So the Chicago White Sox have won their first pennant since 1959 and have a shot at claiming the World Series trophy for the first time since 1917. The Houston Astros, meanwhile, will grace their fans with the first World Series game ever played in the state of Texas.
What baseball fans near and far are wondering is this: who will prevail? It figures to be a hotly fought Fall Classic with loads of drama (and bunts) in the offing.
In the end, however, it's the White Sox who'll be drowning one another in champagne.
Here, then, are the five reasons why that's going to happen ...
1. The Astros' offense plays to the White Sox's strengths.
Houston hitters this season ranked 11th in the NL in strikeouts, ninth in home runs and last in batter groundball-fly ball ratio. The upshot is that the Astros put the ball in play and hit lots of balls in the air, but they don't hit many home runs.
The White Sox, meanwhile, have the best team defense in the AL, and, in particular, they have a strong fielding unit in the outfield with Aaron Rowand, Scott Podsednik and Jermaine Dye.
That means lots of Houston fly balls, and lots of Houston fly outs. The Astros this season, despite playing half their games in one of the best hitter's parks in the league, ranked only 11th in the NL in runs scored. So they have trouble putting runs on the board in any context, much less against a pitching-and-defense-heavy team like Chicago.
It's worth noting that those same characteristics — good contact rate, fly-ball tendencies, little home-run power — are shared by the Angels, the team the White Sox beat in the ALCS and held to a total of 11 runs in five games.
2. The White Sox's lineup should fare well in Minute Maid Park.
As mentioned, Minute Maid Park in Houston is a hitter's haven. More specifically, it's a ridiculously accommodating environment for right-handed batters.
For instance, from 2002-04 Minute Maid inflated home-run rates for right-handed hitters by a whopping 16 percent. As luck would have it, Chicago has a lineup that skews heavily right-handed, and, contrary to reputation, they also have a fairly powerful crop of hitters.
In, Houston, where the Sox won't have the DH at their disposal, they'll trot out right-handed batters in six of the eight regular lineup spots (with left fielder Podsednik and catcher A.J. Pierzynski being the only exceptions among position players). And for all you hear about the small-ball stylings of the White Sox's offense, know that they ranked fourth in AL in homers this season with an even 200 (one more than that vaunted "beer league" team in Boston). So the Sox hit for power, and they're thoroughly right-handed in the lineup. That means the Chicago attack should enjoy its time in Minute Maid.
3. The White Sox's rotation is almost as good as the Astros' rotation.
The Astros have a great deal of their value tied up in the rotation. After all, it's not often that a team has three legitimate Cy Young candidates — Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt — among its five starters. And this season, Houston led all of baseball with a starters' ERA of 3.46.
But let's not forget the White Sox. Chicago tied the Angels for the best starters' ERA in the AL (3.75) and achieved that mark despite playing in a park that's roughly as tough on pitchers as Minute Maid is. Once you account for the fact that White Sox starters were facing the designated hitter instead of the opposing pitcher in almost all their games, that starters' ERA gap between them and Houston begins to narrow. Also, the Sox's probable fourth starter in the World Series, Freddy Garcia, is leaps and bounds better than the Astros' fourth starter, Brandon Backe.
Chicago can't quite match Houston's front three, but it's a much closer call than you might think.
4. The Astros can't win on the road.
By "playoff team" standards, Houston was a fairly lousy team away from home this season. Outside of Minute Maid this year, the Astros were 36-45, a road mark worse than that of the Diamondbacks, Giants, Cubs and Orioles, among others. Because the AL prevailed in the All-Star game this year, the White Sox will enjoy home-field advantage in the World Series, playing games one and two in Chicago and, if necessary, games six and seven. Advantage, White Sox.
5. History is working against Houston.
This Astros team finished the regular season with an 89-73 record, which comes to a relatively modest winning percentage of .549. If Houston were to prevail over Chicago, that would be worst winning percentage ever for an NL World Series winner. In fact, only the 1981 Dodgers and 1926 Cardinals come particularly close. Also, only two teams, the 2000 Yankees and 1987 Twins, have played 162-game schedules and won the World Series despite winning fewer than 90 games in the regular season. No NL team has even turned that trick.
It all adds up to this: White Sox in seven.