Ryan Bukowiecki is a student at the Illinois Media School and a contributor to The D & Davis Show
It’s going to be hard to top the history that was made in the 2016 World Series, given one combatant hadn’t won the title in 69 years while the other hadn’t in 108 years. A level of history-making rare to even a historic game like baseball was meant to take place.
You could compare this year’s Series — with a Houston Astros team that never won it all and a Los Angeles Dodgers franchise steeped in history but dealing with a 30-year Series drought — to last year’s in its transformative potential.
Moment for moment it arguably lived up to the drama the Cubs and Indians provided and likely surpassed it. Overall this was a great Fall Classic and arguably better than any in recent memory. Game 5 alone was maybe the greatest World Series game ever, with both teams continuing to battle back and ultimately ending in a walk-off in extra innings. Each team had a veteran hall of fame pitcher looking to get their first sniff of success (Houston’s Justin Verlander, L.A.’s Clayton Kershaw) in the biggest games of all.
Sports Illustrated called this World Series win a few years ago as they crowned the Astros as favorites for 2017. One thing is clear: this World Series has defined what teams need to do in order to compete in baseball moving forward.
First off, what do both of these teams have in common? Both have home grown, all-star talent. One thing that we have seen in the last couple World Series’ is that teams need to find players in the minors either through the draft or trade and develop them to becoming big name stars.
Both teams also were built with managers, former players that still find value in the new age of baseball and SABRmetrics.
Another thing these teams have in common — the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark. Whether baseball wants to admit it or not, their balls are juiced. In total both teams combined for 25 homers in their seven games, an average of 3.5 a game. Being able to hit the ball out of the ballpark is at a premium now since pitchers velocity has gone up and the ball races into the stands of parks with mostly short porches before the stands.
Both teams combined for a 119 strikeouts in the series, as conversely to the home run ball, pitchers need to be able to get strikeouts against lineups with the type of power teams like Houston and L.A. have.
This seems to be a formula for success now in baseball. Pitching is always going to be the most important aspect and both these teams had excellent starters, though the Astros bullpen was no where near as good as the Dodgers, Houston did enough against the Dodgers’ pitching to win the series. After pitching comes hitting, lineups need to be made up of guys that get on base and can hit the ball over the fence. The home run has become so important in baseball as we see less small ball and less runs created via base hits that aren’t home runs.
Finally, defense is very important in baseball and just below the ability to hit the ball out of the park it changes games. When the ball is in the field of play it is important to make outs and prevent runs since the home run seems to just be waiting in the weeds ready to strike. Both of these teams had excellent defenses and though errors were made, we saw players cover a lot of ground seemingly with ease in the outfield and fantastic plays on the infield to take away would be baserunners. All these elements are a standard aspect of champions now and both the Astros and Dodgers were the best at it this year.
This version of the fall classic was one for books with the drama and superior play of both teams being showcased, here is some of the historical records broken by these teams given their high-level efforts.
George Springer: the MVP of the world series tied the record for most home runs in a series (5), set a record of four straight games with a home run, most total bases (29), and extra base hits (8) –thats doing work.
Astros: As a team, the Astros set the record for most home runs in a series with 15, which broke Barry Bonds and the Giants’ record of 14 back in 2002.
Both teams: hit the most combined home runs at 25, the previous record was 21 in the 2002 World Series. Also, both teams set a record of most home runs in a single Series game with eight in Game 2 and most three-run home runs in a game, three in Game 5.
Other records: Brandon Morrow became just the second pitcher ever to face a batter in all seven games of a World Series. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts broke the record for pitching changes (32) set previously by Tony La Russa (30) in 2011. Chris Taylor tied the record for most first inning hits in a World Series with four, first set by Edgar Rentería in 1997. Cody Bellinger struck out 17 times in a series breaking Aaron Judges’s playoff record of 16 in the ALDS earlier this postseason.
Both Lance McCullers Jr. and Yu Darvish combined to pitch four innings in Game 7, the fewest combined innings pitched in a winner-take-all game in the World Series, breaking the previous record of five innings. Darvish also became the second pitcher ever to fail to make it out of the second inning in multiple starts in the same World Series. McCullers Jr. hit four batters, which was the most in any postseason game and the first to do so in a Game 7 of the World Series. All sorts of records were set in this series and will add to its reputation going forward as an all-time classic.
Overall, expect to see similar type teams break through into MLB’s championship round with them playing games out in a similar fashion to what we saw this year. The new wave of advanced metrics are here to stay and a ramped-up style of play should be a by-product of teams abiding by the new numbers.
Of course teams still need to blend the advanced metrics lens with the traditional lens in building and managing teams.
The last four World Series teams — the Cubs, Dodgers, Indians and Astros are all at the forefront of front offices and managers that believe in the advanced metric analytics. This is the new wave of baseball and seemingly begins a new era that should be fun and dramatic based on these last two World Series classics.
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