More than any other sport, baseball is a marathon rather than a sprint. Perhaps nothing is more illustrative of that than the over/under totals for the Diamondbacks and Rangers at the start of the season, with the Rangers set at or near 81.5 by sportsbooks, and the Diamondbacks at 75.5.
Even with both teams overperforming expectations during the regular season, they both entered the playoffs as Wild Card teams and longshots to advance to the next round. Yet, the two teams will meet in the World Series, with the Rangers looking to win their first ever title and the Diamondbacks their second. Let’s break things down and make some picks.
After a disastrous stretch to close the regular season, Nathan Eovaldi has allowed only seven earned runs across 26 innings of postseason work while maintaining a dominant 28:4 K:BB. He has a strong argument as being the best starter for either team in the series.
Jordan Montgomery has largely been effective, giving the Rangers a quality 1-2 punch. The wild card will be Max Scherzer. He hasn’t returned from a shoulder injury at full strength, and could be more of a liability than his name value suggests as a result. Some combination of Andrew Heaney and Dane Dunning will fill the fourth spot in the rotation, making the back half of this rotation a liability.
Zac Gallen has the talent to match Eovaldi, but he has been unimpressive this postseason.
Arizona has something of the opposite setup in its rotation. Zac Gallen has the talent to match Eovaldi, but he has been unimpressive this postseason. He’s followed in the rotation by Merrill Kelly and Brandon Pfaadt, both of whom delivered clutch road performances to push the team through the NLCS and into the World Series. Ryne Nelson has worked in long relief as the primary pitcher in the fourth rotation slot and is a liability.
There’s a slight edge to the Rangers due to the current form of Eovaldi as compared to Gallen.
This is the Diamondbacks’ biggest advantage of the series. Even if they can’t push runs across the plate against the top end of the Rangers rotation, they should aim to put together solid and lengthy at-bats in an effort to get to a Texas bullpen that has allowed a 3.72 ERA with only a 37:25 K:BB this postseason. High-leverage scenarios could be particularly troubling, as Aroldis Chapman has a 4:4 K:BB in six innings. His ERA looks fine, but he’s allowed inherited runners to score, skewing the stat. Jose Leclerc has operate as the team’s primary closer of late and has had significant home run and control problems.
Meanwhile, Kevin Ginkel and Paul Sewald have dominated at the most important times for Arizona.
Significant advantage to the Diamondbacks.
The pendulum swings firmly back in the favor of Texas when considering the team’s respective lineups. During the regular season, the Rangers ranked third in the league in wOBA and within the top ten in other similar metrics such as wRC+. Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks were closer to league average in the metrics. That has remained fairly stable in the postseason, at least relative to each other. Of the four teams that reached the respective championship series, Arizona scored the fewest runs in the and were outscored by a margin of 20 runs by the Rangers.
Adolis García is your #ALCS MVP!
— MLB (@MLB) October 24, 2023
Adolis Garcia powered Texas in the ALCS, while Corey Seager remained a constant presence towards the top of the order. If there was a shortcoming to cite, it’s that their production has been top heavy. The opposite has been true in Arizona, as Christian Walker has largely disappeared in the postseason. Instead, the team has used the on-base ability of Corbin Carroll and Ketel Marte to scratch runs across the plate while also getting timely hits from the likes of Gabriel Moreno and Alek Thomas.
Significant advantage to the Rangers.
World Series Winner – Texas Rangers (Tipico Sportsbook: -175)
Many will probably point to the Rangers lineup as their key to success, but the starting pitching will arguably be more important as they need to avoid overexposing their shaky bullpen. The path for the Diamondbacks is straightforward: have stars Zac Gallen and Christian Walker return to their regular-season form. If they do, Arizona could bring the World Series home.
MVP – Corey Seager (+520), Zac Gallen (+2000)
For these backing the Rangers, Seager is a pretty straightforward pick to win MVP. He has an exceptional .566 wOBA and .311 ISO in the postseason, making him basically unstoppable at the plate.
If the Diamondbacks pull off the upset, Gallen will likely play a large role. He is starting Game 1, which also lines him up to start Game 5. Both of those will be swing matchups in the series, and he can set the momentum in his team’s favor on each occasion.
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