By FanGraphs’ Wins Above Replacement, the two best third baseman in baseball are currently in the World Series: Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros and Anthony Rendon of the Washington Nationals. Both players, who are also MVP candidates in their respective leagues, will undoubtedly have a large influence in how this year’s Fall Classic proceeds.
While each World Series usually has noticeable star power on both sides, it feels uncommon to have two MVP-caliber third baseman in the same series. I’m sure there are notable examples that are currently lost to my memory, but it is a treat to see two third baseman of this caliber on the brightest stage of the sport. It also helps that there isn’t much separation between the two players, at least in terms of offensive metrics.
By the Numbers: 2019 World Series Third Basemen
Talk about a lot of production at the hot corner, right?
Both hitters have a contact-oriented approach at the plate with power on their side. In fact, they are each in the top-six of contact rates in baseball among all qualified hitters this season. While Rendon tends to go to the opposite field more often, Bregman is more a pull hitter; however, each doesn’t strike out much and still draw a fair share of walks. Neither will steal many bases, but they are far from terrible baserunners. Depending on your preferred offensive metric of choice, there is not much of a notable difference between the two. If there is one, it is more akin of a small creek rather than a large gulf.
The key change in their respective offensive profiles is how much more Rendon (43.2 percent) swings overall than Bregman (35.1 percent). It is that difference that leads us to see a slightly lower strikeout rate and a modestly higher walk rate from the Astros’ third baseman than the Nationals’ version. In the postseason, that little amount of extra plate discipline could come in handy for the Astros. That said, Rendon is not an easier out than Bregman. Far from it, in fact. One simply doesn’t count out a hitter of Rendon’s caliber due to an insignificant increase in strikeouts. If you need a reminder of his potency at the plate, how about this home run off of Clayton Kershaw in Game 5 of the NLDS?
The Astros’ pitching staff will have their work cut out for them in World Series with Rendon, who has a 1.059 OPS in this year’s postseason. The same can be said about the Nationals with Bregman, who has an .863 OPS in the first two rounds. Heading into this contest, though, the Nationals’ star has clearly hit better than Bregman in the postseason. But it is difficult to find these two players in an extended slump for long, especially if the stakes are high. The hope for the two clubs is that both hitters will show up when it matters most as they each did numerous times in the regular season.
Numbers in High Leverage Situations - 2019
The Astros and Nationals will hope to neutralize each other’s former first round picks in the World Series. For the Nationals, the hope is likely that their pitching can keep Bregman, and most of the Astros’ bats, in a postseason slump at the plate as what occurred against the Rays and Yankees. For the Astros, the goal is to keep Washington’s bats from heating up following a long delay between the NLCS and the World Series. If either club wishes to win the Fall Classic, they’ll likely need their star third baseman involved as much as possible.
Another thing to consider: Both players are actually pretty decent in the hot corner. We’ve seen Bregman make some incredible defensive plays throughout his young career while Rendon has done the same for the Nationals. Even the most recent postseason series for both clubs show plenty of evidence of each player’s value in the hot corner. While no one will confuse them for Matt Chapman or Nolan Arenado with the glove, both Bregman and Rendon do a fine job at the position.
How Bregman and Rendon perform in the World Series is a microcosm of the World Series itself, in a way. If either one performs while the other stumbles, this year’s edition of the championship round probably won’t last long. However, if both perform admirably, we may have a reason for this series to be worth remembering for a long time.