And the 2021 World Series winner will be….

The Astros have quite a history with their 2021 World Series opponents, the Atlanta Braves, and so does this writer.

In my case, I was born in Milwaukee one year (season) before the Braves won their one and only championship in their 13 seasons in Brew-Town. My parents taught me the greatness of Warren Spahn and Eddie Matthews, but especially the absolute awesomeness of Hank Aaron. Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle were terrific outfielders over in that little town to the east (until Mays moved to the City by the Bay), but the greatest player in the game was Hammerin’ Hank, and he resided in the middle of the United States.

But my parents moved away from Milwaukee and then from Chicago and then from Dallas to Houston. And their arrival in Houston was just after their former favorite baseball team moved to another rising city in the New South in Atlanta. It was funny. After moving to the south my parents, still adored the Green Bay Packers, who stayed in Wisconsin, but not the Braves, who abandoned ship.

This is a match between two old National League foes, who once shared the National League West as assigned by the geographically challenged MLB.

Playoff History. The Astros have played more playoff series (five) against the Braves than any other team in the majors. The Braves knocked some terrific Astro teams out in the first round in 1997 (3-0), 1999 (3-1) and 2001 (3-0) and helped to escort manager Larry Dierker back off the field in the process. When the Astros finally won a playoff series in 2004, it was a 3-2 nudging of the Braves. And when the Astros made their way to their first World Series appearance in 2005, it was only after a first-round knockout of the Braves, highlighted by 18 insane innings and a Chris Burke walk-off in a 3-1 NLDS win.

Recent History. Maybe it is a sign, like Dusty Baker having to beat his friend and idol, Hank Aaron’s team to win his first World Series. But the Astros and Braves have not met in the regular season, since the Astros went 4-0 against them in their last WS run in 2017. And children, how many games do the Astros need to win, to earn another World Series? Yep, four.

General View. Like the Astros’ last opponent, the Red Sox, the Braves were not supposed to get this far. The Red Sox knocked off the Yanks in the Wild Card and then took out the AL regular season-best Tampa Bay Rays to get to the ALCS. The Braves had the worst record of all the playoff teams at 88-73 (6-1/2 games worse than the Astros), but they still won the AL East. They then easily took care of the 95-67 Brewers (same record as the Astros) and the 106-56 Dodgers to reach the World Series for the first time since they got swept by the Yanks in 1999. But as always, the regular season does not mean near as much as who is hot at the right time in the playoffs.

Health. Lance McCullers is out for the World Series and that is a significant, but not necessarily fatal loss for the Astros. The Braves have been without one of the transcendent talents in the game, OF Ronald Acuna Jr. since he blew his ACL back in July. Both blows are big, but McCullers loss is bigger at playoff time. As this is written, it is not a sure thing if Jake Meyers will be on the Astros’ WS roster as he had an injury setback during the ALCS and never appeared in a game. If the Astros don’t see him playing in the WS they could always choose to pull back someone else (third catcher Garrett Stubbs?) or perhaps roster an extra pitcher for a bullpen that had to carry the team at times in the round against the Red Sox.

Managers. Dusty Baker had a very good ALCS especially in guiding the team through a crucial bullpen game in Game 4 of the series. While Dusty has both played and managed with a swath of teams in his baseball life, the team that drafted him and for whom he played first in the majors…were the Braves. Brian Snitker does not have the resume that Baker has, having spent both his minor league playing career and his coaching career with the Braves before taking over the Braves as his first major league management job in 2018. Now at 66 years old he has his first shot at the golden ring.

Hitting. The Astros led the majors with 5.33 runs/game, while the Braves were a solid 4.91 runs/game playing in the DH-less National league. The Astros team slash of .267 BA/ .339 OBP/ .783 OPS was a giant step ahead of the Braves at .244 BA/ .319 OBP/ .754 OPS. While Yordan Alvarez was tremendous in the ALCS, there are no dearth of hitting heroes in this lineup with Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Kyle Tucker and Yuli Gurriel wrapped around Alvarez. If a couple of them are slumping, it feels like three or four are in the groove.

On the Braves side, Eddie Rosario, who is a good player, just came off a series where he was Kike Hernandez hot. Their infield of 1B Freddie Freeman (31 HR, 83 RBIs), 2B Ozzie Albies (30 HR, 106 RBIs), SS Dansby Swanson (27 HR, 88 RBIs) and 3B Austin Riley (33 HR, 107 RBIs) are an offensive match with or better than the Astros fine infield. Even before Acuna was injured, the Braves outfield was not a match for the Astros until Rosario started hitting like Aaron. Both teams have light hitting catchers, but Martin Maldonado is a much better defensive catcher than Travis d’Arnaud.

Starting Pitching. The Astros had one of the top starting staffs in the AL in 2021. They had the most wins (63) and the second-best ERA (3.63) and WHIP (1.19) in the AL. The Braves’ starting staff was not far behind that statistically with 57 wins, 3.84 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, though it did come in the less offensive National League. But as was shown in the ALCS, the Astros starting staff was a big question mark without Lance McCullers Jr. until…..Framber Valdez and Luis Garcia redeemed themselves in Game 5 and Game 6 wins. Can Jose Urquidy and Zack Greinke find enough footing to give performances that don’t give their games away? That is a critical question.

The Braves will start off the World Series with former Astro Charlie Morton on the mound and will probably follow up with lefty Max Fried and Ian Anderson in the rotation and then (this space for rent) in the fourth spot. The pitching matchups will be a huge focal point throughout this series.  The Astros propensity to struggle when facing new pitchers will be tested in this series, except for a few exceptions like Morton, who they saw a bit when he was with the Rays and close-up on the same team.  

Relief Pitching. The Braves and Astros bullpens have similar regular season numbers (3.97 ERA for the Braves vs. 4.06 ERA for the Astros and 1.32 WHIP vs. 1.30 WHIP for Houston). Both bullpens have performed better than that in the postseason.

In the postseason Ryan Pressly, Kendall Graveman, and Ryne Stanek have been taking care of the late-inning situations for the Astros, while Phil Maton, Cristian Javier and Brooks Raley have formed a bridge to get the game to them late. In the postseason, the Braves have been throwing the whole bullpen, especially Jesse Chavez and A.J. Mintner at the opposition to get to the almost unhittable lefty duo of Will Smith and Tyler Matzek. Whether those two can sustain the workload that has come their way is a huge question, but the answer to that may be critical to the Astros’ success.

Prediction. Astros in 6. The Astros have shown this writer they know how to win when it matters and they have a cheating chip on their shoulder bigger than Jose Altuve that they want to use as motivation to prove their abilities to the rest of the world.

 

66 comments on “And the 2021 World Series winner will be….

  1. Gee whiz – the Astros are going to play in the World Series today and no comments?
    I think I am spoiled by your usual commenting skills….

    Like

  2. A young man in our family has died and his funeral is coming up. He gave his life for his country and we grieve. He also was an Astros fan.
    I will get to see tonight’s game and then will travel for his funeral.
    Knowing his physical pain is over helps us.
    I am as excited as ever about the WS but I am trying to keep myself in check for my kids and family, as we will travel together. I am very proud that they want to go and be with his family.
    Every time I read an article by a publication other than an Astros blog, somebody makes the Astros an asterisk. I am on fire for my team but I will wait until Friday to burn bright and loud.

    Like

    • Very sorry for your loss OP, and really a loss for our whole country.
      We will keep you and your family in our prayers as you face a tough week.

      I think after watching how this team has performed through adversity, a person would have to be an idiot not to appreciate how tough they are and how well they play this game. Of course there are a lot of idiots out there.

      It is strange, because I look at these teams we have played and will play – the White Sox, Red Sox, Braves and I appreciate what they have done to get to the playoffs and in the Braves case all the way through. Baseball is such a grind, such a marathon, that it takes a special kind of mentality to work through the length of it and to work through all the losses along the way.

      Like

  3. Two things about my article ….
    – For some reason I always put in an extra “t” in Eddie Mathews name – that is why no link comes up for it
    – I forgot to mention that Braves Manager Brian Snitker is the father of Astros hitting coach Troy Snitker – quite a family accomplishment

    Like

  4. Marwin on the WS roster and Meyers on the taxi squad. Hope Margo has some hits left in his bat, but the ideal thing would be that we would not need to use him at all.

    Like

    • The braves have six LHP on their roster and I think the Astros might want his switch hitting at a critical time. Plus, he can play OF and is more familiar with LF in Atlanta.
      Having Marwin to play LF also would keep Siri available to pinch run late in the game.

      Like

  5. Being the ultimate ‘homer’, I of course want the Astros to win this series (in four games, if possible).

    Being a fan of the game, I want all the games to be well-pitched, well-defended, and generally well-played by both sides – and for the Astros to win this series (in four games, if possible) because their best was better than the Brave’s best.

    Being a parent of athletes, I want both teams to escape the fray without serious injury.

    Being my father’s son, I want the umpires to be either call the game fairly, and, if they blow a call, I want their bad on-field call to get to reversed on instant replay.

    Being a lover of musical parodies, I want the inspiration to write a parody of Queen’s song ‘We are the Champions’ at the conclusion of this series.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I think it will be a competitive series. We still have a shortage of starting pitching. Can Framber and Garcia give us more magic? We’ll get a better game out of Urquidy, but why is he starting game 2 when Garcia is so good at home? Is Garcia 100%? Another question for me is whether or not our hitters are better than their pitchers. I think yes, but I don’t expect blow outs. Has anyone else noticed that Brantley has 10 K’s and no walks this post season? And he’ll be seeing some tough lefties. He’s a concern. I would not mind seeing Diaz start in left tomorrow night against Fried. I’d rather not have this thing go 7 games, but it could. Our playoff experience should win it in the end.

    Like

  7. Being one who is never afraid to make a bold prediction, I would like to say I have no idea who wins this series. Both teams have matchup problems with the other.

    One thing is we can be thankful is that Selig is no longer commissioner. He would want all the games to be played in Milwaukee. Or maybe Lambeau Field.

    Like

  8. Tonight’s match-up against Charlie Morton will be challenging. Historically, as I recall, he has been pretty much lights out against his former team-mates. I sure hope the gang is ready this time!

    And please, Framber – be Framber!

    Like

  9. Near where I live in Sugar Land…..they are having an Astros viewing party in the Sugar Land Town Center. Not sure the quality of the screen and all, but for folks who love to get together and be outside in the fresh air …..

    Like

  10. When you can’t throw strikes and you have to put one down the middle almost any team is going to punish you. We had a chance in the first but couldn’t capitalize so it just ain’t good.

    Like

  11. 1OP, you’re right. I did go to bed after three. Framber sure has become a frustrating guy to watch. We don’t know which one we’re going to get. Altuve, Bregman and Correa can’t have another collective ofer. I feel bad for Charlie Morton but we almost got to him in the first. That might have changed things. The Braves looked more ready to play last night. And so we have our first must win situation of this World Series tonight.

    Like

    • 1 for 9 with RISP doesn’t bode well. Our hitters resorting to taking first pitch strikes and then flaying away at pitches out of the zone. Altuve swinging at the 1st pitch no matter what. Every pitchers knows he’s going to swing at the 1st pitch 90% of the time so why throw a pitch in the zone. I suspected that Framber didn’t have it after 2 pitches as it looked like he was trying to be too fine. Kudos to the Braves hitters who knew exactly how to approach him. Bull pen did their job. Let’s get back up and win tonight!

      Like

    • I’ve never been as high on Framber as others. I like him, I think he fits as a 4 guy in a rotation, but his stuff has always been on the edge of hittable. I think its good enough to sometimes work through lineups, and its middly enough to sometimes get whacked. I think it depends on the lineup and if they take advantage of the opportunities. Pitching has always been – provide as few opportunities as you can while still throwing strikes, and hitting has always been taking advantage of the opportunities when you get them. When Valdez or Garcia or Urquidy are pitching, there are probably going to be 10 more hitter opportunities than there would be if Verlander or Greinke or McCullers were healthy. We have to hope for more games like 5 and 6 of the last series where the hitters don’t take advantage of the opportunities and they get less of them, and more “pitchers pitches” wouldn’t hurt.

      Like

  12. If anyone remembers the 2017 WS then perhaps, like me, you see some positives in last night’s game. Framber didn’t have it. We knew it in the first. By and large the bullpen came in and pitched great, though. We didn’t use Graveman ro Pressley. The Braves, bullpen, on the other hand, also pitched great but they used all of their top guys with Minter going for a career long. If we can get some good at bats from Bregman, Altuve, and Correa they’ll wear out Atlanta’s staff and, ideally, start to put up runs in bunches like in the Boston series. Keeping my fingers crossed for a better outcome tonight.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I was thinking the same thing Devin watching the game. The Braves are using their top two pitchers, plus burning Minter and we did not do it. I can’t blame them – flipping home field advantage was critical and getting up 1-0 in the series was worth it to them.
    Matzek looked and was hittable and nearly gave up that homer to Yuli and Smith was not that sharp and nearly gave up a homer to Aledmys.
    That first inning was critical. They got up on us quick, but I think if we had answered back it could have been a different game.
    Tucker hit the ball sharply with the bases loaded but the Braves made a good play to get him out. I was thinking about that situation when Tucker hit a double and a single next two times up.
    I was happy with the bullpen, especially Odorizzi. That was the best he has thrown since he has been here.
    We don’t know how many innings we will get out of Urquidy tonight so it is critical that our offense jump out there tonight. Max Fried has been excellent for the Braves in the regular season, but not so great his last postseason appearance. We need to get to him.

    Like

    • I feel like Odorizzi was pumped and some adrenaline was up. It was good to see him spotting 94, during the season it seemed he was feeding 92 to much in the zone.

      Atlanta’s bullpen is good, but it is gassed. We could see that last night. Minter was pitching with the proverbial mouth breathing. We still couldn’t put them on the ropes, but tonight is a different night.

      I’ve been up and down on Framber and Luis. I can understand Dusty’s reasoning for going with Urquidy tonight, but I feel like our best shot at winning tonight was Garcia. Not that either can’t be had, but Garcia’s confidence has to be up after that last start, and when he is hitting 97 he is nearly unhittable. I’m worried 2 extra days of rest will wind him down to 95, and he is hittable at that velocity.

      Urquidy always scares me in the playoffs – his fastball lacks movement its typically a 94-95 mph cannonball, if he is hitting his spots on the edges he is fine when he leaves a few in the zone he gets crunched. I remember the 5 inning introduction in the 2019 WS against the Nats, I just feel the Nats didn’t take advantage. Urquidy in July when hitters aren’t locked in and a lot of lineups are just going through the daily motions and Urquidy against a locked in, concentrated playoff roster are different, and that worries me. He has to attack the edges early, and he has to hit them. He has no margin for error.

      Like

      • Steven, good to hear from you. I hope you’re right about the Atlanta pen being gassed. But you know, even though we hit some balls hard late, we did not really take advantage of their bullpen. I hope tonight is a different story.

        Like

  14. You tell me which Luis Garcia, or Jose Urquidy, or for that matter Framber Valdez is going to show up, and I will tell you which one I would choose to start. But stats wise, their ERA is close 3.30, 3.14. 3.62. Then hits per 9 – 7.6, 7.4, 7.3. But walks per nine are 2.9, 3.9, and 1.6 (Urquidy). And let’s be honest, we win or lose with these 3. They have to step up or it is crying time.

    Like

  15. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Serenade, Astros’ style:

    There once was a team, on paper a dream,
    with an “H” in a star on each ball-cap;
    When those hombres were good, they were Bidge and Bags good;
    but alas, when they weren’t … they were horse crap.

    Liked by 1 person

      • In the famous 18-inning game ended by Chris Burke’s home run, for instance, Biggio was a disappointing 0-7 with 2 strikeouts, and Bags, who was, in fairness, injured and available for pinch-hitting duties only, was 0-1. Our offense in that game came from Lance Berkman [2-5, 4 RBI, Dbl, Grand Slam HR; Brad Ausmus [2-6, HR, RBI]; Mike Lamb [2-4]; and, of course, the unforgettable Chris Burke [1-2, BB, walk-off solo HR].

        Like

      • It always seemed like when Bidge and Bags were in the playoffs they were facing righty centric starters like Greg Maddux or Kevin Brown or if it was a lefty, it was Tommy Glavine who was given strikes a foot outside.
        Berkman was always good in the playoffs and we’ve been a bit spoiled with our modern warriors, who are already highly ranked for playoff career numbers in home runs and RBIs.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. 15 big outs from our man Urquidy and then 12 more from our pen. We kind of got to Fried last night, creating enough havoc to put up six runs against him and their defense. We still need the bats to all get hitting at the same time though. And we need Garcia to come close to repeating his last effort.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Great win last night. Still need to stop swinging at pitches out of the zone. Brantley’s last AB was example as he swung at three pitches in the dirt same location. That surprised me because he’s such a good hitter. If we’re going to beat the Braves we’ve got to be smarter that that. Now let’s get those three more wins.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Z – good point. This team could have easily scored 4 or 5 more runs with just making contact in some at bats. The one that got me was Yuli striking out with the bases loaded on three balls nearly in the dirt against Smyley, a lefty. I’m so used to better at bats from him and he did the same thing three times, not getting close to the ball on any of those swings.
      But they won and it was key to even things up and put doubt in the Braves’ minds.

      Liked by 2 people

      • We seemed to have a number of things going on. First of all, Jose Siri has ZERO plate discipline [or any aspirations for ever having same], so I will not even address how horrible he looked [even on the swing that resulted in the infield hit that sparked the big 2nd inning rally].

        Secondly, the Braves obviously have some pitchers with some REALLY good stuff- stuff that compares to Framber’s, Pressley’s, and others on our staff not named Lance McCullers, Jr. Swings and misses against guys with stuff that good – even by hitters as good as Uncle Mike -are unfortunately just part of the game, especially the first time our guys face them in high-leverage situations.

        Thirdly, did you notice what free-swinging Jose Altuve did in the 8th when seeing Kyle Wright – whose stuff is reported to be absolutely electric – for the first time? He watched pitch after pitch, even getting called out on strikes. Jose knows he’ll see that guy again – perhaps when the game is on the line.

        Like

  18. One thing I did want to comment on – I thought that the home plate umpire last night had one of the best nights I’ve seen in the playoffs. He missed very few calls, was very consistent and fair.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I tend to agree. His strike zone expanded just a bit in the late innings though. In watching the play at second it seemed like the second baseman tried to toss the ball from his glove hand to his throwing hand resulting in the miscue. If he had been called out I doubt the decision would have been reversed but I agree with the call. Heads up base running by the team last night.

      Like

    • sargeh,

      I don’t care. His own teammates made it pretty clear what they thought when getting wind of him throwing out a first pitch. What a great competitor. But has he commented even once about the Astros and their fortunes down the stretch or into the post season? I’m looking for Luis Garcia to give us his next great start tonight!

      Liked by 2 people

  19. I’ve been disappointed in Verlander. I didn’t expect him to be in the dugout every day but I expected some interaction, assistance, encouragement in exchange for the $66 MM freebie he’s received.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. * Change is coming in Oakland. They have lost a lot of money and got no playoff money to help out. They gave permission to the Padres to talk and then asked nothing from the Padres in return. They save $4 million by not having to pay Melvin in 2022. He goes from a pauper team to one who has the highest payroll for 2022.
    * Still say the Astros should give Verlander a QO and get that draft pick. He is a surefire bet to reject it. All he has to do is wait till the CBA is settled and then hold a workout. He will get paid. By Feb 1 he will be 16 months into his rehab and ready to go to spring training with a club.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Absolutely offer it, but I’ve read in multiple places he is actually a candidate to accept it. The timing is tough, I am sure what he is looking for is something in the 3 yr, 65-70 mil range, but is that going to be out there? Does he want to play roulette with it, or does he play next year for 19 million and show a bounce back and try to turn that into a 2 year record deal ala Clemens?

      Like

      • The only way the Astros lose is if Verlander can’t pitch in 2022. If he accepts the QO you have Justin Verlander playing for the Astros and trying to prove he has another 2-3 year deal in him. You get Verlander for $18.4 million for 1 year.
        If he rejects the offer, you have no chance of losing money on him and get another late second round pick and the big slot money that goes with it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t buy the Verlander explanation. I follow him on Instragram. He’s frequently traveling on family vacations to far flung places. That’s certainly the kind of thing I’d be doing too, but is he bringing an entire training crew and therapy team with him wherever goes? Beyond that, I’m confident the Astros would have been pleased to be intimately involved in his rehablilitation while paying him 33 million dollars a year. They’ve got the staff and resources and one of the largest medical centers in the world ten minutes away from the ballpark. I’m sure Verlander could have fit easily into a daily schedule.

        Like

      • Yeah – I understand he has to rehab and all – but stop by once in a while – one day a month – six days over a season? You can work out on your own that day – you don’t have to suck up coaches and training time.
        Of course by not working out where the trainers and coaches are – no one really knows how good it is going.
        I’m not killing the guy – I felt like for his first 2+ seasons with the team he gave everything he had. It is not his fault that he is injured, but man…. $66 MM means he owes the team something. Now if he decides to take the QO then maybe he is giving something back – but probably not.

        Liked by 2 people

      • There are still Covid rules in place limiting who is supposed to be where and when around the team. When Verlander told the team he would be rehabbing from home they pretty much told him to stay away. His goal was to play in September. There was something that floated around saying his doctors advised him not to pitch in September, but I thought I’d read/heard that the Astros were also involved in this decision and encouraged it for insurance reasons. At the end of the day this is all a business decision. As fans we feel slighted that he got paid for two years not to pitch. Oldpro has it spot on, as usual, in that the Astros only lose on extending the QO if he has a setback and can’t pitch next year. It would shock me for him to return to Houston in any capacity. I’m ready to move on and assume Click is as well.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I don’t feel at all slighted, nor have I ever sat and looked to see if Verlander might be in the dugout, nor do I recollect any mention of the team telling him to stay away. I’m sure he could have met Covid protocol. I’m still not buying any Verlander expanation, nor do I care. I’ll always appreciate his effort when pitching for the Astros, but I will not miss him.

        Liked by 1 person

    • The A’s 2021 salary payouts will be roughly $90M. They shortchanged their MiLB commitments as much as possible so I’m having a hard time feeling sorry for them. Because the owners took a big hit in 2020, the revenue sharing was modified in 2021 such that small market teams receive half the amount this year and then will get the other half in 2022. Oakland would have expected to receive in the neighborhood of $40-50M this year. Covering the gap might be an issue there. In fairness, about 40% of their salaried commitments from 2021 didn’t finish the year on the 26 man roster. It would shock me if they did not try to move Chapman, Manaea, and Matt Olson this December. If I were them I’d try really hard to move Elvis Andrus and Stephen Piscotty, but I’m not sure how easy that would be.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. I was just looking at all the post season Astro game results. Pretty much 10 of 12 games so far have been decided in the first few innings. I hope that’s not the case going forward, and if it is, I hope it’s because our offense takes over the series, rather than our starting pitching failing!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s