Runs: 214 (4th)
- ISO: .176 (4th)
- FIP: 3.41 (2nd)
- xFIP: 3.61 (7th)
- fWAR: 19.4 (1st)
- K-BB%: 17.8% (5th)
- SIERA: 3.64 (5th)
- FIP: 3.05 (1st)
- xFIP: 3.45 (1st)
- SIERA: 3.15 (3rd)
- K-BB%: 19.0% (3rd)
- fWAR: 7.6 (T-2nd)
- Def fWAR: 30.8 (4th)
- OAA: 30 (2nd)
- UZR/150: 5.0 (4th)
- DRS: 67 (5th)
- BsR: -8.9 (23rd)
- Stolen Bases: 83 (16th)
How can the Astros lose? They have zero weaknesses, except maybe, baserunning?
They haven’t lost a game in the playoffs for a reason. Even if they are down, they have the firepower to come back as we saw against the Mariners. From top-to-bottom, they have no holes in their lineup. The top of the lineup is incredible with Altuve, Peña, Alvarez, Bregman, and Tucker at the front. The bottom of the lineup is even producing a red-hot Gurriel, along with McCormick and Maldonado.
The lack of offense at the bottom could hurt them, but they make up for it with elite defensive play. Neither is struggling at the plate as McCormick is rocking a .898 OPS and Maldonado is getting on base at a .353 clip in the postseason.
They could throw an ace-level starter every single game. Justin Verlander needs no introduction and Framber Valdez continues to prove why he’s one of the best left-handed pitchers in baseball. Christian Javier almost threw a no-hitter against the Yankees in the ALCS, and McCullers threw a seven-inning shutout against the Mariners. Overall, they have a 1.88 ERA as a staff this postseason compared to the Phillies at 3.06.
Hunter Brown and Luis Garcia will act as swingmen which leads to the best bullpen unit in the game. From top to bottom they have the best roster backed by one of the best managers in baseball, Dusty Baker.
This might be the best Astros team of the 21st century and this will be their fourth World Series appearance in six years.
Why the Phillies Win
Stat Rankings (Regular Season)
- fWAR: 21.7 (11th)
- wRC+: 106 (10th)
- wOBA: .322 (8th)
- Home Runs: 205 (6th)
- ISO: .169 (6th)
- FIP: 3.54 (5th)
- xFIP: 3.54 (4th)
- fWAR: 17.5 (2nd)
- K-BB%: 17.1% (7th)
- SIERA: 3.65 (6th)
- FIP: 3.71 (12th)
- xFIP: 3.98 (19th)
- SIERA: 3.70 (T-17th)
- K-BB%: 14.2% (16th)
- fWAR: 5.1 (9th)
- Def fWAR: -18.6 (25th)
- OAA: -35 (29th)
- UZR/150: -2.1 (21st)
- DRS: -34 (25th)
- BsR: 9.9 (6th)
- Stolen Bases: 105 (5th)
Building a statistical argument for the Phillies over the Astros won’t cut it, but how do you quantify momentum? The Phillies weren’t statistically better than the Braves, but they seemed to be just fine.
The Phillies’ regular season stats also don’t tell the full story. They had an injured Byrce Harper for a solid chunk of the year. Zack Wheeler didn’t pitch the entire season. The bullpen was a lot better in the second half. The defense has never been that great, but the addition of Brandon Marsh and the emergence of Bryson Stott has certainly helped. Alec Bohm is improving at third base and they have one of, if not the, best defensive catchers in baseball.
The starting pitching stats are especially skewed. In a World Series format, we likely won’t see Kyle Gibson, Noah Syndergaard, or Bailey Falter. If we do, it’ll be in short stints. Wheeler, Nola, and Suarez will get most of the starts, and they can easily stack up against the Astros. They might even be better.
The bullpen could give the Phillies issues if the starters don’t perform. With that said, the back end of the bullpen during the playoffs has been perfectly fine. Seranthony Dominguez and Jose Alvarado have been dominant as has Zach Eflin. David Robertson has a 2.45 ERA in the playoffs as well.
The Phillies are slightly worse on offense in the regular season, but not by much. The Phillies also lead the Astros in most categories during the playoffs. They have a higher batting average, more home runs, hits, RBIs, and stolen bases. The top of the lineup is firing on all cylinders. Bryce Harper is the best hitter in the postseason and Rhys Hoskins is tied for the lead in home runs.
While the Astros are undefeated in the postseason, they haven’t experienced playing in Citizens Bank Park where the Phillies are a perfect 5-0. If Nola and Wheeler can win in Houston, this team can win it all.
This is really tough. I went in thinking the Astros have all the advantages and they should come out winning easily. The more I think about each game and each matchup, the Phillies have an excellent shot at pulling the upset.
I think the Phillies can steal one in Houston, making the series 1-1 before going back to Philadelphia. I see the Phillies taking at least one game, most likely two games at Citizen’s Bank Park before going back to Houston. Now the series is completely up for grabs.
If the Phillies can dominate at home, they have a real shot here. I do think the Astros depth and experience will be tough to match. The Phillies need Wheeler and Nola to pitch lights-out in multiple games which is not a lot to ask from two of the best pitchers in the postseason.
The key here will be the Phillies’ back end holding the lead, and I think they can do just enough to push this to a decisive seventh game. I think Wheeler and Nola win three of their five starts, and the Phillies just need one more miracle. It’s been a miracle season for them already, what’s to say they can’t finish the job?
Philadelphia Phillies in 7 (+600)
Who Will Win MVP?
- Yordan Alvarez (+600)
- Bryce Harper (+650)
- Justin Verlander (+900)
- Kyle Tucker (+1000)
- Framber Valdez (+1200)
- Alex Bregman (+1200)
- Aaron Nola (+1200)
- Kyle Schwarber (+1400)
- Jose Altuve (+1400)
- Jeremy Pena (+1600)
- Zack Wheeler (+1600)
- JT Realmuto (+1800)
- Rhys Hoskins (+1800)
My Pick: Bryce Harper (+650)
Who else but Bryce Harper? He’s hitting .419 in the postseason with five home runs, 11 RBIs, and 18 hits which are all either tied for first or first in the playoffs. This is his team and he will lead them to their first championship since 2008.
Sleeper: Aaron Nola (+1200)
Winning the MVP as a pitcher can be done. Stephen Strasburg won the World Series MVP back in 2019 with the Nationals. Madison Bumgarner won it in 2014 with the Giants. Nola is pitching as well as any pitcher alive right now, and he’ll be starting game one. He’ll most likely have to make three starts in the post-season, and if he wins all three, he could very well be the main reason the Phillies win it all.
Phillies Series Price (+165) 0.5U
Phillies to Win in 7 (+600) 0.2 U
Bryce Harper MVP (+650) 0.15 U
Aaron Nola MVP (+1200) 0.1 U