On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Dodgers return to action when they host the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the World Series.
The Dodgers have cruised in the postseason thus far, winning seven out of eight contests. As was the case heading into their previous two series, the Dodgers hold a rest advantage over their opponent.
But that has proven a stumbling block when dealing with the World Series. Since 1995, there have been 13 teams with five days off prior to Game 1 of the Fall Classic. Among those teams, only six went on to win the series.
Most recently, the 2016 Cleveland Indians reached the World Series with five days of rest to spare, and were defeated by the Chicago Cubs in seven games.
In 2015, the New York Mets, with five days of rest, lost to the Kansas City Royals in five games. The Royals, in that exact position a year prior, were dropped by the San Francisco Giants in seven games.
The last time a team with at least five days of rest won the World Series was 2008, when the Philadelphia Phillies (six days) defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in five games.
All-in-all, 11 teams with the rest advantage since 1995 have gone on to win the World Series. Though, during that same span, 11 teams with fewer days off have won as well.
Despite the recent history, the Dodgers have displayed throughout the postseason that extra rest has benefited them in more ways than one.
Because the club won a Major League-best 104 games during the regular season, they are guaranteed home-field advantage through the World Series. This especially helps the Dodgers right out of the gate, as the Astros will be without a designated hitter for the first two contests.
The home-field and rest advantage allowed the Dodgers to sit back and watch the Arizona Diamondbacks burn through six pitchers in their win against the Colorado Rockies in the National League Wild Card Game.
The Diamondbacks had to regroup quickly and face Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Yu Darvish in the first three contests of the NLDS. Unlike Arizona’s staff, the trio of Dodgers starting pitchers were well-rested and didn’t have to alter their pitching schedules.
The same held true for the Cubs, who went to five games with the Washington Nationals in the NLDS, while the Dodgers swept their opponent in the first round.
Once again, the home-field and rest advantage played to the Dodgers’ favor, and they went on to defeat the reigning World Series champions in five games.
Los Angeles enters the World Series with four days of rest since the last time they took the field. That’s compared to the Astros, who have two days to recharge after a grueling seven-game American League Championship Series battle with the New York Yankees.
For the Dodgers to reverse the recent trend for teams who received more time off before the World Series began, working the opposing pitcher is essential.
Los Angeles, as a team, have seen the most pitches per plate appearance in the postseason. The incredible discipline has been instrumental to their success, as they’ve been able to get to the other’s team bullpen early into games.
During the regular season, the club swung at a league-low 26.2 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone. This has worked to their favor by consistently getting ahead of the counts, and as a result, improving their chances of getting ideal pitches to hit.
On the flip side, the Astros ranked fifth in the league as a pitching staff in generating swings out of the strike zone at 31.1 percent. Game 1 starter Dallas Keuchel, in particular, was among the league leaders at getting hitters to chase out of the zone, with a 32.6 O-Swing percentage.
Jumping out to an early lead on Keuchel and making him throw stressful pitches could set the tone for the rest of the series.
Managing the bullpen efficiently is also crucial for the Dodgers. The club’s relief corps has been historically good this postseason, as they haven’t allowed a run in their last 23 collective innings — an MLB record.
Manager Dave Roberts has pulled all of the right strings thus far and is putting his pitchers in the best possible position to succeed. Assuming that continues during the Fall Classic, the Astros’ top-ranked offense will have their hands full with the Dodgers’ staff.
It’s not often the two best teams from the regular season meet up in the World Series, but that’s the case this year, and the Dodgers and Astros should prove to be a dream matchup for baseball fans everywhere.