HOUSTON -- The 2021 World Series will be analyzed, dissected and discussed for weeks and months to come this offseason, and there will be plenty of opinions coming from every which way as to what went right for the Braves, and what went wrong for the Astros.
Maybe it’s not quite this simple, but a swift look at one stat alone can help clear a lot of this up. The Braves homered a lot. The Astros did not.
Could it really be that simple? Sure, pitching depth had a lot to do with the outcome. After Houston’s 7-0 Game 6 loss to the Braves on Tuesday, it was clear that Atlanta simply had more arms to get it to the finish line. But on the offensive side, the Braves had a leg up throughout and in some ways beat the Astros at their own game.
Houston had the fifth-most homers in the American League in the regular season with 221 and knocked 13 long balls in the first two rounds of the postseason. But they could not find that power surge in the World Series. The Braves outhomered them 11-2, including three in Game 6 alone: a 446-foot monster blast by Jorge Soler off Luis Garcia in the third that left the ballpark, a 411-foot shot by Dansby Swanson in the fifth off Cristian Javier, and Freddie Freeman’s capper – a 416-foot solo homer off Ryne Stanek in the seventh.
Houston’s homers were limited to one player -- Jose Altuve, who hit two in the Fall Classic: a solo homer in a Game 2 win and a two-run shot in a Game 4 loss.
The rest of the Astros hitters were homerless in 197 plate appearances in the Series. That includes Yordan Alvarez, perhaps the most dangerous hitter in a lineup that has no holes. The designated hitter was 2-for-20 in the World Series.
The Astros' power outage was a problem, because the team with more homers went 25-2 this postseason. The Braves' homer differential (+9) was tied for most in a World Series.
“You've got to give them credit for pitching this tough,” manager Dusty Baker said. “They scouted us big time. Yordan couldn't continue killing the ball the way he was in the previous series. I don't know what the tally was, but they hit the ball out of the ballpark on us, and that's what they relied on.”
“Homers, it's a little crazy, because sometimes the whole team's going to hit, sometimes nobody's going to hit,” Altuve said. “Then you hit two in one game, then you don't hit for a month. So it's just baseball.”
It’s also matchups. The Braves carried six lefty pitchers on their staff, a strategy that was both unconventional and effective. The Astros, who slugged .449 vs. southpaws in the regular season, slugged .357 vs. Atlanta’s lefties in the Fall Classic.
“First off, you've got to give a ton of credit to them,” Alex Bregman said. “They were unbelievable. They pitched really well. They swung the bats, played good [defense]. Yeah, we normally do hit a little bit more for power, and we didn't. But you learn and move on.”
And heal. Often, the World Series is decided not by who has the best players, but whose players are the healthiest. And the Astros were definitely not playing at peak condition this round. They were missing some thump from their lineup, partly due to Bregman’s diminished play.
The third baseman hinted that he wasn’t at peak strength, saying he felt “good enough” to play, and said he’ll spend the offseason working his way back to full health.
Carlos Correa, who had one extra-base hit in the Series, credited the Braves' pitching more than blame the Astros’ hitting.
“They shut us down,” the soon-to-be free agent said. “I don't think it's just a problem with our guys. It's just them executing pitches.
“We always say when there's really good pitching, and they're executing, it's hard to hit. They did a really good job.”