The 2022 World Series starts this week. For baseball fans, it all comes down to this. After six months of baseball, one week will determine which team is remembered in history as champions. Will it be the Houston Astros, managed by Dusty Baker (who has been behind the bench for various teams for multiple decades)? Or, will it be the Philadelphia Phillies, managed by Rob Thompson (who only took over the team a few games into this season)?
Some fans seem surprisingly unexcited by the two teams in the World Series. After all, the Astros are the team you love to hate while the Phillies are the team you hate to love. However, there are some fun things that any baseball fan can root for in this World Series. So, let’s look at some of the things to watch and some of the things that are worth getting excited about.
What To Watch
Let’s start with some of the matchups that will take place on the field. In today’s game, the pitcher against the batter has become more exciting than ever, especially when there are three true outcomes (two of which, are exciting). The World Series will be determined by some of these matchups but also by the game within the game.
Zack Wheeler Vs. Yordan Alvarez
All of the sudden, Zack Wheeler has looked unhittable in the postseason. Sure, he’s the Phillies ace and generally pitches well but this postseason run has been something else. In five starts, Wheeler has allowed only five runs, 10 hits, and three walks while tossing 25 strikeouts.
While Wheeler is pitching well in the postseason, Yordan Alvarez is establishing himself as one of the greatest hitters in baseball, especially in the postseason. After winning the ALCS MVP last year, he singlehandedly defeated the Seattle Mariners with his multiple homers. While the New York Yankees avoided him, he’s still made his mark as the best hitter entering the World Series.
So, why is this the matchup to watch? The big reason is that Wheeler loves to defeat hitters with the pitches that Alvarez crushes. Wheeler relies heavily on the fastball-slider combo, allowing the high heat to attack batters for strikeouts. Alvarez meanwhile can get around on the fastball and patiently cut at the slider, often pulling both pitches into the rightfield seats. The Phillies might not pitch to him altogether but with their best pitcher on the mound, this might be the one time they go after him.
Verlander & Valdez Vs. Harper & Hoskins
This is a similarly intriguing matchup to the Wheeler against Alvarez one. However, it is for the opposite reasons.
Justin Verlander and Framber Valdez specifically attack hitter’s weaknesses. Against the Yankees, they both threw off speed and breaking pitches with Valdez using the curveball to get strikeouts and the sinker to get ground outs. Verlander likes to use his fastball to attack hitters, especially in the later innings but if needed can go to his curveball and slider.
What makes this matchup intriguing is that Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins, who have both led the Phillies lineup, are unique. Unlike the Yankees’ best, they will wait for their pitchers and use plate discipline to their advantage. Moreover, they can both hit the breaking pitches, and, in this postseason, they proved they can take any pitcher deep. The Astros will go after them and that alone makes this matchup the one to watch.
Astros Contact Vs. Phillies Fielding
The Phillies roster was built this season on the premise that power, especially great power can override poor fielding. In the first weeks of the season, the strategy didn’t work with the awful fielding costing them game after game. Granted, this turned around and, in the postseason, the powerful lineup took over games. But guess what, this team still can’t field well.
Their matchup against the San Diego Padres was a fielding nightmare with both teams making multiple costly errors but the Astros won’t give us that same scenario. Instead, this matchup is going to be about the Astros putting the ball in play, and if they can do that it will test the Phillies’ ability to record outs and it will test the structure of the roster altogether.
Nick Castellanos Vs. Breaking News
Nick Castellanos is the king of hitting home runs at bad-timing moments. If an announcer is trying to say something important, for whatever reason, Castellanos will gain the magical power to crush a home run. In the World Series, if anything happens in the world whatsoever, we’ll have to be prepared. Who knows, maybe it will decide the World Series.
“As there’s a drive into deep left field by Castellanos and that’ll be a home run. And so that’ll make it a 4-0 ballgame.”
What To Root For
This isn’t a rooting guide for which team to pick. Instead, let’s look at some players, managers, or whoever that any baseball fan can rally behind.
Since 1993, Dusty Baker has been a manager in the Major Leagues. He has guided multiple teams to the Championship Series and even the World Series but has never won the title. For years, he has been given the reputation as a choker, a manager who can’t win the big one and often loses it for his team.
Dusty is the manager to root for to hopefully get over that hump and finally win the World Series. He was the perfect hire for an Astros team coming off one of the greatest scandals in baseball history. His calming presence helped keep the team competitive and guide them to multiple successful seasons (three consecutive Championship Series appearances to be exact).
This year alone, there’s a strong argument for Baker to win the Manager of the Year in the American League. In a year where a lot of teams struggled, including the Astros, he guided them to the best record in the league. Already a player favorite, this might be the postseason he becomes the fan favorite and is embraced after winning the World Series.
This generation’s Theo Epstein (I know, weird thinking of Theo as someone in a previous generation). Dave Dombrowski has already established himself as a future Hall of Fame executive as he built World Series winning teams in the Florida Marlins and the Boston Red Sox. However, this might be his masterpiece.
The Phillies failed to reach the postseason every season since 2011. Even after a rough start to the season, Dombrowski had confidence in the team and knew that if they could reach the Postseason, they’d be a force to be reckoned with. The Kyle Schwarber signing, the Castellanos addition, and every move that has turned this team into a World Series-caliber one, and now, they could bring the title to Philadelphia for the first time since 2008.
This leads us to the next thing to look out for.
Telephone Poles & Streetlights
Remember when the Eagles won the Super Bowl? Well, the city has been reveling in every moment of this postseason run. If the Phillies win the World Series, the streets might be pushed to the limits. Telephone poles and streetlights might need to be greased and even so, they still might be climbed. Needless to say, things will be wild.
Other World Series Notes
This World Series on paper looks like one of the more lopsided ones in recent memory. The Astros could easily sweep this series and it wouldn’t be a surprise. The last sweep was in 2012 but with the Astros going 7-0 in the American League, the Phillies could just be a bug on the windshield. From the Phillies’ standpoint, they are underdogs, big underdogs. Entering a World Series, they might be the biggest underdogs since 1950, where, by the way, they were swept by the Yankees.
The other thing to note is something you might know but also something you might not know.
What you know: The Astros cheated in 2017.
What you might not know: The 2022 Astros are not the same team, not in the slightest.
To understand this point, let’s look at some of the notable subtractions from the 2017 team to the 2022 team. Jeff Luhnow (general manager), AJ Hinch (manager), Carlos Correa, George Springer, Dallas Keuchel, Josh Reddick, Marwin Gonzalez, Brian McCann, and Charlie Morton.
Now, let’s look at some notable additions that are leading the 2022 team. James Click (general manager), Dusty Baker (manager), Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker, Jeremy Pena, Framber Valdez, Christian Javier, Jose Urquidy, and Chas McCormick.
With this in mind, enjoy the World Series.
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