Houston wins 2017 World Series

A month after the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, Houston celebrated its baseball team’s first championship. Photo courtesy of Houston Chronicle/Twitter

After one of the wildest World Series in recent memory, baseball readies for busy offseason
 
Sunit Bhakta | Contributor | The USD Vista
Now that baseball season is officially over, all teams will start looking toward free agency and next season. And after watching the World Series, all teams in both the American and National Leagues have a lot of homework to do if they want to catch the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers.
The battle between the two 100-win juggernauts lived up to the hype, going the distance with plenty of dramatic moments and close games.
The best way to display how tight this series was is the run differential: zero. Both teams scored 34 runs each. Both were considered the best teams in their respective leagues, having the two best records in baseball for an extended period during the season. It almost seemed to be fate that they met up in a Fall Classic that went the full seven games.
With a combination of all these factors, this World Series is considered by many around the sport as one of the best of all-time, and definitely the most exciting in recent memory.
While it lacked the dramatic finale that the 2016 season ended with, the first six games were rollercoaster rides of emotion. There were combinations of excellent performances and pressure-packed plays on both sides of the ball for both teams.
The 2017 World Series saw some breakout players too. Third baseman Alex Bregman had a great series, hitting two home-runs off Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen, considered the best starter and closer in baseball, respectively, and also hitting a walk-off in Game 5. Throw in his dazzling defense, and his Fall Classic showing may have established him as a star in the making.
The biggest takeaway from this Series, however, might be the return of home runs.
This World Series saw a record 24 home runs in the seven games, and both the single-season and single-playoff records for home runs were set this year. Power is back after years of decline of offense.
One likely explanation for that return can be attributed to new-age analytics, which have changed players’ swings and approaches at the plate.

Midseason acquisition Justin Verlander played a significant role in the Astros’ rotation when the games mattered most. Photo courtesy of FanDuel/Twitter

Others see cause in the possibility that Major League Baseball has altered the interior of the ball, causing these “juiced balls” to jump off the bat faster and travel farther.
Because of how great these two teams are, fans may be hoping for a rematch in 2018. However, the odds are against them.
There hasn’t been a rematch of a World Series in the following year since 1978. Additionally, no team has won back-to-back titles since 2000, but the Astros are well-positioned to do so. Shortstop Carlos Correa, second baseman Jose Altuve, outfielder George Springer, and Bregman, the players that statistics and experts consider Houston’s best four, are 23, 23, 27, and 28 years of age, respectively, and are under team control for multiple years still. Other vital supporting players are signed on for multiple years as well.
The Dodgers aren’t too shabby either. Their two best position players, shortstop Corey Seager and first baseman Cody Bellinger, are 23 and 22 years of age. Eccentric outfielder Yasiel Puig is 26, all-world left-hander  Kershaw is 29, and closer Jansen is 30. Like Houston, their core appears to be set.
Additionally, many MLB rankings have ranked the Dodgers minor league system as one of the better ones in the league, promising plenty of young talent still on the way, and they have a couple of youngsters ready to make an impact on the big league club as soon as next year. And like the Astros, other key players are locked in for multiple years.
Result: don’t expect either franchise to go anywhere anytime soon.
Both teams are set up for present and future success, so fans might see a creation of another dynasty or two. However, it will be interesting to see how Los Angeles bounces back from such a crushing defeat. It could hang over their heads next season and affect their play negatively, or it could motivate them even more and cause them to somehow improve on this season’s 104-win team.
According to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, Houston and Los Angeles are two of the three favorites to win it all next year, with the Dodgers opening up as outright favorites at 5-1 and the Astros tied with the Cleveland Indians for second at 6-1.
There are plenty of other teams that can upset these two teams, however, with the Chicago Cubs still around, the Washington Nationals holding onto a talented roster, and the Indians returning virtually the same players from a 103-win club.
The Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, and New York Yankees should all take another step forward too, so the path to the 2018 World Series for any team won’t get any easier.
And with the shakiness of both finalists’ bullpens (both cost the Dodgers the title and almost cost the Astros), teams around the league will place an emphasis on improving their bullpens this winter.
Speaking of player additions, free agency will have a lot of buzz this winter because there should be plenty of quality players available.
For a team in need of an ace pitcher, there’s Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta. If a franchise needs relief pitching, there’s Wade Davis, Brandon Morrow, Pat Neshek, Greg Holland, and Addison Reed. If an organization wishes for quality hitters, first basemen Carlos Santana and Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas, and outfielder Howie Kendrick should all be available. And lastly, if a lineup wants elite power hitters, outfielders Jay Bruce and J.D. Martinez, who combined for 81 home runs in 2017, will be waiting.
With so much intrigue surrounding free agency, it will be interesting to see how much the landscape of baseball will change. Who will shell out the cash to acquire a big-time player, and who will let them walk away?


A 2014 Sports Illustrated cover predicted the Astros’ run to the title this year. Photo courtesy of H-Tine Stros/Twitter

Baseball is in a good spot right now, with their two biggest markets, New York and Los Angeles, housing title-contending teams. Along with this, there were plenty of breakout stars this year such as Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger, adding even more players to MLB’s collection of young superstars who, according to popular belief, are the faces of the sport.
With all of the excitement promised by that young talent, and the freshness provided by a first-time champion in the Astros, every team in the league is likely to contribute talking points over the course of the offseason as fans and teams alike countdown to Opening Day 2018.
And with this year’s thrilling World Series finally and emphatically in the history books, that countdown starts now.

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