The Astros finally get to play in prime time, now that THE CURRENT WORLD CHAMPIONS have moved past the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS, and that brings to mind in a demented way a famous line from a movie. It is the end of Billy Wilder’s brilliant send-up of Hollywood, “Sunset Boulevard” and Gloria Swanson (who once was a great silent star and the mistress of Joseph Kennedy – JFK’s father – but I digress) playing Norma Desmond, a long time ago great silent star and recent murderer, comes sweeping down the stairs and says “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”
This Astros’ team is way ready for their close-up and if Alex Bregman‘s musings on the subject, have a bit of a chip on their shoulders after having given the baseball world one of the great World Series performances ever and being thanked by being given a seat at the kid’s table at Thanksgiving.
The Astros’ dismantling sweep of the Tribe was so complete that Cleveland immediately announced they are removing Chief Wahoo from their uniforms and replacing it with a Block C. Well, that announcement might not have been connected, but you get the idea.
Now the Ready for Prime Time Players head to Boston for the first two games of an ALCS series they hope leads to a second consecutive appearance in the World Series. So what type of opponent are the Red Sox? Well, they won 108 wins as compared to the Astros 103 wins. In the Pythagorean world that looks at run differential, the Astros should have won 109 games and the Red Sox should have won 103 games, for whatever that is worth.
The Bosox’s 2018 offense looked an awful lot like the Astros’ 2017 offense. They led the majors in runs scored (876), BA (.268), OBP (.339), SLG (.453) and OPS (.792), while being 5th best at avoiding strikeouts. Their starting staff had a good, not great 3.77 ERA (8th best in the majors, 4th best in the AL) at more than a half run behind the Astros’ major league’s best 3.16 ERA. Eerily similar, their bullpen had a good, not great 3.72 ERA (tied for 8th best in the majors, 4th best in the AL) and almost 3/4 of a run behind the major league-leading Astros (3.03 ERA). So, will the Red Sox offensive strength break through the Astros’ pitching strength? Can the Astros’ inconsistent offensive find some holes in the good, not great Red Sox pitching staff?
So, on a position basis how do these two teams matchup heading into their playoff matchup?
The Red Sox ace Chris Sale (12-4, 2.11 ERA, 13.5 K/9 IP) is as good or better than anyone the Astros can throw against him or in this case Justin Verlander (16-9, 2.52 ERA). After that…the Astros should have a marked advantage at each spot and they did have success against Sale last October. David Price is in the 2nd spot. He is solid (16-7, 3.58 ERA) and has had a good history against the Astros, but he is not as good as Gerrit Cole (15-5, 2.88 ERA). Rick Porcello again has had a season where his won-loss does not match his ERA (17-7, 4.28 ERA). Dallas Keuchel (12-11, 3.74 ERA) is better than Porcello. Nathan Eovaldi is good (3-3, 3.33 ERA) or at least good with producing the number 3, but Charlie Morton (15-3, 3.13 ERA) is better.
The Red Sox have a good starting staff, but the Astros just beat a better staff with Cleveland.
SP’s – Astros Advantage
Craig Kimbrel (5-1, 42 saves, 2,74 ERA) is one of the top closers in the game, but as everyone saw Tuesday night, looked a whole lot like Ken Giles in trying to close out the Yankees. After him their bullpen consists of very good Ryan Brasier (2-0, 1.60 ERA), good Brandon Workman (6-1, 3.27 ERA) and Matt Barnes (6-4, 3.65 ERA, 14 K/9 IP) and very average Heath Hembree (4-1, 4.20 ERA) and Joe Kelly (4-2, 4.39 ERA) and starter Eduardo Rodriguez (13-5, 3.82 ERA) who may or may not take the 4th starting spot away from Eovaldi. The Astros have the deepest bullpen they have ever had with closer Roberto Osuna (2-2, 1.99 ERA, 12 saves), set-up man Ryan Pressly (1-0, 0.77 ERA, 0.600 WHIP), Collin McHugh (6-2, 1.99 ERA, 0.912 WHIP), Tony Sipp (3-1, 1.86 ERA), former starter Lance McCullers Jr. (10-6, 3.86 ERA) and likely Will Harris and Josh James. Note – we are guessing at the end of the bullpen for both clubs at this point.
The Astros are better man for man than the Red Sox bullpen…..on paper. And they looked better in the ALDS.
SP’s – Astros Advantage
Infield and Catcher
SS Xander Bogaerts (.288 BA, .883 OPS, 23 HR and 103 RBIs) has been one of the best shortstops in the league, but basically the Sox normal infield configuration of Bogaerts, 1B Mitch Moreland (.245 BA, .758 OPS, 15 HR, 68 RBIs), 2B Ian Kinsler (17 games – .242 BA, .604 OPS, 1 HR, 16 RBIs) and 3B Rafael Devers (.240 BA, .731 OPS, 21 HRs, 66 RBIs) is a step below the Astros. Throw in poor hitting C Sandy Leon (.177 BA, .511 OPS, 5 HR, 22 RBIs) or Christian Vazquez (.207 BA, .540 OPS, 3 HR, 16 RBIs) and the step is even bigger.
The Astros, on the other hand, have Jose Altuve (.316 BA, 13 HR, 61 RBI), Carlos Correa (.239 BA, 15 HR and 65 RBI), Yuli Gurriel (.291 BA, 33 doubles, 85 RBIs) and Alex Bregman (105 runs, 51 doubles, 31 HRs, 103 RBIs) on the infield with Martin Maldonado (.225 BA, .627 OPS, 9 HR and 44 RBIs), behind the plate.
Infield/Catcher – Advantage Astros
Outfield and DH
This is the category where the Red Sox are running the Astros out of the park. MVP candidate OF Mookie Betts (.346 BA, 1.078 OPS, 129 runs, 32 HRs, 30 SBs), Andrew Benitendi (.290 BA, .830 OPS, 16 HRs, 87 RBIs, 21 SBs), Jackie Bradley Jr. (.234 BA, .717 OPS, 13 HRs, 59 RBIs) and super DH J.D. Martinez (.330 BA, 1.031 OPS, 111 runs, 43 HRs, 130 RBIs) are a force to be reckoned with.
For the Astros, the plus side is that with a recent resurgence, the OFs and DHs are outperforming their numbers for the season. Marwin Gonzalez (.247 BA/.733 OPS/ 16 HRs/68 RBIs), George Springer (.265 BA/.780 OPS/ 102 runs/22 HRs/ 71 RBIs), Josh Reddick (.247 BA/.718 OPS/17 HRs/47 RBIs) and Tyler White (.276 BA/ .888 OPS/ 12 HRs/ 42 RBIs) are a good group, but….. not up to the Red Sox.
OF and DH – Advantage Red Sox
The Red Sox give their bench players a lot of chances to play. They are a solid group, led by Steve Pearce (50 Games – .279 BA, .901 OPS, 7 HRs, 26 RBIs), Eduardo Nunez (.265 BA, .677 OPS, 10 HR, 44 RBIs), Brock Holt (.277 BA, .774 OPS, 7 HRs, 46 RBIs), and Blake Swihart (.229 BA, .613 OPS, 3 HRs, 18 RBIs) along with whichever catcher is sitting.
The Astros counter with 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).
This one is really close.
Bench – Slight Advantage Red Sox
Summing it up… To win the Red Sox need to derail the Verlander – Cole – Keuchel – Morton – Osuna – Pressly – McHugh – McCullers express while hoping the Astros’ bats go silent against a lesser pitching staff than the Indians had. Are you betting on that? Me neither.
Astros in 6 games