Looking at baseball history is extremely daunting when previewing the Houston Astros vs. the New York Yankees playoff matchup.
The Yankees have made playoff appearances in 53 seasons. The Astros have existed for only 56 seasons and have made the playoffs only 11 times, including this season.
The Yankees have won the American league title 40 times. The Astros won the NL title just once, in 2005.
The Yankees won the whole enchilada a world record 27 times! The Astros have a whole bagel on their side of the ledger.
In their 56 years of existence the Astros have won 4 playoff series total, including the just concluded 3-1 win over the Red Sox and have won the only Wild Card playoff they have faced, the one over…..The Yankees….in 2015.
Psychologically, this series could be like trying to beat your father or big brother in a game of one on one when you are only 11 and they are full grown. But it does not have to be that way.
The bottom line is that this Astros team is better than this Yankees team. Yes, the Yanks have all that momentum from winning three times against a Cleveland Indians club that had not lost three in a row in the last two months. The Yanks have the feel good warmth of bailing out their beloved manager Joe Girardi, who manned up and apologized for not appealing a call that led to an unearned grand slam by the Indians and an eventual win in Game 2 of that series.
But momentum can disappear as fast as two games on the road against the Astros’ double ace package.
How do these two teams stack up?
- For the season, the Astros beat the Yankees 5 out of 7 games; they were 3-1 on the road and 2-1 at home.
- Two of those games were quite memorable. Back on May 11 in New York, Carlos Correa helped the Astros build a 3-0 lead for Dallas Keuchel with an early two run home run and in the 9th inning when Ken Giles was melting down, Jake Marisnick nailed the tying runner, Jacoby Ellsbury at the plate to end a 3-2 win over the Yanks. On July 1, the Astros were losing 6-3 headed into the 8th in Houston. Three outs later they were leading 7-6 after doing damage against both setup man Dellin Betances and closer Aroldis Chapman. Yuli Gurriel had the huge go ahead 2 run double against Chapman and then in the 9th used his foot to keep Brett Gardner from getting back to first when he rounded too far on a gapper single. That play also ended the game.
Overall the numbers for each team’s starting pitchers are really close:
- The Yanks are fifth in the majors with a 3.98 ERA, 4th in WHIP (1.24) and fifth in OPS against (.713)
- The Astros are sixth in the majors with a 4.03 ERA, 5th in WHIP (1.26) and sixth in OPS against (.721)
- The two staffs are effective in different ways – the Yanks are fifth lowest in BBs(279), but 23rd in allowing 141 HRs. The Astrso are 3rd best in allowing only 115 HRs, but 14th in allowing 309 BBs
- However, matchups are what is interesting. The Yankees are starting the series with Masahiro Tanaka, who was probably their 5th or 6th best starter during the season, somehow squeezing a 13-12 record out of a poor 4.74 ERA. You would think they would go with Sonny Gray or Luis Severino, who is their actual ace. But Tanaka was nails, throwing three hit of shutout ball in the Yanks 1-0 third game win over the Indians, which set the table for their 3 -2 series comeback. His career record against the Astros is 0-2 with a 10.38 ERA in 4 starts and will lead off the series against Dallas Keuchel.
- The Yanks will start the terrific Severino (14-6 with a 2.98 ERA) against Justin Verlander in the second game, while C.C. Sabathia (14-5 and 3.69) will start the third game against the imposing TBD. And that may be the tale of this series: who does A.J. Hinch use in the third and/or fourth spots in the rotation? Is it Brad Peacock, who was shaky in his one playoff appearance, but also may have been pulled too early? Charlie Morton who was a little better than Peacock? Lance McCullers Jr. who pitched well but not many innings? Collin McHugh who was not on the ALDS 25? Or in this new world of playoff baseball are we looking at some kind of McCullers/Peacock or Morton/McHugh tandem starters for the back or rotation?
- Starting pitching looks quite even, but it will be the biggest key to this series.
- The Yankees were very good in offensive stats in the majors: .262 BA (7th), .339 OBP (2nd), .785 OPS (3rd), 241 HRs (1st)and 858 runs (2nd).
- The Astros were better, first with .282 BA, .346 OBP, .823 (OPS), 896 runs, and 2nd in HRs with 238.
- Some interesting differences are that the Astros were 1st in the majors with 346 doubles and best with only 1087 Ks, while the Yankees were 22nd with 266 doubles and 12th with 1386 Ks.
- Catcher Gary Sanchez gives the Yanks a leg up at that position with a .278/.345/.876 slash along with 33 HR and 90 RBIs, though it will be interesting to see how Brian McCann performs against the team that discarded him for Sanchez.
- The Infield belongs to the Astros. Both 2B Starlin Castro and SS Didi Gregorious are good to very good, but not as good as Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve. 3B Alex Bregman and 1B Yuli Gurriel are a lot better than the inconsistent 1B Greg Bird and 3B Todd Frazier.
- The Outfield would seem to be a wash. Aaron Judge is a better power hitter than anyone on the Astros, but George Springer, Josh Reddick and Marwin Gonzalez are all better than Brett Gardner and fairly even with Aaron Hicks.
- DH will be interesting. Chase Headley and Jacoby Ellsbury are probably better than Carlos Beltran / Evan Gattis, but….Gattis has been hot and Beltran had a huge hit in the clincher against the Red Sox.
- Offense favors the Astros by a bit, especially if the roll they were on vs. the Red Sox continues.
- The Yanks relievers had much better numbers this season than the Astros. They lead in ERA (3.34 vs. 4.27), WHIP (1.16 vs. 1.28) and OPS against (.621 vs. .719).
- There are a number of things that stand out about the Yankees’ bullpen. Statistically, Aroldis Chapman probably has the 6th best numbers in the bullpen with his 3.22 ERA and 1.132 WHIP. What also sticks out from the paper are how many of their big arms have big strikeout numbers. David Robertson (13.1 K/9 IP), Chapman (12.3), Dellin Betances (15.1), Tommy Kahnle (12.2) and Chad Green (13.4) all have superior strikeout numbers to go with excellent ERAs, Robertson’s 1.08 ERA leading the group.
- The Yankees have the edge in the bullpen, though by how much will depend on exactly who is in the Astros bullpen and how they are used. However, as roadthriller pointed out in Chip’s blog the Astros have been very successful against Chapman and Bettances.
In the playoffs it is often about momentum. Both of these teams come into this series on a psychological high. The Yanks came back from the edge of the pit, being down 2-0. The Astros came back in the rain in Boston with 3 runs in the last two innings to clinch that series. All things being even, the Astros who won 9 more games in the regular season and throttled these Yanks 5-2 should have an edge. They need to hold serve in Houston and then be war warriors in the Big Apple.
Astros in 6 games