The 2017 World Series is set. The Houston Astros will face the Los Angeles Dodgers in a battle of teams who finished with two of the top three records in the game. Remember: the Dodgers will have home-field advantage due to possessing the better regular-season mark, meaning Games 1 and 2 will be played in Los Angeles on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

With all the formalities out of the way, let's break down each facet of the game for each team and see why the Dodgers are favored to come out on top.

Where the Astros have the edge


Statistically, no team had a better regular-season offense than the Astros did. Houston led the majors in runs scored, finished second in home runs, and had the lowest strikeout rate in baseball. Add it all up, and it's no wonder the Astros finished first in advanced metrics like True Average -- a one-stop offensive stat that adjusts for ballpark and league.

The catch is that the Dodgers finished second, a single point back. Los Angeles ranked sixth in the majors in on-base percentage and eighth in slugging percentage; those marks include pitchers' offensive output, thereby skewing the overall marks.

This, then, is a matchup of two stellar offenses, one that features 10 different hitters who homered at least 20 times in-season. There's a good chance we're going to see some crooked numbers hung a few times, especially if this series goes deep.

Of course, there is one snag for the Dodgers. Their lineup is less imposing if shortstop Corey Seager is unable to return in time for the World Series. Sure, Charlie Culberson hit .455/.417/.818 in the National League Championship Series, but this is the same feller who for his career has a 57 OPS+. The Dodgers with a hearty and hale Seager are a formidable match for the Astros' firework potential. The Dodgers without an in-form Seager are probably a peg below.

Clayton Kershaw in the World Series? It's a beautiful thing. USATSI

Where Dodgers have the edge


Here's what's scary about the Dodgers: they're also by far the best defensive team in the majors. Obviously some credit is due to the pitching staff -- and we'll discuss that in a bit -- but L.A. finished the year with a 2.82 park-adjusted defensive efficiency, per Baseball Prospectus. That means they turned 2.82 percent more balls in play into outs than a normal defense would have in the same ballpark. The second-best defense, per PADE, belonged to the Yankees -- they finished at 2.61. Only two other teams finished above 2.00. The Astros, meanwhile, were middle-of-the-pack, at 0.13 -- good for the 14th-highest mark in baseball.

Catcher defense doesn't get factored into PADE, but the Dodgers were far and away the best at the aspects captured by BP's fielding runs above average. The Astros, on the other hand, finished near the bottom of the league. The difference between the two teams? Some 50 runs. Even if you don't believe that number, you have to acknowledge that the combination of Austin Barnes and Yasmani Grandal is better behind the plate than Brian McCann and Evan Gattis.


It's probably not too surprising to learn that both teams' rotations performed well during the regular season. The Dodgers finished No. 1 in ERA, the Astros finished No. 6. Advanced metrics spell out the same basic evenness: DRA has the Astros fourth and the Dodgers sixth. Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Dallas Keuchel, and Justin Verlander are four of the best starters in baseball -- and should provide for some really fun head-to-head matchups.

The Dodgers do seem to have an advantage when it comes to depth. They can offer Rich Hill and Alex Wood, while the Astros counter with Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers (or, in theory, Collin McHugh). For reference, Hill and Wood combined for 288 innings, over which they posted a 3.01 ERA and a 3.64 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Morton and McCullers? They threw 265 1/3 innings and had a 3.90 ERA and 3.28 strikeout-to-walk ratio (subbing in McHugh lowers both numbers). Park and league factors matter and make things closer than they appear, but c'mon.


Consider this the closest thing to a polarizing issue. The Dodgers ranked fourth in bullpen ERA and ninth in bullpen DRA during the season; the Astros checked in at 17th and fifth. If you trust DRA, then the two relief corps were about even; if you trust ERA, the Dodgers had a sizable lead.

There's another reason people might be way higher on Los Angeles' bullpen than Houston's, and it has to do with postseason performance. L.A.'s pen essentially threw a hidden no-hitter against the Chicago Cubs, while Houston's two best relievers (Ken Giles and Chris Devenski) have been shaky all postseason long. Factor in how the Dodgers bullpen now has Kenta Maeda, who has pitched brilliantly in relief, and we're buying their advantage -- even if we're not buying that Giles and Devenski will continue to pitch as poorly as they have thus far this postseason.

Where the two teams might be even


Grading managers is a difficult and often pointless exercise. Rather than split hairs, we'll offer a little insight into both managers' tendencies.

Houston's A.J. Hinch is the far more likely of the two skippers to have his team attempt a stolen base. He's also considerably more likely to call for a hit-and-run, or sub in a pinch-runner. Contrariwise, Hinch almost never issues an intentional walk, and throughout the postseason has been more willing to let his top starters work deep into games.

Conversely, the Dodgers' Dave Roberts has been dogmatic about getting his starters out of the game before the lineup rolls over too many times. Surprisingly enough, Roberts is more likely than Hinch to call for a double steal. He also had the Dodgers execute a squeeze play this season, which is something Hinch did not ask the Astros to do.

The Verdict

We're giving the advantage to the Dodgers. That doesn't mean they'll win -- things are never that certain in baseball -- but it does mean that we expect them to win. No matter who claims the throne, let's hope for another seven-game classic like last year to round out the 2017 season.