The Fall Classic is finally here after nearly a month of intense and shocking MLB Postseason action. There’s some extra emphasis on the shocking aspect because two unexpected teams made it to the World Series this year. In the American League, we have the Texas Rangers. The Rangers hadn’t made a World Series appearance since 2011, and they’re looking for their first Championship in their 51 years of existence. Currently, they’re in an exclusive group with five other teams without a championship. On the National League side, we have the Arizona Diamondbacks. The D-Backs made it to the World Series once in their 26 years as a franchise, in which they beat the New York Yankees in the classic 2001 series. Let’s see how each team got to this position, who their best players have been so far, and ultimately, who I think will win the series.
Heading into the 2023 season, both the Rangers and D-Backs were longshots at making it all this way. The Rangers had 1/50 WS odds at the start of the season, which was 20th worst in the league. The D-Backs were even further with 1/66 odds, which was 26th worse. It was unlikely that either team would even make the Postseason, but they both snuck in as Wild Card teams. They also followed an eerily similar pattern to the World Series. They both swept their opponent in the Wild Card round, and then pulled off a crazy upset with a sweep of the #1 seed. In the Championship Series, they were both down 3-2, and won the final two games on the road to complete yet another upset.
The star of this postseason for the Rangers is outfielder Adolis Garcia. Garcia had a career-best season already, but he’s been on a tear in October. He leads the Rangers in hits (17), home runs (7), and RBIs (20) thus far. He took home the ALCS MVP award, as he hit five home runs in the final four games of the Championship Series. His Game 7 performance will forever be ingrained in Rangers history, as he went 4-5 with two home runs and 5 RBIs. His 15 RBIs in the series was also a MLB Postseason record. Shortstop Corey Seager has been amazing in the Postseason as well, leaving right where he left off in the regular season. He leads the Rangers in batting average (.333), and On-Base Percentage (.483) this October. It will be huge if second baseman Marcus Semien can get going. Coming off a great regular season, Semien is batting just .192, with only 2 RBIs.
A huge issue on the Rangers roster was their pitching, particularly the bullpen. Their overall pitching finished 18th in ERA at 4.28, but their bullpen was 24th with a 4.77 ERA. However, their pitching has been great this postseason, with relievers Jose Leclerc, Josh Sborz, and Aroldis Chapman leading out the pen. Nathan Eovaldi and Jordan Montgomery have put out quality starts all Postseason, combining for a 7-0 record. They traded for veteran ace Max Scherzer at the trade deadline, but he hasn’t delivered a clutch start so far. In 6.2 innings, he’s allowed seven earned runs. Getting vintage Scherzer back will be critical to a Rangers championship.
The player to watch for the Diamondbacks is their rookie outfield outfielder, Corbin Carroll. Carroll is the frontrunner to win NL Rookie of the Year, and is easily their best player. His combination of speed, power, and defense makes him very fun to watch. He’s been great this postseason as well, leading the D-Backs in OBP with .396. Second baseman Ketel Marte has been on fire as well, with a .358 average and 19 hits, which leads the team. Their young talent has really flourished throughout the playoffs, such as 23 year old outfielder Alek Thomas who has the most HRs with 4, and 23 year old catcher Gabriel Moreno, who leads in RBIs with 9.
The key to this improbable run for the D-Backs has been their pitching, especially the backend of their bullpen. Ace Zac Gallen actually has been their worst starter this postseason, posting a 5.24 ERA through four starts. Their other two starters, Merrill Kelly and rookie Brandon Pfaadt, have stepped up in a big way. Kelly enters the WS with a 2.65 ERA in three starts, and Pfaadt has a 2.70 ERA in four starts. If Gallen can go back to the Cy Young contender he is, Arizona will have a three-headed monster in the rotation. As previously mentioned, the bullpen has really been the major standout this October. They traded for closer Paul Sewald from the Seattle Mariners at the trade deadline, and he’s been incredible, recording six saves and throwing eight scoreless innings. Reliever Kevin Ginkel is also on a scoreless inning streak, throwing nine innings without an earned run. Ryan Thompson has also been clutch, with a 2.53 ERA and the most innings out of the pen at 10.2.
Now that both teams are broken down, the main question is: who’s going to win the 2023 World Series? In my non-expert opinion, I think the Texas Rangers will win their first World Series in franchise history. It will be an extremely close series though; there’s a chance it goes the full seven. While the D-Backs have an incredible bullpen, which will ultimately keep them in the series, I’m suspicious about their starters. Gallen hasn’t delivered yet, and while Kelly and Pfaadt have been great, they’re facing an elite Rangers offense. It will be a fun, back-and-forth series to watch, and baseball fans will be eager to sit back and enjoy the show.