Sure, it's way too early to speculate about how much fun an Astros-Dodgers World Series would be, which is why it's the perfect time to do just that. Let's get out in front of this thing.If it happens, I'll be the one walking the concourse at Dodger Stadium with a
Sure, it's way too early to speculate about how much fun an Astros-Dodgers World Series would be, which is why it's the perfect time to do just that. Let's get out in front of this thing.
If it happens, I'll be the one walking the concourse at Dodger Stadium with a sign announcing, "I predicted it four months ago!" If it doesn't, well, Cleveland and Washington are nice in the fall, too.
On the other hand, the 52-25 Astros and 51-26 Dodgers have baseball's two best records and are probably the two most complete teams at the moment. Clubs evolve in all sorts of ways during a season, but these two are easy to believe in.
On Opening Day, the Dodgers and Astros were widely seen as the two best and deepest teams in baseball. As we near the halfway point, nothing has happened to change that assessment.
In the American League, it's not close. The Astros have won 12 more games than any other AL team and lead the West by 13 games. Even with three starting pitchers on the disabled list and a bullpen pressed to the max, they've shown no sign of slowing down.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers lead the National League West by just 2 1/2 games despite winning for the 16th time in 17 games on Sunday afternoon. They've spent most of the season in second or third place, which is an indication of how good the D-backs and Rockies have been.
Let's take a look at how the Dodgers and Astros stack up against each other.
Astros: 5.5 runs per game, 124 home runs, .827 OPS.
Dodgers: 5.2 runs per game, 106 home runs, .788 OPS.
The Astros have baseball's deepest lineup. They lead the Majors in home runs but are 29th in strikeouts, which is not the usual way of doing business. Their three biggest stars -- second baseman Jose Altuve, shortstop Carlos Correa and outfielder George Springer -- are second, eighth and ninth, respectively in the AL in Wins Above Replacement.
The Dodgers are 42-15 since super-rookie Cody Bellinger made his debut and are 13-1 since third baseman Justin Turner returned from the DL. With both Turner and Bellinger in the lineup the last two weeks, the Dodgers are averaging 7.4 runs per game. In Turner, Bellinger and shortstop Corey Seager, Los Angeles has three players who may all finish in the Top 10 in NL Most Valuable Player voting.
ADVANTAGE: Astros. Barely.
Dodgers: 3.30 ERA (tops in baseball)
Astros: 3.77 ERA (third)
Interestingly, despite the quality of the rotation, neither team is in the top seven in innings, which bodes well for a September-October push.
Clayton Kershaw (11-2, 2.47) is the ace of his generation and positioned to win his fourth Cy Young Award. Left-hander Alex Wood (8-0, 1.86) is having a breakthrough season, and the Dodgers hope to have Rich Hill and Brandon McCarthy among the options in October. The Astros would put their projected rotation up against anyone's, but their 9-0 ace, Dallas Keuchel, is on the DL for a second time with a pinched nerve. No. 3 starter Charlie Morton and projected No. 4 Collin McHugh are also on the DL. If the Astros can get Keuchel, Lance McCullers and Morton healthy and lined up for October, they'd be confident. Meanwhile, general manager Jeff Luhnow is shopping hard to add a starter.
Dodgers: 2.91 ERA (second in Majors)
Astros: 3.91 ERA (10th)
The Astros and Dodgers have each converted 73.3 percent of save chances.
The Astros completed a 6-1 road trip on Sunday with manager A.J. Hinch having used his starters for 33 1/3 innings and his relievers for 28 2/3. That workload emphasizes how important it is for the Houston starters to get deeper into games. In Chris Devenski, Will Harris and closer Ken Giles, the Astros have three late relievers as good as almost any. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has one of baseball's premier closers in Kenley Jansen (who walked his first batter of the season on Sunday) and has the guys in front of him -- Grant Dayton, Pedro Baez, Sergio Romo and others -- pitching at a high level.
Both Hinch and Roberts are the prototypes of what the modern manager should be. They are tremendous communicators, they manage their bullpens expertly, and they have the ability to get their players to both like them and respect them, and in a long season when clubhouses are tested in all sorts of different ways, that's important.
There's plenty on both sides. Kershaw is one of the faces of baseball in the post-David Ortiz/Derek Jeter era. He checks off every box, on the field and off. Seager and Bellinger, who are 23 and 21, respectively, may already be Top 10 players in the NL and will soon join Kershaw among the faces of the game. Third baseman Turner may be the most overlooked player in the game. He's a dazzling defensive player at third, and he is hitting .393.
The Astros have star power, too. Keuchel was positioned for his second AL Cy Young Award in three seasons until he went on the DL for a second time. When he's healthy, there's almost no one in either league better. Like those Dodgers youngsters, Correa, Altuve and Springer play the game with energy and passion. Baseball could not be in better hands.
The Dodgers haven't been to the World Series in 29 years, and despite four straight NL West crown, they appear closer than ever to taking the next step. They have a close group led by a manager who could not be held in higher regard. The Astros have been to the World Series once in their history, in 2005, when they were swept by the White Sox. Team owner Jim Crane bought the club in 2011 and then hired Luhnow to rebuild the club's baseball operations from top to bottom. When Luhnow added veterans Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Josh Reddick, Norichika Aoki and Morton during this past offseason, it was an indication he believed a championship window was open.
ADVANTAGE: That's why there's an October.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice