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World Series Preview

The 2022 Fall Classic is finally here. The heavyweight Houston Astros from the American League take on an unexpected challenger in the National League’s Philadelphia Phillies. 

This will be the third time since 2017 that the Astros have represented the AL in the World Series: winning in 2017 against the Dodgers, losing in 2019 to the Nationals, and losing again last year against the Braves. The Phillies have not appeared in a World Series since 2009 and have not won one since 2008. In fact the Phillies had not appeared in the postseason since 2011. This is in heavy contrast to Houston’s recent playoff success as they have made it to the postseason every year since 2017.

Statistically, there is a bit of a disparity between the underdogs and the favorites. The Phillies were a strong-hitting team finishing eighth in OPS (.739) and sixth in team home runs with 205. The Astros hit at an even more impressive clip finishing seventh in OPS (.743) and fourth in home runs with 214. When it comes to pitching the gap becomes more clear. The Astros held opponents to a measly .212 batting average against: an outlandish stat, which was good for second-best in the MLB. Alternatively, the Phillies allowed a .245 batting average against which was just barely in the bottom half of teams. The Astros also managed an otherworldly team ERA of 2.90 to the Phillies pedestrian 3.97. 

Despite these statistical differences this World Series should provide some intrigue. Regular season statistics don’t count when you reach the big stage. Just ask the Dodgers, who finished first in most major statistical categories including wins before an early postseason exit this year. 

For Philadelphia, their starting pitcher Zach Wheeler has been absolutely lights-out during the postseason. Across 25.1 innings including four starts Wheeler has allowed an ERA of 1.78. Opposing batters have only managed an average of .118 against him and draw very few walks. Wheeler has an absolutely ridiculous postseason WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) of 0.51 and has been the main reason why Philadelphia was able to lock down a dangerous Cardinals lineup, the defending champion Braves and the electric San Diego Padres. Wheeler has stepped up big while the rest of the Phillies pitching staff has found mixed success. 

Houston’s success has come in part from the dazzling young shortstop from the University of Maine Jeremy Peña. During the ALCS against the Yankees Peña was the backbone of the Houston offense as they easily swept New York. Peña slashed a monster stat line of .353/.353/.824, hitting three home runs and collecting four total RBI. Peña was easily awarded the ALCS MVP award for his hitting performance and has gained national recognition for not only himself but also for UMaine baseball as a whole.

While on paper the 2022 World Series doesn’t look to be a very close matchup, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security Astros fans. The Phillies are the hottest team in baseball right now and sometimes that’s all it takes to shock the world. The World Series will resume tonight at 8:03 as the Astros travel to Philadelphia for the first of three games to close out the playoffs.

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