On the surface, that the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox are meeting in the 2018 World Series isn’t much of a surprise. Though, the path to reaching the Fall Classic was much more difficult for the Dodgers than it was for the Red Sox to make their first appearance since 2013.
Ahead of Game 1 at Fenway Park, it’s time to compare how the position players stack up. Offensively, the Red Sox led all of baseball by scoring 876 runs during the regular season, while the Dodgers placed fifth with 804 runs scored.
The Dodgers tied with the Yankees for tops in the league with a collective 111 wRC+, while the Sox weren’t far behind at 110.
On defense, the Dodgers’ defenders saved 46 runs this season, good for eighth in the Majors. The Red Sox struggled, allowing an extra 31 runs according to DRS, which ranked 23rd. Now, onto the players.
Catcher — Advantage: Dodgers
A couple big months on offense and solid defense allowed Yasmani Grandal to end the season ranked second among qualified catchers with a 3.6 fWAR. He also rated as the best framing catcher in the league according to Baseball Prospectus.
While Austin Barnes had a down year with the bat, he was a strong framer as well and posted a league average on-base percentage.
The Red Sox had four catchers on the roster in 2018 and none of them compiled a positive fWAR. Sandy Leon got the majority of the playing time, largely due to his framing, but posted a -0.9 fWAR thanks to a 33 wRC+. Christian Vazquez clocked in at -0.8, while Blake Swihart was -0.3.
Neither team has gotten much production from their backstops in the postseason, so the Dodgers get the nod here thanks to larger sample size from the regular season.
First base — Advantage: Dodgers
One of the most fascinating stories of the season was Max Muncy’s breakout campaign. The 28-year-old led the Dodgers in fWAR and homers while ranking fifth in baseball with a 162 wRC+ (among hitters with 450+ PAs).
Cody Bellinger followed up his rookie of the year campaign by posting solid numbers on offense and showing off his defensive versatility. Late-addition David Freese has already come up with some big hits in the postseason and figures to offer the Dodgers a platoon option as well as a late-game pinch-hitter.
Old friend Hanley Ramirez appeared in 44 games with the Red Sox before being designated for assignment. Mitch Moreland was the primary starter and posted a completely average 100 wRC+. Steve Pearce was acquired by the Blue Jays and did what he does best: mash lefties.
Second base — Advantage: Red Sox
This position was a definite weakness for the Dodgers in 2018. The only player who produced positive WAR there during the regular season was Chase Utley. Breyvic Valera was second at -0.1 fWAR.
The club flipped a struggling Logan Forsythe for a struggling Brian Dozier and the deal hasn’t really panned out. While Kiké Hernandez has played there in the postseason, he hasn’t really produced much.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox have gotten solid production out of Brock Holt, while also acquiring Ian Kinsler to solidify the position.
Shortstop — Advantage: Push
After Corey Seager underwent Tommy John surgery and later a hip surgery to boot, things looked dire for the Dodgers at shortstop. Then they acquired Manny Machado, one of the best shortstops in the game, and suddenly things looked a little brighter.
Machado didn’t perform at the same level in L.A. as he did in Baltimore, but he was still one of the best shortstops in the league.
As if one elite shortstop wasn’t enough for this series, Xander Bogaerts broke out in a big way for Boston this season. His 4.9 fWAR ranked sixth among shortstops while his 133 wRC+ placed him behind only Machado at the position.
Had Machado hit with the Dodgers like he did with the Orioles, I’d say this is a win for the Dodgers. However, this one’s too close to call.
Third base — Advantage: Dodgers
Justin Turner started the season on the disabled list, then came back and had two poor months around a strong showing in June. It looked like it might be a lost season until the second half, where he posted a 190 wRC+ and ended the year with a 4.2 fWAR.
Wunderkinnd Rafael Devers debuted as a 20-year-old last season and more than held his own in the Majors, but the production dropped off in 2018. He posted a 90 wRC+ and a 1.0 fWAR as the primary third baseman for the Red Sox. Eduardo Nuñez also got time at third but was unproductive, posting a -0.4 fWAR.
Left field — Advantage: Push
All along I said Matt Kemp wouldn’t break camp with the Dodgers. I was wrong. Kemp not only played the entire season with the Dodgers, he thrived. While his production fell off towards the end of the season, he still managed a 122 wRC+ and a 1.6 fWAR in 506 plate appearances.
Joc Pederson has also gotten plenty of time in left and has had a resurgent offensive season, posting a 126 wRC+ while clubbing 25 homers.
Andrew Benintendi was drafted just three years ago and has already established himself as one of the Red Sox’s core players. The 24-year-old posted a 122 wRC+ along with a 4.3 fWAR in 2018.
Center field — Advantage: Dodgers
The Dodgers had three players get time in center field that all accumulated at least 3.0 fWAR. Bellinger has become the primary center fielder with Muncy at first base, while Chris Taylor and Hernandez have also spent time there.
Jackie Bradley Jr. held down the fort in center for Boston the entire 2018 season. He posted a slightly below average 90 wRC+ but plays excellent defense and has one of the strongest throwing arms in the league. Still, the lack of offense gives the Dodgers the edge here.
Right field — Advantage: Red Sox
His home run in Game 7 of the NLCS this year was one of Yasiel Puig’s biggest hits of his career. It comes on the heels of a regular season in which he produced a 123 wRC+ and a 1.8 fWAR. Kemp and Bellinger have also seen time in right field.
Meanwhile, Mookie Betts.
Designated hitter — Advantage: Red Sox
The Dodgers will have the designated hitter at least twice in the World Series. They have options, such as Kemp and Muncy, to throw out there. Maybe even Freese if they feel comfortable with Kemp manning left field.
The Red Sox have J.D. Martinez, who has been one of the best hitters in baseball over the past year and a half. Muncy has been good, but Martinez has been better.
Overall, the offenses are pretty evenly matched. The Red Sox have bigger boppers but the Dodgers have more depth. Simply, the offensive advantage could go either way.