So, here we are! The Atlanta Braves are in the World Series and after taking on one monumental task in pitching to the Dodgers’ lineup, they are moving on to another task that figures to be just as tough, if not tougher. The Astros have been crushing the ball all season and it’s clearly translated into Postseason success since they’re the ones who the Braves will be facing in this year’s Fall Classic.
As a team, you’re not going to find too many teams who were better than the Astros were at the plate this year. They led all of baseball in wRC+ (116) and they were the second-best team in both OPS+ (113) and wOBA (.336). While the Braves are a better power-hitting team with a .191 Isolated Power number, the Astros can hold their own with a .177 ISO. They also finished with a .303 BABIP as a team, which was up there with the likes of their two fallen Postseason foes known as the White Sox and the Red Sox. The numbers jump out at you from a glance, but at this point this is nothing new for the Braves when it comes to Postseason opponents.
The Astros had 11 players who played at least 80 games for them this season. Of those 11, all but two of them had a wRC+ that was below 99. Six of those hitters had a wRC+ that was above 120. Those six batters make up the heart of Houston’s lineup and they are collectively a heart that does plenty of pumping for this team and is a huge reason why they’ve gotten as far as they have in this season.
Personally when I think of the Astros, I usually go straight to Jose Altuve as my first thought. 2020 was not his year but he came back with a vengeance here in 2021 and looked more like his usual self. It is still absolutely absurd that someone as small in stature as Altuve is able to mash for power at the rate that he does. Yet here he is: A 5’6”, 166 pound freak of nature who can slug dingers with any big power hitter that you can think of. He’ll be their main force at the top of the order and it only gets more precarious from there.
Michael Brantley hasn’t hit for a lot of power this year, but that’s just about the only thing he hasn’t hit. His spray chart basically covers the entire field, he’s in the 100th percentile of all hitters when it comes to Expected Batting Average (xBA) and while he doesn’t walk much at all, he counters that by striking out only 10 percent of the time. It’s going to be extremely difficult to get him to whiff on pitches, so the main hope is that whatever contact he does make is soft contact.
Yordan Alvarez, Carlos Correa, Kyle Tucker, and Yuli Gurriel are going to be in the middle of the order and no matter which one is at the plate, any one of them can go off and do a whole lot of damage at any time. Alvarez is going to be their Designated Hitter during the American League portion of the World Series and he’s your prototypical DH in that he is basically just there to crush dingers and hit for power with runners in scoring position. He’s also coming off of a monstrous performance in the ALCS. The only person hotter than Alvarez in the League Championship Series was Eddie Rosario, so that should tell you just how hot Alvarez is right now.
Kyle Tucker showed flashes of his power-hitting potential throughout his time in the minors and during spurts in the big leagues last year. This was the year where he became a consistent force in the lineup for Houston. If you’re the wRC+ leader on the 2021 Astros, then you are really doing something. That’s exactly what Kyle Tucker did, as he was the qualified team leader in both wRC+ and Isolated Power on this team. That makes him one of the most dangerous hitters in this lineup and one who should be taken as seriously as any of the Postseason veterans in this lineup.
For the likes of Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel, this is old hat. This will be the third World Series for both of these guys and they’ll both be looking to continue contributing at a very high level here at this stage of the Postseason. Correa in particular has been known to come up huge for the Astros in October, so it’ll be crucial to keep him reeled in since he’s just as likely as anybody in this lineup to smack a dinger at any given moment. Gurriel is less of a power hitter but more of the Brantley-type in that he can get hits in bunches and he doesn’t strike out often at all.
Alex Bregman is another incredibly dangerous hitter on this team who can break out and put a charge into a ball at any given moment. He’s not hitting at the otherworldly levels that he was reaching before the 2020 campaign but as usual with a lot of the guys in this lineup, it’s worth it to take real care when dealing with this hitter. Chas McCormick has had a really good rookie season and the best compliment that you can give him is that he 100 percent looks like he belongs in this high-powered lineup.
The only real “break” in this lineup comes in the form of catcher Martin Maldonado and this is probably the only regular weak spot in this lineup. If they choose to go with hitting, they’ll put Jason Castro as their catcher but Maldonado is here to throw out baserunners and play solid defense behind the plate. As long as he gives them that, then the Astros will be fine with having him in the lineup.
Jake Meyers has featured in the Astros Postseason roster but he’s sustained a shoulder injury so if he does play, he may not be hugely effective as an outfield bat for the Astros. They’ve also carried Jose Siri in their Postseason roster and he actually made some starts for them in the ALCS after playing in a grand total of 21 games during the regular season. There’s no telling what to expect from a guy who Astros beat writer Brian McTaggart has described as “an enigma” but if the Astros are trusting him to start this late in the season then he’s worth keeping an eye on.
I’ve talked at length about how dangerous this Astros offense is. With that being said, I also talked at length about how the Dodgers were deep and loaded. While the Dodgers did show and prove exactly how tough they were to deal with at times, the Braves pitching staff did in fact rise to the task and got the outs when they needed them the most. They’ll have to be firing on all cylinders once again and mistakes will have to be kept to a minimum. Simply put, if the Braves dealt with the Dodgers then they should be capable of dealing with the Astros. The finish line is within reach and the trophy is within sight and the Braves are going to really earn this title if they can dispatch of the Astros and this lineup.