World Series 2022 predictions: Can the Phillies spoil the Astros’ perfect run? | World Series

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Does the playoff format need tweaking?

Yes. We need to go back to the objectively correct playoff format: three division winners and one wild-card team from each league. Of course, I’m biased on this subject: how the playoffs operated when you first became a fan always feels right, even if there’s always an element of arbitrariness in play in every set-up. HF

It’s pointless to resist. I’ve never seen the point of spending 162 games separating the wheat from the chaff if you’re going to swing open the barn doors for more than eight teams come October, but modern concerns have prevailed and there’s no turning back. I’m just grateful we’re not up to a 16-team field (yet). BAG

No. Apologies to Dodgers and Braves fans for not being handed a title on their regular-season exploits, but the expanded format has made the baseball postseason far more intriguing. A major thanks to Rob Manfred and Major League Baseball for getting rid of the one-game playoffs. MJ

Yes. The 80-year-old grumpy guy in me says there’s too many teams in the playoffs. Once the inevitable MLB expansion comes, and we have 32 teams, they’ll probably let 16 teams into the postseason. Then they should just shrink the regular season to roughly 154 games. But that will make too much sense for MLB to do, so instead expected them to be playing in December. As for now, forcing division-winning teams like St Louis and Cleveland into the wild-card round is just plain unfair. Fix it. DL

What the Phillies need to do to win

The Phillies need to rely on their starting pitching to get deep into games and avoid having their thin bullpen exposed to this dangerous Astros lineup. Zach Wheeler and Aaron Nola have a combined 2.32 ERA in almost 43 innings this postseason. If they can manage to go 4-0 in their projected four starts, well, that’s all Philadelphia need. HF

Philadelphia must win one or both of the opening two games with Nola and Wheeler on the mound. Houston’s pitching depth is their biggest advantage, so the Phillies can’t afford to waste their arguable edge at the top of the rotation because the drop-off that follows is steep. They’ll also need an answer if/when Houston pitches around Harper, whether it’s the off-form Nick Castellanos finding his stroke (preferable) or manager Rob Thompson moving him up in the lineup. Additionally, while Thomson has relied heavily on José Alvarado and Seranthony Domínguez to preserve leads in the late innings, they will need a third reliever to step up (Zach Eflin? Conor Brogdon? Andrew Bellatti?) against an Astros lineup with no obvious weaknesses. BAG

A lot! The 1-4 batters need to stay hot. Mr Clutch, aka Harper, may need to exceed the phenomenal .419 average he’s put up this postseason. And the Phillies need Schwarbombs on the regular. They also need better production from their starters after Wheeler and Nola, and their bullpen needs to somehow be as good as Astros’ relieving corps. MJ

The Phillies, with nine wins in 11 postseason games, have a trinity of hot playoff goalies going right now. Kyle Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins and Harper, who have been slugging for fun, combined for nine home runs in the five NLCS games against the Padres alone. Their continued success, along with other Phillies catching fire, will be needed to conquer these Astros hurlers. DL

Bryce Harper
Bryce Harper’s preposterous .419/.444/.907 slash line has carried the Phillies to nine wins in their 11 postseason games so far. Photograph: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

What the Astros need to do to win

Philadelphia’s major issue this year has been a porous defense. Houston’s bats are pros at making solid contact that force defenders to make plays and could immediately cause havoc at the start of games. The Phillies powered through these playoffs on sheer confidence, something which could be undone if they are forced to play from behind early. HF

They say 90% of life is showing up and surely that maxim applies to the Astros, whose depth make them as close to a set-and-forget-it operation as you’ll see, almost impervious to managerial miscues. Houston won 19 more games than the Phillies, the largest disparity between World Series opponents in all but one of 118 editions of the Fall Classic, when the 116-win Cubs met the 93-win White Sox in 1906. It doesn’t make an Astros win a foregone conclusion – notably, the Sox won that series in six – but it does speak to the scale of their advantage. BAG

Time for José Altuve to break out of his slump. His .093 postseason batting average and .171 OBP isn’t going to cut it. Houston’s bullpen needs to stay on fire, including Ryan Pressly who is four-for-four in save opportunities. The starters also need to fine-tune their pitch placement as the Phillies like to take cuts early in the count. MJ

Houston must keep their arms humming: their WHIP aginst the pathetic, listless Yankees was a paltry 0.861. The Phillies have a better lineup than New York, and actually have some heart, so the undefeated Astro arms will no doubt be tested for the first time this postseason. Houston simply must win now to turn around the cheating narrative that has dogged the team’s greatest era. A spotless World Series ring for manager Dusty Baker will go a long way in that department. DL

One bold prediction

In attempting to come up with a potential surprise to happen in this World Series, I came upon a depressing possibility. After so many unexpected moments this postseason, what if there are no surprises this time around? The underdog team is vanquished with relatively little fanfare: games that aren’t close and very rare lead changes. HF

Ranger Suárez will come up big. Philadelphia’s unheralded No 3 starter, who signed with the club as a teenager back in 2012, threw five sharp innings to earn the win in Game 3 of the NLCS and closed out the Padres in Game 5, coming out of the bullpen for the first time in 451 days. Now the 27-year-old lefty is set to become the first Phillie to start a World Series game in South Philadelphia since Cliff Lee in 2009. Buoyed by a deafening Citizens Bank Park crowd, he will rise to the occasion. BAG

Bryce Harper’s incredible postseason will come to a crashing halt against the Astros’ dominant top-to-bottom pitching staff. He won’t be able to catch up to the gas thrown by Rafael Montero and Pressly. He’ll also struggle against the breaking ball which the Astros are very adept at throwing. MJ

This World Series will be a whole lot better than the dreck we’ve seen thus far from the other playoff series. And I can see Bryce Harper pummeling Justin Verlander, with his fists, not his bat, forcing MLB into a suspension quandary that they inevitably screw up. DL

Justin Verlander
The ageless Justin Verlander will become the 17th pitcher to start a World Series game aged 39 or older on Friday in Game 1. Photograph: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

World Series MVP

I never thought that we would see a player that reminded me this much of David Ortiz, but Astros designated hitter Yordan Álvarez’s left-handed power swing is a game-changer and he has shown a preternatural ability to save his big hits for the game’s big moments. Voters love that. HF

Alex Bregman. The 2019 AL MVP has been Houston’s most consistent performer throughout this year’s postseason with identical .333/.375/.600 slash lines in the ALDS and ALCS. Hitting behind Álvarez in the meaty Houston lineup, the third baseman should have many opportunities against a Philadelphia staff that drops off precipitously after Wheeler and Nola. BAG

Justin Verlander can place the World Series MVP trophy right next to the third career Cy Young award he’ll be awarded soon enough. Aside from one blip against Seattle, the 39-year-old righty has been dominant this postseason. The vet has the perfect mindset for this series and will be adept at attacking the Philles’ power hitters. MJ

That would be Justin Verlander, who survives that Harper beating to dominate in his appearances, adding to his Hall of Fame legacy, while bringing a shiny, bright and most importantly, cheat-free title home to the horrific hellscape that is the city of Houston. DL

Your 2022 World Series champion will be …

… the Houston Astros. I would love to be wrong if only to see how exactly the city of Philadelphia celebrates a World Series championship. However, there’s a reason why Houston were the preseason favorite in the American League and that they have yet to lose a playoff game. They stood tall when the other 100-win teams faltered early and Philly’s run of good fortune can’t last forever, can it? Can it? Astros 4-1 Phillies. NF

… the Houston Astros. Philadelphia’s cocktail of timely power hitting, machine-like starting pitching from their front-line aces and pixie dust will keep the Astros from joining the 1976 Cincinnati Reds as the lone team to sweep through the playoffs unbeaten since baseball’s postseason expanded in 1969. But the Phillies are underdogs on merit and no amount of Harper heroics will be able to overcome the Astros’ depth in a seven-game thriller worthy of these clubs’ epochal NLCS showdown 42 autumns ago. Astros 4-3 Phillies. BAG

… the Houston Astros. Hate the ‘Stros because you think they’re cheaters or because Ted Cruz is a fan but there’s no denying their pitching staff is one of the most dominant in postseason history. The only question mark is whether Houston sweeps the Phillies like they’ve swept every other team this postseason. Nah, they’ll “underperform” and win in five. Astros 4-1 Phillies. MJ

… the Houston Astros. They just have too much organizational talent, a spectacular blend of a younger and older roster, for Philadelphia to handle. That said, facing a scorching hot Phillies team, with no dugout garbage cans and buzzers at their disposal, will slow them down some. Philly won’t just keel over and die like the dire Yankees did, so expect a fight. Astros 4-2 Phillies. DL

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