If you had come to me and guaranteed that I would be previewing at least two World Series games this season, I probably would have calmly smiled, said something along the lines of “oh that’s nice!” then backed away slowly while calling the police, because I was clearly dealing with a madman. And yet, here we are, and here we go!
The Texas Rangers were a 90-72 team this season, good enough for second in the much contested AL West. Much like the Diamondbacks, they fought their way through a gauntlet to get here, having faced the 99 win Rays in the Wild Card, the 101 win Orioles in the NLDS, and their in-state rivals, the Astros, in the NLCS. After a thrilling seven game series against the Astros, they now find themselves on the opposing side of the diamond from the D-backs in the World Series.
They are a much better home team than they are a road team. At home, they won at a .617 clip, but on the road, they were actually sub .500, going 40-41. While those stats are something to keep in mind, it’s worth noting that they only won road games against the Houston Astros. In a short series, anything can happen, and those season long trends sometimes are only worth the digital ink they are printed in.
One other split to keep in mind, however, is that the Diamondbacks performed well against them in the four games they faced each other. Arizona went 3-1 in those games. The teams split the games they played in May, despite Brandon Pfaadt’s rough, and well-documented, debut. However, the Dbacks swept the final two games, including a walk off in the 11th from Tommy Pham. If the team continues that trend, it could make for a very short series, but see above about short series trends.
Pitching wise, the two teams were fairly similar and close to each other in the overall rankings. The Rangers had an ERA+ of 105, while the Diamondbacks were just below league average at 98. FIP tells the same story with the Rangers 4.32 and the Diamondbacks at 4.36. For context, league average FIP was 4.33. Now, that doesn’t take into account that the pitching staff the Diamondbacks have now is hardly the staff they had at the start of the year. Heck, one of those pitchers is (jokingly, I think) trying to start for the Rangers now.
Both teams are seeing resurgences from their bullpens as well to help push them farther into the postseason. We are all very familiar with the improvements that the Diamondbacks have made, but the Rangers aren’t far behind, if not seeing even more improvements. In the regular season, their bullpen had a 4.77 ERA with a FIP that ranked in the bottom ten of all teams in baseball. Since the post season started, they’ve shaved off over a run off their ERA.
The Diamondbacks won’t be changing the script at all for their starters, with Zac Gallen starting Game 1, and Merrill Kelly taking the ball in Game 2. The Rangers have only announced Nathan Eovaldi as their Game 1 starter so far. He’s got history with the Diamondbacks, as he faced them way back in 2011 for his big league debut. Since then, he has faced them a total of eight times and has had a lot of success against them. An ERA of 2.78, a WHIP of 0.87, and 20 strikeouts in 32 innings. The caveat, however, is that he hasn’t faced them since 2016 when he threw six innings of one run ball. We’ll see how these entirely different Diamondbacks shape up.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Rangers are one of the best offensive teams in the game. They’re third in OPS+, third in regular OPS, third in slugging, third in OBP, second in batting average, and fourth in home runs. Just like in LA, just like in Philly, the path forward is through a high octane offense powered by superstars. This time, the superstars are former Dodger Corey Seager and Marcus Semien. Both have been worth the mega contracts they were signed too, though Semien has struggled since the calendar switched to October. His batting average has dipped to just .192.
The key for the Diamondbacks are A) can Ketel Marte continue his MVP caliber play and B) will Christian Walker and Corbin Carroll show up. Carroll has already showed signs of coming back with his Game 7 performance. They wouldn’t even be here without what he did that night, but the question becomes is he back or was that a one off. I’m leaning towards he’s back, but only time will tell. Walker has some more work to do, having only recorded two hits in the NLCS. He did get eight walks however, so that might be something to work with.
The Diamondbacks are in the World Series and you’re wanting calm, rational analysis? But the trolls were so much fun last time! Ah well, nevertheless. I think the Diamondbacks are in a good position to split these first two games and steal home field advantage back. Kelly has been pitching well all postseason, with the exception of some bad location leading to all those Phillies home runs. On the other hand, Gallen makes me a little nervous right now, so I’m not as convinced of that game. Between the two, and with a resurgent Carroll, I feel confident that the Diamondbacks can walk away with a split on the road and go back to Chase Field for a five game World Series. Go Dbacks!