Head to head playoffs: Astros versus Indians


The ALDS matchup that will be getting national attention is the Red Sox – Yankees media darling series, where the East Coast bias wishes they could meet again in the ALCS and the World Series. But there is another ALDS matchup occurring outside prime time that is likely a closer match than the two team’s records (Astros 103-59 / Indians 91-71) would indicate.

The Astros’ fans were not looking forward to playing Cleveland in the 2017 playoffs after being dominated 1-5 by the Tribe during the season and thanks to the Yankees that matchup never occurred. This season, the Astros took 2 of 3 at home with Cleveland and then split 4 on the road.

In 2018, the Indians got off to a slow start and were 25-25 after the first 50 games, they then went 66-46 the rest of the way and coasted to the AL Central title by 13 games. The Astros played much better than the Indians early (they were 32-18 after 50 games), but due to great play by the Mariners early and the A’s late they never had a comfortable lead the whole season. Their 6 game lead at the end of the season was the biggest they ever held.

So how do these two teams matchup heading into their playoff matchup?

Starting Pitching

If the teams had to use a five-man rotation, the Astros would get the nod here, but with a more likely 4 or perhaps for the Indians 3 man rotation, this area is really close. The Indians top three are Corey Kluber (20-7, 2.89 ERA), Carlos Carrasco (17-10, 3.38 ERA) and Mike Clevinger (13-8, 3.02 ERA), while the Astros boast Justin Verlander (16-9, 2.52 ERA), Gerrit Cole (15-5, 2.88 ERA) and Dallas Keuchel (12-11, 3.74 ERA). The fourth starter is where it gets interesting. Due to injury, Trevor Bauer (12-6, 2.71 ERA) has not pitched more than 4 innings in a game since Aug. 11. Similarly, Charlie Morton (15-3, 3.13 ERA) has pitched only 4 innings total since Sept. 15. The series could be decided on this spot.

SP’s – Toss Up

Relievers

This was an area that hurt the Indians in the early going and so they traded one of the top catching prospects in the game Francisco Mejia to the Padres for All Star closer Brad Hand (8 saves, 2.28 ERA since coming over) and reliever Adam Cimber (0-3, 4.05 ERA, 1.650 WHIP, but on the playoff roster). Behind Hand they have former Astro killers, Cody Allen (4-6, 4.70, 22 saves), whose struggles led to the trade and Andrew Miller (2-4, 4.24 ERA, 2 saves) who missed June and July with injuries. Former Astro Oliver Perez has been murder on both righties and lefties this season (1-1, 1.39 ERA, 0.742 WHIP). Dan Otero (2-1, 5.22 ERA) like Cimber is a weak spot for the Indians out of the ‘pen.

The Astros have been so strong that they have left off pitchers who would easily slide into the  Indians bullpen. New closer Roberto Osuna (2-2, 1.99 ERA, 12 saves), shutdown set-up man Ryan Pressly (1-0, 0.77 ERA, 0.600 WHIP), Collin McHugh (6-2, 1.99 ERA, 0.912 WHIP) and Tony Sipp (3-1, 1.86 ERA) have been very good in 2018, though McHugh slid down the stretch. Lance McCullers Jr. (10-6, 3.86 ERA) comes back from injury to give them a multi-inning option, Will Harris (5-3, 3.49 ERA) slides into the bullpen based on strong numbers down the stretch and Josh James (2-0, 2.35 ERA, 0.957 WHIP) gives them 100 mph X-factor as needed. Again, it is hard to see the Indians being able to leave off their roster, Hector Rondon, Brad Peacock, Joe Smith and Framber Valdez.

RP’s – Advantage Astros

Infield and Catcher 

After 2017’s great season, it is hard to believe that the Astros team would face a team with a better infield, but with great performances on the Indians side and injury-plagued and performance plagued seasons by Jose Altuve (.316 BA, 13 HR, 61 RBI) and Carlos Correa (.239 BA, 15 HR and 65 RBI) it is so.  Yuli Gurriel (.291 BA, 33 doubles, 85 RBIs) is a bit better than Yonder Alonso (.250 BA, 23 HRs, 83 RBIs). Altuve is not as good as new 2B (formerly at 3B) Jose Ramirez (110 runs, 39 HR, 105 RBIs) and Correa is not near Francisco Lindor (129 runs, 38 HR, 92 RBIs). Yan Gomes (.266 BA/.313/.762) is a better hitter at catcher than Martin Maldonado (.231/.257/.655), though Maldonado has been gunning runners down at a huge rate compared to Gomes.  The X-Factor here is newly acquired 3B Josh Donaldson, picked up at the waiver deadline in a controversial move (the Astros protested that he was not healthy when traded having played in one rehab game and immediately going back on the DL). Alex Bregman (105 runs, 51 doubles, 31 HRs, 103 RBIs) is not better than the Donaldson of 2014-2017, but he may be better than the current one, who had been injured most of the year. This is a key battle and the series may be greatly affected by the performance of these two players.

Infield/Catcher – Advantage Indians

Outfield and DH

The Astros assumed starting outfield would be Marwin Gonzalez (.247 BA/.733 OPS/ 16 HRs/68 RBIs), George Springer (.265 BA/.780 OPS/ 102 runs/22 HRs/ 71 RBIs) and Josh Reddick (.247 BA/.718 OPS/17 HRs/47 RBIs) against the Indians’ Michael Brantley (.257 BA/ .832 OPS/ 17 HR/ 76 RBIs), Jason Kipnis (.230 BA/ .704 OPS/ 18 HR/ 75 RBIs) and Melky Cabrera (.280 BA / .755 OPS/ 6 HRs/ 39 RBIs). Hitting-wise there might be a small plus on the Indian’s side. Fielding-wise the Astros are miles ahead. The DH battle will be interesting as Edwin Encarnacion (.246 BA/ .810 OPS/ 32 HR/ 107 RBIs) has tons more experience, but Tyler White has much better numbers (.276 BA/ .888 OPS/ 12 HRs/ 42 RBIs) in a smaller 2018 sample.

OF and DH – Toss Up

Bench

The Astros bench consists of Brian McCann (.212 BA/ .640 OPS/ 7 HR/ 23 RBIs), Evan Gattis (.226 BA/ .736 OPS/ 25 HR/ 78 RBIs), Jake Marisnick (.211 BA/ .674 OPS/ 10 HRs/ 28 RBIs), Tony Kemp (.263 BA/ .743 OPS/ 6 HRs/ 30 RBIs/ 9 SB) and Myles Straw (In 9 games – .333 BA/ 1.067 OPS/ 4 runs/ 1 HR/ 1 RBI/ 2 SBs). The Indians bench consists of C Roberto Perez (.168 BA/ .519 OPS/ 2 HRs/ 19 RBIs), OF Rajai Davis (.224 BA/ .559 OPS/ 1 HR/ 6 RBIs/ 21 SBs), OF Greg Allen (.252 BA/ .654 OPS/ 2 HR/ 20 RBIs/ 21 SBs), OF Brandon Guyer (.206 BA/ .671 OPS/ 7 HR/ 27 RBIs) and IF Yandy Diaz (.312 BA/ .797 OPS/ 1 HR/ 15 RBIs).

The Astros would seem to have an advantage at backup catcher and with Gattis’ power off the bench. Both teams have speed off their benches and it would seem that if the teams have to substitute on the infield they may look to their outfield (Marwin Gonzalez, Jason Kipnis) before their bench.

Bench – Advantage Astros

In the end this looks like a very tight series with the Astros getting a slight nod. I’m not an Astros’ homer (Pinocchio’s nose growing by the minute). This will be a huge test for the Astros and their experience in the playoffs last year may prove to be the difference.

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86 comments on “Head to head playoffs: Astros versus Indians

    • “Cole became the fourth Astros pitcher to strike out at least 12 batters in a postseason game, and he joined Mike Mussina as the only pitchers with at least 12 K’s in a playoff game against Cleveland. Mussina struck out 15 batters in Game 3 of the 1997 ALCS.

      What’s more, the only other pitcher in Major League history to strike out at least 12 batters in a playoff game without a walk is Tom Seaver, who whiffed 13 Reds with no walks in Game 1 of the 1973 National League Championship Series for the Mets 45 years ago to the day.”

      Nuff said!

      Liked by 2 people

  1. -Add Bauer to the list of good pitchers Bregman has homered off of in the playoffs.
    -The Astros learned to win without Altuve’s and Correa’s bat during the regular season.
    -Two games in a row the players we really needed to deliver did just that. Today it was Marwin.
    -Gerritt Cole had an almost impossible act to follow and he did it.
    -This Mr. October thing seems to be working itself out.
    -Astros had nine hits, 4 BBs and only 7 Ks. The Indians had 3 hits, 2 BBs and 14 Ks.
    -Bauer pitched again and gave up a home run. After the game Bregman was asked about Bauer in the interview on the field and he would not talk about him.
    -Pressley’s strike three pitch to Kipnis was as good a slider as you can throw.
    -Osuna faced their toughest guys two nights in a row and got them out.
    -Dan, you missed it in this post. Their infield is not better than ours. Our infield is better than theirs because the Alex Bregman of now is better than Josh Donaldson and Yuli Gurriel is better than Yonder Alonso.
    – I know this series is not over, but the Astros took two different paths to get the two wins. One from ahead and one from behind.
    -Last season in the ALCS, little miscues by the Yankees defense cost them dearly against Houston. Melky Cabrera’s bobble in the outfield on a ball he should have cut off, cost his team the winning run. Playoffs expose everything.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Not too much more that I can add!
    I think Yuli hit the ball hard all four times up today and went 0-4. We’ll hear from him.
    They intentionally walked our #7 hitter twice.
    The pen has given up 1 hit in 5 and 2/3 innings.
    I have to mention Marwin again because he is so on right now. Three of his hits were opposite field.

    Another very well played game by the defending champs..

    Liked by 3 people

  3. The Red Sox pitching staff is already a mess.

    Expect the Indians to come out running on Monday if they can get on. Would be nice to see Cy Keuchel out there. If he’s not on, we’ll see a quick hook.

    Like

  4. We haven’t said enough about Ryan Pressly. Since coming to Houston he has been beyond phenomenal. Counting today he’s pitched 25.2 IP, given up 11 hits, 2 runs, 4 BB and 35 K. Opponents are SLUGGING less than .200 against him and his ERA is about 0.714. Getting him was an incredible move. Kudos to him and to the front office.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Roadthriller…you are EXACTLY right!He has really come into himself here in Houston. You can tell how much he loves pitching here! He said the vets in the bullpen have offered *gold* advice! Soo glad we have him!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great game to be at. We had some good contact against Carrasco but nothing to show for it and then MarWIN comes through like it was 2017 again. I told my wife that I felt Hinch outmanaged Tito yesterday but I could not understand pinch hitting for Reddick. I’d much prefer Reddick vs a very shaky Miller than Gattis against Bauer. Also there was no bullpen activity at all when he sent Cole out for the seventh. Cole was dealing but he was at 87 pitches and sat in the dugout through a long inning. I had the same unease about Osuna having to face Lindor and then sitting through another relatively long inning. Oh well, all’s well that ends well and this was a very happy ending. Hope Keuchel isn’t a party pooper Monday. A sweep would be oh so sweet.

    Liked by 2 people

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