2022 World Series: Bold predictions, from an onslaught of home runs to a Framber Valdez complete game

The 2022 World Series is rapidly approaching. The Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies will meet in this year’s Fall Classic after knocking off the Yankees and Padres in the Championship Series, respectively. The World Series begins Friday night at Minute Maid Park in Houston. This is the Astros’ fourth pennant in the last six years and the Phillies’ first pennant since 2009.

The pair have a bit of a postseason history. Philadelphia beat the Astros in the NLCS en route to their World Series championship in 1980, back when the Astros were in the National League and the NLCS was a best-of-five. That series went the distance and then some — Garry Maddox providing the series-winning hit with his tenth inning double in Game 5.

The series also featured several all-time greats, most notably Pete Rose and Hall of Famers Steve Carlton, Joe Morgan, Nolan Ryan, and Mike Schmidt. New Rangers manager Bruce Bochy played in that series as well.

Of course, what happened in 1980 has no bearing on what happens in 2022, and that’s also true for the final series of this regular season, when the Astros and Phillies wrapped up against each other in Houston. The Astros won two of three, though the Phillies had just clinched a postseason berth and ran hangover lineups out there in Games 161 and 162.

Anyway, with the World Series set to begin Friday night, let’s lay out some bold predictions. Come with me, won’t you?  

There will be a record number of homers hit

Unless you haven’t paid attention the last few postseasons, you know home runs reign supreme in October. It is extremely hard to string together hits and walks given the caliber of pitching these days, so your best bet is to put points on the board with one swing. The last few years tell you all you need to know:

2022 regular season

4.28

1.07

2022 postseason

3.72

1.18

2021 regular season

4.53

1.22

2021 postseason

4.28

1.26

Those differences between the regular season and postseason have held steady for years; the last two seasons are not outliers. Run scoring goes down in October but the home run rate stays the same, if not increases. Homers take on added importance in the postseason. You can win without the long ball. It’s just really, really hard.

It is no surprise then that three of the four most homer-happy World Series have come within the last six years. Here’s are the four most homer-prolific Fall Classics in baseball history:

  1. 2017: 25 homers (15 Astros, 10 Dodgers in 7 games)
  2. 2019: 22 homers (11 Astros, 11 Nationals in 7 games)
  3. 2020: 21 homers (12 Dodgers, 9 Rays in 6 games)
  4. 2002: 21 homers (Giants 14, Angels 7 in 7 games)

For my first bold prediction, I will say the Astros and Phillies combine to set a new World Series home run record with 26. These two clubs ranked fourth and sixth in homers during the regular season, plus this series will be played in two better than average home run ballparks, according to Statcast’s park factors. That’s a recipe for dingers.

That said, these pitching staffs were two of the four best in limiting home runs. That’s what makes this bold. Non-homer staffs giving up homers. Ultimately, I think there is too much power and too much offensive talent packed into two favorable ballparks to bet against a lot of homers being hit. A new World Series record 26 homers will be hit.

The Astros will tie a record winning streak

OK, this isn’t that bold, because the Astros have already done the hard part. They are a perfect 7-0 this postseason thanks to their surgical dismantling of the Mariners and Yankees, though the games have been close. Four one-run wins, two two-run wins, and one five-run win. Houston hasn’t boat raced anyone this October.

The Astros’ seven wins this year are one short of the most ever to begin a single postseason. Here are the longest winning streaks to begin a postseason. Obviously these are all recent because you need more rounds and more games to extend winning streaks. Back in the day, when you won your first four postseason games, that was it. You won the World Series.

  1. 2014 Royals: 8 wins
  2. 2022 Astros: 7 wins and counting
  3. 2020 Braves: 7 wins
  4. 2007 Rockies: 7 wins
  5. 2017 Dodgers: 6 wins
  6. 2016 Cleveland: 6 wins

For this bold prediction, I will say the Astros match the 2014 Royals with eight straight wins to begin a postseason, but they will not break the record. So this bold prediction boils down to an Astros win in Game 1 and a Phillies win in Game 2. If we assume each team has a 50/50 chance of winning each game (not realistic, but let’s roll with it), an Astros win in Game 1 and a Phillies win in Game 2 has a 25 percent chance of happening. That qualify as bold? Well, how about this …

There will be a World Series complete game

Any idea who threw the last complete game in the World Series? My first guess was Madison Bumgarner in 2014. That was a fine guess, but it was incorrect. The last World Series complete game was Johnny Cueto in 2015. He struck out four Mets in a two-hit, one-run complete game in Game 2 of the 2015 Fall Classic. At one point that night Cueto retired 15 straight batters.

There have been only five World Series complete games this century — Cueto in Game 2 in 2015, Bumgarner in Game 5 in 2014, Cliff Lee in Game 2 in 2009, Josh Beckett in Game 6 in 2003, and Randy Johnson in Game 2 in 2001 — and it’s been six years since the last postseason complete game. The last to do it was Justin Verlander in Game 2 of the 2017 ALCS.

My next bold prediction calls for a World Series complete game, but with a twist: it’ll be a complete game loss. There were seven of those in nine-inning games during the regular season (plus a few in rain-shortened complete game losses, but those don’t count), which is more than I would have guessed. Complete games are becoming a rarity, especially in the postseason.

There has not been a complete game loss in the postseason since Marco Estrada in Game 1 of the 2016 ALDS and there has not been a complete game loss in the World Series since Tom Glavine in Game 4 of the 1992 World Series when he allowed two runs in eight innings in a 2-1 Blue Jays win. The last pitcher to throw nine innings in a World Series complete game loss was Dave Stewart in Game 4 of the 1990 World Series.

I’m going to tie this bold prediction into the last bold prediction and say Framber Valdez, Houston’s presumptive Game 2 starter, will become the first pitcher since Glavine to throw a complete game loss in the World Series, and the first since Stewart to do it while throwing a full nine innings. This is how I envision it playing out:

  • Valdez gives up a quick two-spot in the first inning. Let’s call it a two-run Rhys Hoskins homer in the Crawford Boxes.
  • Valdez then settles down, including retiring 21 in a row at at one point. He needs only 98 pitches to get through nine innings.
  • Zack Wheeler and the bullpen are dominant on the other end, stifling the Astros and making those two first inning runs hold up.

Valdez led the league with three complete games this year and he averaged only 15.0 pitches per inning this season, one of the best rates in baseball. He is very good and very efficient, and really one of the few pitchers in the world who would be trusted to go the distance in a World Series game. When Valdez gets into a groove, he gets a ton of weak ground balls and makes it look very easy. I’m boldly predicting that happens in Game 2 and Valdez gets saddled with a nine-inning complete game loss.

Realmuto will steal two bases

Only one catcher has stolen a base in the postseason since 2011: Austin Barnes in Game 2 of the 2017 NLDS. That makes sense, right? Catchers aren’t known for their speed to begin with, plus by the time October and the World Series come around, these dudes have a couple hundred innings of squatting behind the plate on their legs. Catching is the sport’s most brutal position.

For this bold prediction, I will say Phillies backstop J.T. Realmuto will not only steal a base in the World Series, he’ll steal two bases in a single game. Carlos Ruiz in Game 2 in 2008 is the last catcher to steal a base in the World Series. The last catcher to steal two bases in a World Series game was … no one? It’s never been done. Hall of Famer Johnny Bench stole two bases in Game 4 of the 1972 NLCS, marking the only time in baseball history a catcher stole two bases in a single postseason game.

Some metrics have Realmuto as the best base running catcher ever, and he’s clearly the best in the game right now. Realmuto hit 22 homers with 21 steals this year, joining Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez as the only 20/20 catchers in history (Rodriguez had 35 homers and 25 steals in 1999). Remember his inside-the-park homer in the NLDS? Realmuto is speedy and just a flat out great base runner. You needn’t qualify it with “for a catcher.”

As a team, the Astros posted a league average caught stealing rate in 2022 (23 percent), though they have a few individual pitchers who are prone to stolen bases. Runners were a perfect 7 for 7 stealing bases against Valdez, and 8 for 8 against setup man Rafael Montero. Runners were successful in 10 of their last 11 stolen base attempts against Verlander as well.

Pick your spots and you can steal a base against the Astros and few players (and zero catchers) are as adept as picking their spots as Realmuto. I’m calling it in Game 3: Realmuto steals a base against the starter (either Cristian Javier or Lance McCullers Jr.) then also grabs a bag late against Montero late. Two steals for a catcher in a World Series game. It hardly gets bolder than that. Unless…

The Phillies will win the World Series …

… and Kyle Schwarber will be World Series MVP. Hey, I totally nailed Jorge Soler as last year’s World Series MVP. Schwarber started the postseason terribly, going 1 for 20 with three walks (two intentional) in the Wild Card Series and NLDS. He then broke out with a 6 for 15 showing in the NLCS, slugging three homers with six walks against only three strikeouts. When Schwarber gets hot, he gets molten hot and is liable to hit 7-8 homers in a 10-game span. Sometimes even more.

All the attention is on Bryce Harper, Philadelphia’s top lefty slugger, and understandably so. Harper has been incredible this October and he is the team’s biggest star. Schwarber is not to be overlooked through. Houston’s pitching staff is extremely righty heavy and both ballparks are friendly to lefty pull hitters. Schwarber has also shown himself to unafraid of big moments. I think he swats four homers in the World Series and the Phillies eke out a seven-game game. It has been foretold.

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