It’s finally here! Everything that has occurred throughout the 2022 season has led to this. The Fall Classic is upon us. An expanded postseason field has not only gifted us more playoff baseball but has also brought with it a World Series contender that would have otherwise missed out on the festivities. On the other side is a juggernaut that has seen its fair share of October baseball in the past decade. The Philadelphia Phillies will take on the Houston Astros, beginning on Friday, October 28th at Minute Maid Park. Here is your one-stop-shop to prepare you for the upcoming best-of-seven series that will decide what team is etched in the annals of baseball history.
How They Got Here
An eventful offseason that saw the Phillies sign big bats Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos had many hyped for what would be a stalwart offense. The only downside to the roster construction would be the lack of defensive prowess the team possessed. It seemed as though they wouldn’t be able to overcome their woes as they began the season with a 22-29 record. That led to the firing of manager Joe Girardi and put the current clubhouse leader Rob Thomson at the helm.
From there, the team took off, going 52-46 for the rest of the season. They did all that without the help of their franchise star, Bryce Harper, who missed a significant amount of time with a fractured hand stemming from a hit-by-pitch. They filled that hole on the roster by acquiring Noah Syndergaard, David Robertson, and Brandon Marsh at the trade deadline, solidifying a roster that badly needed upgrades at those respective positions. They ultimately secured the final playoff spot in the National League, breaking the second-longest postseason drought in baseball (11 years).
Once the postseason began, the underdogs from the NL East took things to another level. They swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the Wild Card round with a clutch 9th-inning comeback in game one and a gem from Aaron Nola in game two. The Division Series was also a resounding success as the Phillies took on a division rival and the reigning World Series champs, the Atlanta Braves. An offensive explosion led the Phillies to a four-game victory, encapsulated by Rhys Hoskins’ epic bat slam in game two. Finally, in the NLCS, series MVP Bryce Harper led his team to another four-game success as they overmatched the San Diego Padres. The defining moment of the series was Harper’s go-ahead dinger in the final game which will ultimately be one of the most memorable moments of his storied career. It’s been 13 years since the Phillies last won a ring, but the exciting brand of baseball they’ve played recently lends credence to the idea that they could add another trophy to the case at Citizens Bank Park.
A year after losing to an NL East team in the World Series, the Astros are looking for revenge. While they didn’t make any major moves in the offseason, they did welcome back staff ace Justin Verlander from a near two-year absence as a result of Tommy John Surgery. The future Hall-of-Famer recaptured his pre-surgery form and partnered with the dangerous bat of Yordan Alvarez to lead the team to another postseason appearance. Jeremy Peña was the biggest newsmaker early in the season, as the successor to Carlos Correa came out of the gates hot in his debut season. Framber Valdez and Alex Bregman were the main characters in the second half – the former putting together a record-long streak of quality starts and the latter heating up in August. A well-built club from all angles, the lineup, rotation, and bullpen were hitting on all cylinders in 2022 and they never let up. Houston was the preeminent team in the Junior Circuit, finishing the season with an AL-best 106-56 record.
If you thought they were good during the regular season, just wait until you see what they’ve done against the league’s top competition on the game’s biggest stage. Not only did the Astros sweep the Seattle Mariners in the Division Series, but they also did the same against the New York Yankees in the ALCS. Yordan Alvarez’s walk-off moonshot in the first game against the Mariners set the tone for what has been a playoff run that has yet to see the Astros lose. An 18-inning affair capped off by Jeremy Peña’s go-ahead long ball sent them to their sixth straight ALCS. They completely outclassed the Bronx Bombers as Peña carried over his momentum from the previous series to earn ALCS MVP honors. They are the hottest team in baseball and will have their work cut out for them as they eye their first championship since 2017.
Top 5 Players on Each Team
1. Bryce Harper – DH
Regular Season: 426 PA, .286/.364/.514, 63 R, 18 HR, 65 RBI, 11 SB, 138 wRC+, 2.6 fWAR
Postseason: 46 PA, .419/.444/.907, 10 R, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 271 wRC+
2. Aaron Nola – SP
Regular Season: 11-13 W-L, 205 IP, 3.25 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 29.1%/3.6% K/BB%, 6.3 fWAR
Postseason: 2-1 W-L, 17.1 IP, 3.12 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 25%/4.2% K/BB%
3. Zack Wheeler – SP
Regular Season: 12-7 W-L, 153 IP, 2.82 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 26.9%/56% K/BB%, 4.1 fWAR
Postseason: 1-1 W-L, 25.1 IP, 1.78 ERA, 0.51 WHIP, 27.5%/3.3% K/BB%
4. J.T. Realmuto – C
Regular Season: 562 PA, .276/.342/.478, 75 R, 22 HR, 84 RBI, 21 SB, 128 wRC+, 6.5 fWAR
Postseason: 46 PA, .244/.326/.390, 10 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 104 wRC+
5. Kyle Schwarber – OF
Regular Season: 669 PA, .218/.323/.504, 100 R, 46 HR, 94 RBI, 10 SB, 128 wRC+, 2.6 fWAR
Postseason: 48 PA, .200/.375/.457, 8 R, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 2 SB, 119 wRC+
1. Yordan Alvarez – OF
Regular Season: 561 PA, .306/.406/.613, 95 R, 37 HR, 97 RBI, 1 SB, 185 wRC+, 6.6 fWAR
Postseason: 35 PA, .241/.371/.517, 5 R, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 143 wRC+
2. Justin Verlander – SP
Regular Season: 18-4 W-L, 175 IP, 1.75 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 27.8%/4.4% K/BB%, 6.1 fWAR
Postseason: 1-0 W-L, 10 IP, 6.30 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 31.1%/4.4% K/BB%
3. Jose Altuve – 2B
Regular Season: 604 PA, .300/.387/.533, 103 R, 28 HR, 57 RBI, 18 SB, 164 wRC+, 6.6 fWAR
Postseason: 35 PA, .094/.171/.125, 3 R, 0 HR, 0 RBI, -14 wRC+
4. Alex Bregman – 3B
Regular Season: 656 PA, .259/.366/.454, 93 R, 23 HR, 93 RBI, 1 SB, 136 wRC+, 5.5 fWAR
Postseason: 32 PA, .333/.375/.600, 3 R, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 178 wRC+
5. Kyle Tucker – OF
Regular Season: 609 PA, .257/.330/.478, 71 R, 30 HR, 107 RBI, 25 SB, 129 wRC+, 4.7 fWAR
Postseason: 32 PA, .214/.313/.321, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 SB, 88 wRC+
Stats and Facts
- The Astros have not lost this postseason. Their seven-game win streak is tied with the 2021 Atlanta Braves, the 2007 Colorado Rockies, and the 1976 Cincinnati Reds for the second-longest streak to begin a postseason. The longest streak belongs to the 2014 Kansas City Royals who won eight straight before falling to the San Francisco Giants in the World Series.
- This World Series matchup now holds the record for the largest regular season win disparity since integration. The Astros won 19 more games than the Phillies in 2022.
- This marks the third time in four years that the Astros will take on an NL East opponent in the World Series. They previously fell to the Washington Nationals in 2019 and the Atlanta Braves in 2021.
- The Phillies join the 1978 New York Yankees and the 2003 Miami Marlins as the only teams ever to make the World Series after a midseason managerial change. Both the Yankees and Marlins won the Fall Classic in their respective seasons.
- Speaking of managers, Astros manager Dusty Baker has managed for 25 years and still doesn’t have a ring. At 73 years old, he would be the oldest manager to lead his team to a championship.
- Phillies’ ace Zack Wheeler owns the lowest single postseason WHIP (0.51) of all-time amongst pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched.
- Jose Altuve has the second-most career postseason home runs (23) of all time.
- Justin Verlander has the most career postseason strikeouts (219) of all time. He will also join Roger Clemens as the only two pitchers with a World Series start in three different decades.
- Yordan Alvarez is already top-10 in terms of Win-Probability Added (1.4) in a single postseason in the history of baseball.
- Starting pitchers have already thrown more innings (341.1) in this year’s postseason than in last year’s (293) across six fewer games.
Most Important Players
1. Zack Wheeler/Aaron Nola
The twin aces will be heavily relied upon by the Phillies. There is a large contingent of people that believe the only games the Phillies have a shot in are the ones in which their two best arms will pitch. If the Phillies can win at least three of the four games these two pitchers start, they will be in very good shape to pull out a series victory. Both of them will have to perform exceptionally to shut down the vaunted Houston lineup.
2. David Robertson
A key midseason acquisition, Robertson was crucial to the Phillies securing a playoff spot, as he solidified the bullpen when Seranthony Domínguez hit the IL. Robertson injured his calf while celebrating a Bryce Harper homer in the Wild Card round and was left off the Division Series roster. He didn’t look like himself while attempting to close out the final game of the NLCS, ultimately needing the help of Ranger Suarez to secure the win. Philadelphia will need Roberston to be at the top of his game and pair with Domínguez and José Alvarado to create a three-headed monster to finish off games. If he is unable to overcome any struggles, the bullpen woes that have plagued the Phillies for years may once again rear their ugly head.
3. Nick Castellanos
Castellanos was meant to be one of the dangerous bats to create a juggernaut lineup in Philadelphia, but in his first season in the City of Brotherly Love, the right-handed hitter failed to live up to expectations. He put up just a 94 wRC+ during the regular season and has been even worse in the postseason (60 wRC+). If the Phillies are to be at full strength, Castellanos will need to rediscover his bat in the final series of the season. If he does, there might not be any slowing down the game’s hottest offense.
1. Justin Verlander
Verlander will most likely be awarded the AL Cy Young Award this offseason, but he’ll need to summon his regular season form if the Astros are to win the series. He is the ace of the team and the club will be relying heavily on his electric arm to deliver two incredible performances. Interestingly, Verlander has struggled in his previous World Series starts. Across seven starts and 38 innings pitched, the veteran owns a 5.68 ERA. He will need to overcome whatever holds him back on the biggest stage or the Astros may struggle to shut down the Phillies’ offense.
2. Jose Altuve
One of the greatest postseason hitters of all time, Altuve was far from it to begin the 2022 playoffs. The diminutive second baseman started the playoffs on a 0-for-25 skid, the longest hitless streak to begin a postseason of all time. He broke out of the slump with a multi-hit showing in the final game of the ALCS, but if he continues to be a non-factor, the Astros will be pressed to find other sources of offense.
3. Yordan Alvarez
As Alvarez goes, so do the Astros. He carried them through the ALDS but his bat went quiet during the Championship Series. He is one of the best hitters in the game, so if the Phillies shut him down, they may be able to dissect the rest of the lineup. However, if Alvarez is at the top of his game, the Astros might just steamroll their opponent because that lineup becomes so deep when a big bat like Alvarez’s is on display.
The Astros come from behind to win the series in six games.
- The Phillies get off to a good start, winning two of the first three games, but the depth of the Astros roster will shine through. They are such a well-built ballclub from top to bottom, and in a seven-game series, the construction of the roster will be the difference maker when the stakes are at their highest.
Kyle Tucker is the World Series MVP.
- One of the most underrated players in baseball, Tucker is consistently overshadowed by his impressive teammates. This is the series where Tucker finally arrives in the mainstream, revealing his abilities on the biggest stage. He has light-tower power, blazing speed, and an exceptional glove, and his all-around play will earn him series MVP honors.
The Phillies’ bullpen doesn’t fall apart but the offense falters.
- The bullpen has always been a sore spot for Philadelphia, but they seemed to have reinforced it enough at the deadline to actually possess some solid depth. The bullpen won’t be a problem in this series like many would expect. Instead, the offense is going to finally cool off after an unsustainable hot streak. A lineup full of all-or-nothing home run hitters and unproven infielders will begin to struggle under the bright lights against the AL’s preeminent franchise.