The 2023 World Series is set. For only the sixth time, both Championship Series went the full seven games as the Texas Rangers eliminated the Houston Astros while the Arizona Diamondbacks ousted the Philadelphia Phillies. MLB was thisclose to its first World Series rematch since the Yankees and Dodgers in 1977 and 1978. Instead, we have fresh faces in the Fall Classic.
Because a D-backs vs. Rangers matchup is not bold enough — D-backs vs. Rangers! — here now are five bold predictions for the 2023 World Series. Come with me, won’t you?
1. Texas will set the road winning streak record
The Rangers are a perfect 8-0 on the road this postseason, tied with the 1996 Yankees for the most consecutive road wins in a postseason. The 2019 Nationals, who went 8-1 on the road in October, are the only other team to win eight road games in a single postseason. (Obviously the new format and expanded postseason has introduced more road games.)
Here are the most road wins in a single postseason all-time:
- 2023 Rangers: 8-0 and counting
- 1996 Yankees: 8-0
- 2019 Nationals: 8-1
- 2018 Red Sox: 7-1
- Many tied with six road wins (including the 2023 D-backs)
For my first bold prediction, I will say the Rangers extend their road winning streak to nine games, so this is essentially a “the Rangers will win Game 3 at Chase Field” prediction. Furthermore, I will also predict the road winning streak ends right there at nine, and Texas drops Game 4 for their first non-home loss of October. More on Game 4 in a bit.
2. The D-backs will steal 14 bases
Prior to Game 6 of the NLCS, D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said his team planned to be more aggressive on the bases. They were second in stolen bases (166) and stolen base success rate (86%) during the regular season, but from Games 1-5 of the NLCS, Arizona attempted one — one! — stolen base. Then, in Games 6 and 7, they went 8 for 8 stealing bases. They put constant pressure on the pitcher and Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto.
This bold prediction says the D-backs will carry their NLCS Game 6 and 7 baserunning aggressiveness into the World Series and steal at least 14 bases in the Fall Classic. That would not be a record. The 1907 Cubs holds the record with 18 steals in a single series. Fourteen steals in a postseason series doesn’t happen often though. It’s happened six times in history:
1907 World Series vs. Tigers
1909 World Series vs. Tigers
1992 ALCS vs. Blue Jays
1992 World Series vs. Blue Jays
1908 World Series vs. Tigers
1999 NLCS vs. Mets
The last team to steal even 10 bases in a single postseason series was the Dodgers in the 2021 NLCS against the Braves. They swiped 11 bags that series. Before them, it was the 2008 Rays with 10 steals against the Red Sox in the ALCS. Double-digit steals just doesn’t happen very often in the postseason, even in a best-of-seven series.
Arizona’s roster, with all its speed and athleticism, is built perfectly to take advantage of the new rules promoting aggressiveness on the bases. They were arguably the best stolen-base team in the game during the regular season and they used their legs to wreak havoc in Games 6 and 7 of the NLCS after getting away from the baserunning game in Games 1-5. It’s back now in a big way.
It should be noted the Rangers are one of the top teams at preventing stolen bases in the game. Their 25% caught stealing rate was fifth best during the regular season, and catcher Jonah Heim ranked fourth among all catchers in Statcast’s caught stealing above average metric. This bold prediction has more to do with what the D-backs do well than a Rangers’ deficiency.
3. Scherzer will get his groove back
In his two ALCS starts, Max Scherzer looked nothing like the three-time Cy Young version of himself, or even the 39-year-old version who pitched to a 3.77 ERA in 152 2/3 innings this season before going down with a teres major muscle strain in September., but he returned well ahead of schedule.
Whether it was rust or a physical issue or just age-related decline, Scherzer did not pitch well against the Astros, allowing six runs and 13 baserunners in 6 2/3 innings in his two ALCS starts. His slider in particular was not good. It didn’t have that usual sharp Scherzer break and instead sort of just rolled to the plate. There was still oomph on his fastball, but not much else worked.
For this bold prediction, I will say Scherzer turns back the clock at some point during the World Series, and registers a vintage Scherzer start. Well, maybe not vintage. Vintage Scherzer is something like 13 strikeouts in eight shutout innings. I’m thinking more along the lines of two runs in six innings. That seem reasonable? I think so.
You needn’t look back far to see the last time Scherzer was a very effective pitcher. He made eight regular-season starts with the Rangers and three times he went seven innings with no more than one run allowed. On two other occasions he threw at least 5 2/3 shutout innings. Opponents hit .174/.249/.311 against Scherzer in his 45 innings with Texas. That’s really good!
I’m betting on Scherzer’s pedigree and the belief his two ALCS starts had more to do with rust than a decline in skill. There’s still a Hall of Fame pitcher in there and I’m boldly predicting we’ll see him for a start in the World Series. Scherzer at his best on the game’s biggest stage would make for good television.
4. There will be a World Series walk-off homer
There has not been a World Series walk-off hit since Game 4 in 2020,. He poked a two-run single to center against then-Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. There hasn’t been a World Series walk-off home run since 2018, when Max Muncy ended the marathon Game 3 with an 18th-inning blast against Nathan Eovaldi.
There were six World Series walk-off homers from 1991-2005 (Kirby Puckett, Joe Carter, Chad Curtis, Derek Jeter, Alex Gonzalez, Scott Podsednik), including four from 1999-2005. There has been just two since then though: Muncy, and David Freese in 2011. We went through a period with, relatively speaking, quite a few World Series walk-off homers. Now we’re in a bit of a dry spell.
So, for this bold prediction, I will say the walk-off home run makes its triumphant return to the World Series. Specifically, Alek Thomas will do the deed against José Leclerc in Game 4. A two-run shot down one in the ninth, so a deficit becomes a win with one swing. Those are always fun. Thomas has had a flair for the dramatic this postseason and I’m betting it will continue.
5. The Rangers will win the World Series …
… and Eovaldi will be the World Series MVP. Eovaldi will get the ball for the Rangers in Game 1 after Jordan Montgomery came out of the bullpen in ALCS Game 7 on Monday. Going with Eovaldi in Game 1 and, presumably, Montgomery in Game 2 gives Montgomery an extra day to recover following his relief outing.
Regardless, I am boldly predicting Eovaldi will make two starts and a Game 7 relief appearance in the World Series, and be extremely effective each time out. We know he’s up for pitching out of the bullpen between starts — he’s done it plenty in the past — and we know manager Bruce Bochy is open to using his starters that way. Texas needs all the bullpen help they can get.
I have the Rangers winning the World Series in seven very close, very exciting games. There is new blood in the Fall Classic this year and I’m expecting both teams to captivate us and play the most entertaining World Series in recent memory. In the end, I think the Rangers are a bit better, partly because Eovaldi has proven to be a difference-maker in October.