- Clayton Kershaw or Dallas Keuchel? Carlos Correa or Corey Seager? We're here to break down every position between the Dodgers and Astros as the World Series nears.
Either the Dodgers or Astros are going to come away from this postseason with a well-deserved, long-awaited championship. Both teams eclipsed 100 wins in the regular season. Los Angeles last won it all 29 years ago while Houston has never laid claim to a title in the franchise's 55-year existence.
Below is a position-by-position breakdown of each team. The Dodgers boast a well-balanced roster with no overwhelming area of strength or weakness. The Astros wield a powerful lineup but lack the depth in their bullpen and starting rotation that their World Series opponent has. Which team is built to achieve four victories in the World Series?
Though switch-hitting Yasmani Grandal clubbed 22 homers, threw out 32% of would-be base thieves and ranked third in the majors in pitch framing (+20 runs according to Baseball Prospectus, a late-season slump (.154/.269/.369 in September) has led to his being supplanted by the righty-swinging Barnes in the postseason. The 27-year-old Barnes—who also put in 76 2/3 innings at second base, usually off the bench—has started six of eight postseason games, all but the Division Series opener (in which Clayton Kershaw started) and Game 4 of the NLCS (Alex Wood's turn, and the team's lone postseason loss). After batting .289/.408/.486 with eight homers in the regular season, he's hit .261/.370/.435 in 27 postseason plate appearances, with a two-run double in Division Series Game 2 and a solo homer in Game 3 his major offensive contributions.
It's not hard to see why the Dodgers love Barnes, who delivered 2.6 WAR in about half a season of playing time. While he doesn't have Grandal's power, he's one of the team's most patient and disciplined hitters, swinging at just 17.4% of pitches outside the strike zone and walking in 14.9% of his plate appearances, trailing only Logan Forsythe among Dodgers with at least 250 PA. He was equally adept against both righties (.902 OPS) and lefties (.886), though six of his eight homers came against the latter. In 55 games behind the plate (49 starts), he threw out just 23% of would-be base thieves, but nonetheless ranked fifth in the majors in framing (+15 runs); on a per-pitch basis, he stole strikes better than any other catcher in the game. He also ranked among the majors' top 10 in pitch blocking runs (+1.5), well ahead of Grandal (-1.1) as those things go.
Firmly in the veteran game-caller stage of his career, McCann can still run into a ball (he went deep 18 times in his first season with Houston), but he’s more or less a league-average bat at age 33. This postseason has been a slog for him: He collected only two singles in 17 ALDS plate appearances, then went hitless through the first five games of the ALCS before breaking out with two doubles and three big RBIs in Games 6 and 7. At this point, McCann’s biggest contributions come from behind the plate.
By now the story is familiar: the son of former Yankees utilityman Clay Bellinger, a fourth-round 2013 draft pick, wasn't expected to make more than a late-season contribution to the Dodgers in 2017, having barely grazed Triple A by late 2016. A slew of injuries led to an April 25 call-up, around 11 weeks before his 22nd birthday, and he wound up doing nothing less than setting an NL rookie record with 39 homers, participating in the Home Run Derby and supplanting Adrian Gonzalez (who missed most of the season due to a herniated disc in his lower back) at first base. He's a lock to win NL Rookie of the Year honors.
With an uppercut swing that produced a higher fly ball rate than any Dodger besides Justin Turner, Bellinger has excellent bat speed and tremendous power, mostly to his pull side. He's a disciplined hitter who battles deep into counts, an approach that makes him vulnerable to strikeouts (his 26.6% ranked second among Dodger regulars), though his 11.1% walk rate is certainly respectable. He's plenty lethal against lefties (.271/.335/.568 with 12 homers in 173 PA), so don't expect him to be particularly targeted by situational matchups. An athleticism that would play in centerfield shows up all around his game; he's a decent baserunner who stole 10 bases in 13 attempts, and an above-average fielder at first base (+2 DRS in 93 games) who has made several outstanding plays during the postseason.
The overlooked piece in Houston’s homegrown infield, Gurriel—a superstar in his native Cuba who wasn’t able to leave the country until two years ago at the age of 31—is making up for lost time. After a so-so regular season, he’s exploded in the playoffs, hitting .366/.409/.512 in 44 plate appearances. A free-swinger of the highest order, Gurriel walked only 22 times in 564 trips to the plate in 2017, but his contact-oriented approach and natural power have made him an invaluable part of the middle of Houston’s order. Defensively, he’s just about average, but the Astros will take that given his hot bat.
The Dodgers have platooned at second base this year, with the righty-swinging Forsythe and the lefty-swinging Chase Utley each starting 68 times. So far in the postseason, Forsythe has stated five games and come off the bench twice, hitting .316/.458/.368 with three RBIs in 19 PA.
An Andrew Friedman favorite dating back to their time in Tampa Bay, the 30-year-old Forsythe missed five weeks due to a broken right big toe and never really found a groove. His defense (+5 DRS in 80 games at second base) and a patient approach, which yielded team highs in walk rate (15.7%) and pitches per plate appearance (4.37, fourth among NL players with at least 300 PA) are what keeps him in the lineup. Nonetheless, his 82 OPS+ was the lowest of any Dodger at that cutoff, and while he raked against lefties (.290/.418/.452 in 153 PA), he flailed against righties (.190/.215/.262 in 286 PA).
What’s left to say about Altuve, the likely AL MVP and the most fun man in the Astros’ lineup? The pint-sized slugger put up an astonishing .346/.410/.547 line in the regular season and hasn’t slowed down in the playoffs, hitting .400/.500/.775 with a team-high five home runs. Altuve demolishes fastballs (.368 against four-seamers) and is equally adept at breaking pitches (.328 on sliders, .431 on curveballs). He’s also a terrific base runner and a solid if unspectacular defender at second. He’s the whole package.
After an excellent showing in the Division Series (3-for-11 with a triple and four walks), it was a shock when Seager was omitted from the NLCS roster due to a back sprain—suffered during an awkward slide in Game 3—that required an epidural injection. The Dodgers got by because Charlie Culberson, who was limited to 13 PA during the regular season, went 5-for-11 with three extra-base hits and several strong defensive plays, and Chris Taylor filled in admirably as well. Seager is expected to be reactivated for the World Series, but that doesn't mean he'll be full strength; notably, he also battled elbow soreness late in the season and hit .210/.286/.358 in 91 PA in September. It wouldn't be a surprise if he pulls DH duty when the series shifts to Houston.
When healthy, the 23-year-old shortstop is one of the game's elite two-way shortstops, a .295/.375/.479 hitter with 22 homers in the regular season. He might be the team's best position player; his 5.6 WAR was 0.1 behind Turner, with both missing time due to injuries. A very aggressive hitter, he led the NL in first-pitch hits (50) and batted a sizzling .481 when making contact in such instances. Though his career OPS against lefties is 76 points below his mark against righties (.824 vs. .902), he hit .325/.389/.527 with eight homers in 190 PA against same-siders this year, for a 90-point edge in OPS (.916 vs. .826). Defensively, his +10 DRS ranked fourth among NL shortstops thanks to his great range and sure hands.
Correa, the 2015 AL Rookie of the Year, didn’t put together the MVP campaign many expected thanks in large part to a torn thumb ligament that sidelined him for two months midseason, but he's still one of the game's special playeres. The 23-year-old Puerto Rican clobbered opposing pitching to the tune of a .315/.391/.550 line with 24 home runs, went deep twice in the Division Series, then hit .333/.357/.556 with a homer against the Yankees in the ALCS. Like his double-play partner Altuve, Correa crushes fastballs, hitting .349 against them this season; his lone home run of the ALCS came off a 99-mph outside fastball that he took the other way to rightfield. And defensively, he’s as good as they come. Only the presence of Altuve keeps Correa from being the Astros’ best player.
Whether referred to as the Raking Redhead, the Ginger Werewolf or the Heavy Metal Amish Leprechaun, the 32-year-old Turner has become the Dodgers' offensive centerpiece. His 149 OPS+ ranked fourth in the league, his .322 batting average third and his .415 on-base percentage second. He's lit up opposing pitchers in the postseason (.387/.500/.677 with three homers in 38 PA, not to mention LCS co-MVP honors), and in fact owns the second-highest career on-base percentage (.481) of any player with at least 75 postseason PA, sandwiched between guys named Gehrig (.483) and Ruth (.470). His 1.113 OPS is fourth behind that pair and Troy Glaus. Suffice it to say that he's embraced the moment in October.
What's most impressive about Turner, a former Mets castoff who's been at the forefront of the flyball revolution, is his continued improvement as a hitter. After posting a 2.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his first three years as a Dodger, he dropped that to 0.95 this year, waking more often (10.9% of plate appearances) than he struck out (10.3%) while setting career bests in OBP and SLG. He's become one of the game's best two-strike hitters; his .753 OPS in that capacity (.279/.365/.388 line) ranked eighth among players with at least 150 two-strike PA. What's more, he's a terror against lefties (.380/.477/.704 with 11 homers in 172 PA), a good baserunner (7-for-8 in steals) and an above-average fielder (+6 DRS).
The No. 2 pick of the 2015 draft, Bregman was shifted from shortstop to third base thanks to the presence of Carlos Correa and has settled in nicely at the hot corner. Just 23, the LSU product hit .284/.352/.475 in the regular season with 19 homers but has hit the skids offensively in October, with a .190/.244/.381 line. Bregman’s too talented to stay stuck in that skid, though, and if nothing else, he’s making up for it on defense. He’s made some terrific plays at third—none bigger than his throw home in the fifth inning of ALCS Game 7 to nail Greg Bird as the would-be tying run.
The hero of the NLCS clincher with his three-homer game, the 25-year-old Hernandez is versatile superutilityman who has played every position this year except pitcher and catcher. His primary role during this postseason is as the short half of the team's leftfield platoon, with Andre Ethier or Curtis Granderson taking the starts against righties. By far the best defender and baserunner of the trio, Hernandez isn't the full-timer because he hit a wretched .159/244/.255 in 165 PA against righties, compared to a robust .270/.367/.579 with 10 homers in 177 PA against lefties. He's 3-for-8 with a double and two homers against the latter in the postseason.
A jack-of-all-trades for manager A.J. Hinch, Gonzalez went from mediocre utility man to a valuable piece all over the diamond. In a career year, the 28-year-old Venezuelan hit .303/.377/.530 with 23 home runs and a team-high 90 RBIs—and he played six different positions to boot. In the postseason, he’s settled in as Houston’s regular leftfielder, but his sterling year hasn’t carried over to October, as he’s posted a .150/.227/.182 line in 44 plate appearances. He can be attacked with breaking pitches, but he can still turn around a mistake.
It could hardly be more fitting that Taylor shared LCS MVP honors with Turner after batting .316/.458/.789 in 24 PA during the series, for the versatile 27-year-old—who has led off every postseason game—represents another triumph of the team's bargain-hunting approach. Acquired from the Mariners in June 2016 for 2010 first-round pick Zach Lee, who was shellacked in his lone big league appearance with the Dodgers, Taylor had hit just .234/.289/.309 with one homer in 318 PA from 2014–16. Thanks to the evangelism of Turner, Taylor remade his approach, adding a leg kick to help with timing as well as an uppercut.
Sent to Triple A to start the season, he caught a break with Forsythe's injury and quickly became an indispensable piece of the offense. After subsequent injuries to Turner, centerfielder Joc Pederson, Gonzalez, and Seager, he became an everyday superutilityman, starting 47 times in centerfield, 46 in left, 19 at second base, 10 at shortstop and three at third base. In all, he gave the Dodgers Seager-like production (.288/.354/.496, 21 HR).
Taylor's 17 steals led the Dodgers, while his 4.8 WAR ranked third among their position players, his 122 OPS+ fourth, his 21 homers tied with Turner for fifth. Three of those homers were grand slams; only the Reds' Scooter Gennett had more. Seventeen of his 21 homers came against righties but his platoon OPS splits were just 18 points apart (.855 to .837). As he showed several times thus far in the postseason, he's capable of lengthy, relentless at-bats—his nine-pitch battle against Jose Quintana to start NLCS Game 5 suggested the champagne would flow that night—though his 25.0% strikeout rate ranked third on the team.
All of America got to see just how good Springer is defensively during the ALCS thanks to his series-saving catch in Game 6 and his leap over teammate Marwin Gonzalez in Game 7. Springer is more than just a terrific glove, though. The Astros’ regular leadoff hitter went deep 34 times in the regular season as part of a .283/.367/.522 campaign in which he greatly improved his selectivity at the plate. The postseason hasn’t been as fun, with Springer hitting only .115 (3-for-26) with no extra-base hits in the ALCS, but given his power and better plate discipline, don’t expect that slump to last much longer.
Thus far in the postseason, proponents and critics alike have been treated to the sight of a fully operational Puig. On the heels of a solid rebound from two injury- and controversy-plagued seasons that nearly resulted in his exit from the organization, the 26-year-old Cuban defector has recovered his swagger. He's bat flipping not just his first postseason home run but also singles and doubles, to say nothing of whatever he's doing with his tongue. He's displayed incredible focus of late, hitting .414/.514/.655 with four extra-base hits, six RBI and six walks in the postseason; his 4.60 pitches per plate appearance trails only Aaron Judge and Justin Turner
Puig hit .263/.346/.487 while setting career highs for homers (28) and stolen bases (15 in 21 attempts) during the regular season, and career bests for walk and strikeout rates (11.2% and 17.5%, respectively) while cutting his ratio of the two in half. His game is hardly perfect; he ranked third in the NL in grounding into double plays (21), the result of a 48% groundball rate, and a year after his late-season confinement to a lefty-mashing role hit just .183/.317/.275 with two homers in 145 PA against southpaws, particularly struggling against four-seam fastballs. He's 6-for-10 with a 1.692 OPS against southpaws in the postseason, however, so perhaps he’s been fixed. His aggression on the basepaths still costs the team an occasional out, but his tremendous defense and the rest of the entertaining package more than makes up for it.
Meanwhile, no one has had a more brutal postseason than Reddick. The 30-year-old veteran came up big in the ALDS, driving in the winning run of Game 4 against Boston, but he was a disaster against New York, going 1-for-25 with six strikeouts and a walk. It took him all the way until Game 7 to pick up that lone hit, which was a single. Reddick is coming off a terrific first season in Houston, though, having hit .314/.363/.484, and he’ll be motivated to do better against the Dodgers, for whom he stank on ice after going to Los Angeles in a deadline day deal.
Though sidelined for six weeks by a lower back strain, Clayton Kershaw may have well earned his fourth Cy Young award for his regular season performance, leading the league in wins (18), ERA (2.31) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.73). He has not been in vintage form since returning, serving up 11 gopher balls in 51 innings while posting a 3.52 ERA, but for the first time during the team's run of five straight NL West titles, the suddenly bullpen-rich Dodgers didn't have to deploy him on short rest in the Division Series or wring every last drop of his reserve in the seventh inning. In the Dodgers' two 2013 and ’16 LCS runs, Kershaw had thrown 19 or 19 1/3 postseason innings in the previous 14 days before his fourth postseason start and was subsequently rocked for a total of 12 runs in nine innings. This time, he's at 17 1/3 innings over 17 days before that fourth start, so there's hope that the extra rest—particularly with the last few of those innings mostly stress free thanks to the blowout—will help.
With Roberts deploying early hooks for Rich Hill, Yu Darvish and Alex Wood as well, Dodgers starters have averaged just 5.3 innings per turn, with Kershaw (LDS Game 1) and Darvish (LCS Game 3) the only ones going past six innings. It's worked, in that the rotation has delivered a 3.19 ERA with 10.4 strikeout per nine and a 4.9 K/BB ratio, albeit with 2.8 HR/9. Only two of their 13 homers allowed came with men on base, however, and the group has faced just 22 batters the third time through the order; the other three LCS teams ranged from 40 (Cubs) to 46 (Astros).
Early-season blister problems led Hill to back off the usage of his curveball in favor of a fastball that may lack in velocity but more than makes up in movement—only six of 192 qualified starters get as much—and variations in speed and release point. He's been rolling lately, with a 2.13 ERA and 12.3 K/9 in seven starts and 38 innings since September 1, never allowing more than two runs. Darvish, who has undergone an overhaul since his July 31 deadline acquisition, with the Dodgers helping him simplify both his mechanics and repertoire, has been downright dominant of late. With greater reliance upon his cutter and slider at the expense of his four-seamer, he's posted an 0.87 ERA with a 35/2 K/BB ratio in 31 innings over his last five starts. Wood, on the other hand, is nearly out of gas after an 11-0, 1.56 ERA first half. His velocity is down and he wasn't sharp in his NLCS start, his first game action since September 26, and has now allowed 2.1 HR/9 in 69 1/3 innings since the All-Star break.
Dallas Keuchel will get the ball for Houston in Game 1 after his terrific regular season and strong playoffs. The former Cy Young winner battled injuries but put up a 2.90 ERA and 136 ERA+ in 145 2/3 innings. He was excellent in his first two postseason turns, holding Boston to one run in 5 2/3 innings and blanking the Yankees over seven in ALCS Game 1 while striking out 10, but New York got to him in Game 5, tagging him for four runs in 4 2/3 frames. Behind him will be Verlander, the ALCS MVP who is on arguably the best run of his entire career. Since coming to Houston at the end of August, the 34-year-old righty gave up only four runs in 34 innings, striking out 43, and has been just as good in the postseason, with four runs allowed and 24 strikeouts in three starts (and one brief, bizarre ALDS relief appearance) over 24 2/3 innings.
Morton, the hero of Game 7, will likely draw the assignment for the third game of the Fall Classic. Armed with a power fastball and a biting curve, he can hold any lineup down at least twice through the order. Game 4 will probably go to McCullers, who closed out Game 7 in tremendous fashion, allowing only one hit and striking out six in four scoreless innings. His power curveball destroyed the Yankees; the only thing that might keep him from starting in Game 4 is Hinch potentially using him as Morton’s relief in Game 3. If McCullers doesn’t draw the Game 4 start, that will most likely go to Brad Peacock.
Though the unit led the NL in ERA (3.38), FIP (3.55) and K/9 (10.2), the Dodgers bullpen seemed like anything but a sure thing heading into the postseason, due largely to the late-season collapse of setup man Pedro Baez and a 5.30 ERA from the relief corps as a whole in September. Thanks to some rest as well as the addition of righty starter Kenta Maeda, the bullpen has been a revelation during the postseason, delivering a 0.94 ERA with one homer, two walks, 12 hits and 32 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings, the last 23 of them scoreless (a postseason record) dating back to Brandon Morrow allowing a homer in Game 2 of the NLDS.
Rather than assigning innings to the relievers besides Jansen, Roberts has keyed on stretches of opposing lineups to deploy "The Two Tonys"—lefties Cingrani and Watson, both added at the July 31 deadline—and righties Maeda and Morrow, with Jansen able to take the last three to six outs as needed. The 29-year-old Curaçao native has been training for such stints, and has a win and 14 saves (two in the postseason) in 16 appearances longer than an inning this year; only in one long stint, a July 23 blown save, did he allow any runs. Jansen has a case as the game's best closer thanks to that stamina and an otherworldly 109/7 K/BB ratio; his 1.31 FIP and 42.3% K rate were both tops among relievers while his 2.7% walk rate was 0.1 shy of the lead. So far in the postseason, he's allowed just two hits, a walk and a hit-by pitch in eight innings while whiffing 12 of 28 batters faced.
Maeda, whose fastball has played up out of the bullpen, has retired all 15 batters faced so far this postseason, 14 in October. Given his wide platoon split (.580 OPS vs. right-handed batters in 2016-17, compared to .730 vs. Lefties), he'll be called upon to snuff out a string of righties anywhere from the fifth to the eighth inning. The hard-throwing Morrow, one of the Dodgers' best scrapheap finds, turned in a 2.06 ERA and 1.55 FIP while whiffing 10.3 per nine. He's allowed just one run, three hits and one walk in 8 1/3 innings thus far while whiffing eight.
Cingrani, generally used for one batter at a time, struggled to contain lefties before being traded by the Reds but within the small-sample theater of his Dodgers career has held them to 6-for-36 with one walk and one double. Watson is slightly more likely to face multiple lefties, though the Astros' rightward tilt likely means keying on Josh Reddick or switch-hitting Marwin Gonzalez.
Astros closer Ken Giles was a shutdown reliever in the regular season, striking out 83 in 62 2/3 innings en route to a 2.30 ERA and 34 saves, but he’s been shaky in the postseason, allowing five runs and walking three in six frames. Houston’s bullpen as a whole has been a mess, with no reliable options to get Hinch through the night.
Devenski was his top setup man during the regular season, but the lanky righty has been awful when called upon in October, with four runs allowed in three innings; after getting beat up in ALCS Game 4, Hinch didn’t use him for the rest of the series. Harris and Gregerson are his best middle relief options, but the former has barely pitched this postseason, appearing in only three games, and the latter’s lack of velocity makes him a shaky late-innings bet. Liriano is the only lefty, but he doesn’t seem to have Hinch’s trust, appearing only once in the ALCS (and in garbage time at that); against good lefty hitters, Hinch has no real weapon.
Peacock and Musgrove, then, have found their way into high-leverage roles almost by default, though neither has particularly excelled. After a terrible Game 3 start in the Division Series, Peacock was shifted to the bullpen for the ALCS, giving up two runs and two homers across 2 1/3 innings in Games 5 and 6. Musgrove’s lone ALCS appearance was disastrous: He gave up two runs while getting only two outs in Houston’s Game 4 meltdown in the Bronx.
Simply put, the bullpen is a real weak spot for the Astros heading into the World Series.
During the postseason, the Dodgers have generally platooned at second base (Forsythe and Utley) and leftfield (Hernandez and Ethier/Granderson), with the shortstop situation clouding the picture a bit. With the designated hitter in play for Games 3-5, it wouldn't be a surprise if Seager fills the spot at least once and perhaps all three times. Grandal, a switch hitter whose production against lefties took a nosedive this year, could fill that spot as well during a righty start, if third catcher Kyle Farmer is on the roster.
The lefty-swinging Utley, the 38-year-old "Silver Fox" is a team leader whose baserunning smarts and defense offset his declining bat; this was the second year in a row he finished with a 92 OPS+. He did very well as a pinch-hitter this year (.273/.442/.424 in 43 PA). He’s 0-for-9 with a pair of walks, a hit-by-pitch and four strikeouts in the postseason.
Ethier, who was limited to 38 plate appearances and two home runs during the regular season due to a herniated disc, hit a big home run in Game 3 of the NLCS. He's an experienced pinch-hitter (.286/.394/.479 in 165 PA) who could also figure in the DH equation. Granderson has looked utterly lost since his August acquisition from the Mets, hitting .161/.288/.366 with seven homers and just nine singles in 132 PA. He's 1-for-15 with eight strikeouts in the postseason, his plate appearances offering both length (4.93 P/PA) and futility. Lefty-swinging centerfielder Joc Pederson has been in an epic slump (7-for-68 from July 29 onward, including 1-for-5 with a double in the NLCS) and could be the odd man out if Farmer makes the roster.
In Houston, Evan Gattis and Carlos Beltran are manager A.J. Hinch’s regular designated hitters, though the former likely has the leg up on the latter for DH duties when the Series heads to Houston thanks to his ALCS Game 7 home run. It doesn’t help Beltran’s case that he’s looked close to finished this year, posting an 84 OPS+ in the regular season and going just 3-for-17 this October. Cameron Maybin is the fourth outfielder who could get a start against any of Los Angeles’ three lefty starters, though he has a reverse split both for his career and this season. More likely than not, he’s a defensive replacement and a bench bat for the NL games. Derek Fisher and Juan Centeno have yet to get postseason at-bats; the former is the fifth outfielder, the latter is the backup to McCann (though he’s technically third-string, as Gattis is more likely to get a start behind the plate).
Winner of NL Manager of the Year honors in 2016 and a contender again, Roberts has been very successful in his two years at the helm. Lauded for his communication skills, he's notably gotten through to Puig where predecessor Don Mattingly failed, and generally maintained a more harmonious clubhouse. To the chagrin of outsiders who expected more urgency, he didn't panic during the team's 1–16 skid, and just about everything he's done in the postseason has worked, save for pushing Kershaw into the seventh inning in the Division Series opener and not pinch-hitting for Utley with Barnes in the eighth inning of NLCS Game 4. He's gotten the Dodgers to the promised land of the World Series thanks to a quick hook with his starters and trust in his relievers. Per the front office's mandate, he doesn't play a lot of small-ball; the Dodgers had just four position player sacrifice bunts in 2017, last in the majors, and they ranked 10th in the league in stolen base attempts (105 with a 73.3% success rate) and 13th in hit-and-runs (70).
In his third season as the Astros’ skipper, Hinch’s team won 101 games (just one win shy of setting a new franchise record for single-season victories), its first AL West title and its first AL pennant. A long-time catcher, the 43-year-old doesn’t have much in the way of experience as a manager, but he hasn’t needed it with a group this talented, particularly on offense.
With power all through his lineup, Hinch doesn’t play a lot of small ball: Houston was bottom five in the league in sacrifice hits (just 11 all year). He also rarely if ever went to his bench, with Astros hitters compiling only 65 pinch-hit at-bats on the year, third fewest in the game. He hasn’t tinkered with his lineup much at all in the postseason, staying with a set starting nine save for plugging in Evan Gattis at DH over Carlos Beltran late in the ALCS. That consistency has occasionally been to his detriment, such as leaving Josh Reddick in the second spot through the first six games of the ALCS despite his rightfielder going hitless in all of those contests. Pitching-wise, Hinch has a long leash for starters he trusts, such as Dallas Keuchel or Justin Verlander, but he's far quicker to make moves with the back of his rotation and when his relievers are struggling—something he’s had to deal with a lot throughout the playoffs.