The 2019 World Series matchup between the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals is set to be a showdown between two of the best teams in baseball. The Astros dominated the American League on their way to 107 wins thanks to elite pitching and one of the best offenses in the game. Washington rebounded from a 19-31 start to earn a wild card berth. The Nationals overcame their playoff woes to make it to the first World Series in franchise history.
Both teams are stacked with some of the MLB’s brightest stars and boast arguably the two best starting rotations in the league. This World Series matchup will come down to which lineup can stay hot and overcome some tough pitching to bring home a championship. Let’s look at this World Series matchup position-by-position.
Washington: Career backup Kurt Suzuki hasn’t provided offensive value for the Nationals thus far in the playoffs. He has only hit 1 for 20 (.050). Yan Gomes is playing slightly better going 4 for 13 this October. He had a respectable 12 home runs this season but has struggled to get on base with a .316 OBP.
Houston: After an unimpressive 2018 campaign behind the plate with the Rangers, Robinson Chirinos became Justin Verlander’s full-time catcher this season. Chirinos has delivered in the back half of the Astros lineup, with a .790 OPS and 17 home runs. He is part of a platoon with Martin Maldonado, who catches for Gerrit Cole and holds baserunners better than Chirinos.
Washington: Veteran Ryan Zimmerman was part of the first Nationals team in 2005 and has a knack for delivering in clutch situations. He’s hitting .290 with 5 RBI and a home run during these playoffs despite only 190 plate appearances during an injury-plagued season. When healthy, Zimmerman hit .257/.321/.415 over 52 games, and is a key leader in Washington’s clubhouse.
Houston: After a breakout second half of 2019, Yuli Gurriel has become a vital part of Houston’s MLB-leading offense. He hit .298/.343/.541 with 31 home runs and 104 RBI this year and developed a dangerous mix of contact and power hitting. Gurriel went 3 for 24 in the ALCS but hasn’t struck out this postseason and had a team-low 65 strikeouts during the regular season. I expect Gurriel to convert his quality at-bats into production in this series. He is also more talented than a diminished version of Zimmerman.
Washington: With Howie Kendrick expected to DH during the games in Houston, the Nationals will either start Asdrubal Cabrera and Brian Dozier at second base on the road. While the switch-hitting Cabrera brings superior offensive prowess, Dozier is more consistent as a defensive infielder. Cabrera has played more than Dozier since signing in August and hit .323/.404/.969 in 38 games with Washington. But Dozier still provided 20 home runs in 135 games this season and won a Gold Glove as recently as 2017.
Houston: Superstar Jose Altuve won the ALCS MVP award after hitting a walk-off home run to clinch the pennant for the Astros. The 29-year-old Altuve is a 6-time All-Star and former AL MVP who is pacing toward a Hall of Fame career. Altuve has topped the AL in hits on four occasions and leads the MLB in hits since 2014. Few players at any position can measure up to the impact of Houston’s 5’6″ superstar.
Washington: Trea Turner held a crucial role at the top of the Nationals lineup this season, hitting .298/.353/.497 with 19 home runs and 57 RBI. The speedy shortstop’s managed 35 steals with an 88% success rate in only 122 games this year. Turner is still searching for a stolen base in these playoffs, but his blazing speed can challenge the Astros pitchers. He is hitting .286 with 3 RBI and 7 runs so far this postseason, including a solo home run in the NL Wild Card Game.
Houston: Carlos Correa hit two big home runs in the ALCS, including a walk-off solo shot to defeat the Yankees in Game 2. That made his 4 for 22 in the series more palatable. But Correa flashed his elite defensive ability (Game 2 Link) and power every game. Injury limited him to 75 games this season, though he managed to hit .279 with 21 home runs. The 25-year-old Correa also became the youngest player to reach 10 postseason home runs. He has superior power and is a better defender than Turner, but Turner’s speed and contact give him the edge.
Washington: Rendon made a legitimate claim for the NL MVP award in 2019 and has continued his excellence into the postseason. Rendon is hitting .375/.465/.594 with 7 RBI through 10 postseason games. The 29-year-old All-Star hit .319/.412/.598 with 34 home runs this season and led the MLB with 126 RBI. The Houston native will command a massive deal in free agency this offseason thanks to his offensive abilities and impressive defensive profile.
Houston: After a season with 8.4 WAR and a .296/.423/.592 slash line to go with 41 homers, 119 walks and 112 RBI, Alex Bregman sits at the top of the AL MVP race alongside Mike Trout. The 25-year-old Bregman is hitting .257/.435/.429 in the playoffs with 10 walks. Bregman is a dependable fielder who has been a consistent playoff performer throughout his career. But both Rendon and Bregman are MVP-caliber superstars who rank highly among the league’s best overall players.
Washington: Juan Soto put together a dominant sophomore season, hitting .282/.401/.548 with 110 RBI. Soto also showed off his plate discipline and power with 108 walks and 34 home runs Washington’s cleanup hitter. The young Soto flashed the composure of a playoff veteran with clutch hits in the NL Wild-Card Game and Game 5 of the NLDS.
Houston: Michael Brantley made a diving catch and completed a crucial double play in Houston’s ALCS victory over the Yankees. Brantley proved a solid defender during his first season in Houston, and has been named to three consecutive All-Star teams. Brantley leads the team with 10 hard-hit outs so far this postseason and is hitting .262 with a .340 OBP and one home run. The former Cleveland Indian hit .311/.372/.503 this season with 22 home runs and 90 RBI.
Washington: After missing five playoff games with a hamstring injury, Victor Robles returned to go 2 for 4 with a home run and spark a Game 3 win in the NLCS. Robles is already one of the best defensive center fielders in the MLB as a rookie. He lead all outfielders with 24 Defensive Runs Saved. On the offensive end, Robles stole 28 bases this season and hit .255/.326/.419 with 17 home runs. When healthy, Robles has found success at the plate, hitting .313/.353/.563 in the playoffs.
Houston: George Springer furthered his legacy as a dominant playoff performer by hitting his 13th career playoff home run with a three-run shot in Game 4 of the ALCS. Houston’s leadoff hitter has struggled in this postseason, hitting .152/.235/.283 with 2 home runs. Springer hopes for a repeat of his 2017 run. He bounced back from an ALCS where he went 3 for 26 to hit five home runs in the World Series. That series lead to winning the World Series MVP award. He turned in the best season of his career in 2019, hitting .292/.383/.591 with 39 home runs and 96 RBI.
Springer only had six stolen bases this season, but his postseason track record outweighs Robles’s defensive prowess.
Washington: Adam Eaton is hitting .194/.310/.306 with 6 walks and 6 runs scored in 43 plate appearances this postseason. Eaton managed to hit .279/.365/.428 during the regular season to go with 15 home runs and 15 steals. The veteran is a solid base runner and had an improved second half after a slow start to the season.
Houston: Josh Reddick hit a home run and made an impressive catch in the outfield during the ALCS. Reddick hit .275/.319/.409 this year with 14 home runs but is hitting only .136/.174/.273 so far this postseason. While he isn’t the most intimidating power hitter, Reddick provides Houston with an effective left-handed hitter when he makes contact.
Washington: NLCS MVP Howie Kendrick went 5 for 15 in the series with 4 RBI, and hit a game-winning grand slam in Game 5 of the NLDS. The 36-year-old Kendrick had one of the best performances of his career in 2019, hitting .344/.395/.572 with 17 home runs in 334 at-bats and seeing time at various positions around the infield. Kendrick also hit .325 over the past three seasons, which is the highest batting average in the MLB over that span. The veteran is expected to start at DH for Washington’s road games and at second base for home games. Kendrick has been clutch and holds a .289 average with 9 RBI in 10 playoff games this year.
Houston: Strikeouts plagued rookie slugger Yordan Alvarez in the ALCS. He went 1 for 22 against the Yankees with 12 strikeouts and was dropped to seventh in the batting order. Alvarez fared better against the Rays, hitting 6 for 19 in the ALDS. With a .313/.412/.655 line and 27 home runs in only 87 games, Alvarez had a historically impressive season for a 22-year-old and is expected to be named the AL Rookie of the Year. Alvarez has struggled against left-handed pitchers in the postseason, with a .308 OPS.
While Alvarez can change a game with one swing of the bat, Kendrick’s postseason performance gives him a clear edge in this World Series matchup.