Act 2: The Astros, Yanks meet in the ALCS


If Dan P was at home working on the computer this would be a bit of a stat filled analysis of a very intriguing series. But this will be an on the fly, on the phone look at the Astros and Yanks from the heart as much as from the brain.

Before the season there was a big focus on the Big 3 in the MLB: the defending champion Red Sox, Yanks and the Astros. After the Red Sox faltered and fell by the wayside the Dodgers filled their spot in the Big 3.

Now one round into the playoffs (sorry can’t count the wildcard play-in as a round) the Dodgers are gone at the hands of the Nats, the Astros had to go to the 5th game to finally knock out the Rays, and the Yanks swatted the Twins like a familiar fly in a 3 game sweep.

Folks will say the winner of the ALCS will be the Champions of the World, but what seems true on paper rarely makes it to the field. Both teams need to stay focused on each game and one challenge at a time.

Hitting

The Astros are a Jekyl and Hyde team. At times they are a juggernaut and other times they seem like a meek shadow of themselves. They led the majors in the classic stats like BA, OBP and OPS and were lowest in Ks, but the Yanks scored a fraction more runs per game. The Yanks rode a record HR year this year to that run total. Both of these teams have tremendous depth in their lineups and when they do get on a roll they are a scary opponent. You could easily fill out an All Star team from these two lineups – Yuli Gurriel, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, George Springer, Michael Brantley, Yordan Alvarez, Gary Sanchez, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, D.J. LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres.

Advantage: Push

Starting Pitching

The Astros have the two best pitchers in baseball in Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole and questions beyond. Zack Greinke looked very vulnerable in his only playoff start, Wade Miley looks like road kill, and Jose Urquidy has only started a handful of games and no playoff starts.

On the Yankee’s side one of their best pitchers Domingo German is suspended for domestic abuse charges. James Paxton, and Masahiro Tanaka lead a revised rotation with J.A. Happ backing them up.

The depth of both rotations are suspect, while the top of the rotations definitely favors the Astros.

Advantage: Astros

Bullpens

The Yanks have a super top trio of Aroldis Chapman, Adam Ottavino and Zack Britton. The Astros bullpen is a bit shakier. Roberto Osuna can drop a bomb as well as put up a 1-2-3. Ryan Pressly is just back from injury and no sure thing. Will Harris may be the most dependable arm in the ‘pen.

Advantage: Yanks

The series may ride on the Astros home field advantage.

Totally Biased Prediction – Astros in 7 thrilling games.

106 comments on “Act 2: The Astros, Yanks meet in the ALCS

  1. We’ll find out pretty quickly how difficult this series will be when we see what Greinke does tomorrow night. If he pitches like he has overall on the season, it’s a huge lift. If he pitches like he did last week against TB, then the entire series becomes a scramble to find pitchers to get outs. We can’t count on four wins from Verlander and Cole.

    The Yankees are not a very good fielding team. We are. They ranked 20th. We ranked 3rd. And I think in the more advanced stats, it’ll show that we cover more ground than the Yankees do. Hopefully these stats will prove to to be an advantage in our favor over the course of the series.

    And we do need to hit. We don’t want to be down a run or two late going up against their pen. We want to be up three runs late.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just a quick observation about AJ Hinch. He is always CCC (calm, cool, collected). But there’s two things he’s said over last couple days. One is, he admitted win or go home games are stressful and not particularly fun. The other is that he’s glad to get a partial Friday off because he’s “exhausted.” And friends, you can see it on his face. Take a look at last night’s photo or post-game. I don’t recall him ever looking that frayed.

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      • Diane, correct, the man is tired. But he’s not done. When his guys play a game and go home, he’s still up trying to figure out what to do next. And he’s back first thing in the morning, sleep or no sleep. It’s tough being the favorite. Unless you go the distance, you’ve failed. He’s got a real burden. But I think he’s up to it. And he’s got the resources.

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  3. I hope the Stros start Zack G tomorrow night. He has the history that says he can give us 6 or 7 good innings. I just don’t think he will be so hittable with lack of his usual sharpness as he was last Monday. At any rate , Verlander should start only when he has his usual starts with proper rest. I think Cole has a good chance to beat the Yankees in NY to give our home field advantage back if Zack falters tomorrow night.

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  4. Bullpens:
    Astros: BAA .226, ERA 3.75, IP 555, Walk % 8.5, K% 26.3.
    Yanks: BAA .242, ERA 4.08, IP 664, Walk% 9.4, K% 26.4
    What am I missing here that gives the Yankees the advantage in the bullpen?
    The Astros numbers are better and they have pitched 110 less innings.

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    • I think the thing that gives their bullpen an advantage are the days off – they can use the top 3 (all about 2.00 ERAs) every game. If we can get the other guys out their early it will help us

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  5. I don’t think you can base Greinke’s abilities based on 1 game in Tampa. Look at his body of work this season and look how hard it was to win in Tampa with that crowd.
    The Yankees went to Tampa in September for a 2-game series and got swept and you can bet there were at least 10,000 Yankees fans in the Rays’ stadium.
    How do I know that? Because the Yankees spring training facilities and their GCL team are in Tampa and they have a huge following there. Even so, the Yankees got swept in Tampa.
    But there were no Astros fans in Tampa for the playoff series. All the Yankee fans and Rays fans were waving gold towels and pulling for the Rays.

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    • 1OP, if you were responding to my post, I was not questioning Greinke’s ability. I said that if he pitches like he has overall on the season, it’s a huge lift. And I said if he pitches like he did in TB, well then we’re in trouble essentially. I’ve already noted previously that I feel good about Greinke and Verlander this weekend.

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      • I wasn’t responding to you. I was just saying that the two games in Tampa were games in a situation that every major league team would dread to be in.

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  6. Haven’t had a chance to read article, Dan, but I have to hand it to you for a segment you’ve done for years. I have grown to like the “What he said, but what did he really mean.” Something like that?

    Last night, during the press conference I think Alyson Footer asked Bregman if Glasnow was tipping pitches? He put on his very best poker face, looked as seriously as he could and said, “No.” He went on to talk about how good his cutter/2 seam are, etc.

    But the guys on MLB were all over the tipping issue, Cintron was all over it, the players were openly whispering or reporting they see the tip. Even Tyler Glasnow said he saw it “obviously” on film afterwards.

    I thought of you whilst that charade played out.

    As we found out from Cora stealing signs, advanced scouting is the real scoop in journalism today, my friend. Those who figure out how to use spin and deception in developing pitchers get scooped up quickly by analytics based teams. Check out Kyle Boddy. Our Brandon bailey spent last off season with him..

    At any rate, the Yanks have the master of signs stealing, Carlos Beltran. Everytime they get a man on 2B, we run the risk of them narrowing down what pitch will be thrown. That single advantage is changing the game.

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    • Grayson, a bit of curiosity, are you from across the Pond? No doubt, the tipping business seems quite apparent and I’m pleased that you’re fully immersed with the details. Here in my tiny Caribbean home, I never see the term “Whilst” utilized in American baseball vernacular, especially in such a wonderfully under discussed corner of our pastime. Thank you.

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  7. Along these lines, I wanted to interject on this blog, since the prospect side is hard to keep up with. Whitley profiles a lot like Tyler Glasnow. Seeing how difficult it is to beat a seasoned offense like we have, it takes a ton of development beyond his off-the-charts raw tools (1.67 season ERA, and so on). I’ve followed him since Santa Clarita, CA, where he prepped near Cole. He was a steal in the 5th by PIT, and this is his 6th year in the league.

    He pitched 23 innings at 22 yrs old in 2016. Whitley will be 22 next yr. The Pirates traded him away after losing patience. THAT is the one thing we cannot do with Forrest, and Jeff has stood his ground We have to, in effect, manipulate his service time. He will almost certainly be a Super Two (debut after July 10), like Yordan, but there will be tremendous pressure to start him if he comes into Spring like I believe he will. It is going to be very difficult to navigate him, especially when Cristian Javier makes the OD rotation, for example, or if Tyler Ivey comes in sharp.

    I just want us to temper expectations, and “bust” talk, in order to see the bigger picture. Glasnow is very good, yet Rays have limited his innings too dealing with injury. Whitley had some shoulder fatigue that was worked through because they changed his mechanics this year. He was slapping his back with his long arm follow through, for example. He’s now the class of the Arizone Fall League yet again. We just need to slow, slow down. And that’s not going to be easy.

    Whitley has 4 plus – plus plus pitches he throws for strikes. He’s a phenom!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Astros batting line against the Yankees this year is fantastic: .317/.393/.569/.962.
    Yankees hitting vs Astros: .243/.302/.457/.758
    And just by observation/recollection we have hit their bullpen pretty well the past few years.
    I like our chances.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. When the Astros last played the Yankees in June, they lost 3 out of 4 in NY.
    The Yankees had everyone in their lineup and the Astros were without Correa, Diaz and Springer. It was Altuve’s first series after coming off the IL and he was hitting .235. Gurriel had not yet had his conversation with Beltran.
    Reddick was hitting sixth followed by Marisnick/Kemp, White and Chirinos/Stassi .

    Liked by 1 person

    • New York loves their shortstops. We know Carlos will woe them defensively. And his new handlers would love to see him start hitting the ball in the Bronx. I think he will.

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  10. As I’ve said – I am up visiting my wife’s aunt and uncle in New Jersey.
    Her uncle is a Yankee fan – but I forgive him.
    Listening to snippets of sports talk up here I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how respectful they have been of the Astros. The normal line is – they are looking forward to this series – these are two terrific teams and it should be one heck of an ALDS.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. To revisit the Rays and Astros. Couple things come to mind. Astros beat most teams when they hit with runners in scoring position. Cash trusts his bullpen (He has to). Hinch – not so much.

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  12. So, the team that stomped Atlanta’s ace, 13-1 on the road, goes home to host game 1 of the NLCS and gets a 1-hit shutout thrown against them by the Nats #4 starter.
    Baseball is the best game.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Severino is going to be on a pitch count….probably 75-80 pitches. Paxton is not the same Astros killer he was when he pitched for the M’s. Don’t get me wrong BOTH of these guys are VERY good, just not as good as Verlander and Cole. Tanaka gets rattled quick, so getting early runs against all THREE of them will be essential! It all comes down to hitting and scoring early. Gleyber Torres will give our guys fits, but I’m sure George, Altuve and Bregman will return the favor. I fully expect the yankees will come out strong and will try to ambush our pitchers, that’s what they do.
    I’ve worn my Springer jersey ever since the the Rays series, and as I always do I will wear it for every game throughout the post season, yes I’m superstitious! Three of our baseball loving grandsons are coming to see us on Thursday, I hope we can gather around the T.V. and watch an Astros win!
    I fully expect Greinke to be himself tomorrow night. The only advantage I think the yankees have over the Astros is their bullpen…..they really are that good.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This morn’s Chron — on front page — David Barron lets various peeps try to explain how 5.5 Altuve does what he does. It’s worth reading, but full disclosure, they’re as mystified at the end as at the beginning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Love the Abreu inclusion, not a fan of leaving off Straw. I suppose Jake makes him a surfeit fit. Astros like 12 pitchers in a seven game series, makes sense.

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  15. Dear Alex Bregman,
    You are super bright and brilliantly physically talented. My only question to you is, who gave you that? I’m pretty sure you didn’t work it out in the womb. So, the showboating is unnecessary. And I noticed during the TB playoffs, you dialed it down, for whatever reason. And thank you for that. Common sense alone will tell you that when you draw attention, you’ll get it, and all that goes with it. Why incent the opposing team? Even the Rays mentioned the Astros “going for the camera.” I know this will not make me popular. But dude, what you do may not make you popular either. You have everything going for you, and for the Astros. Don’t throw it away by not acknowledging your Maker. It is He who makes us and not we ourselves.

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      • roadthriller, you are so right — AB is not the worst. I guess he’s the one in front of me and on the Astros, and I want both to do well. Maybe I’m talking to him like the son I never had and maybe I shouldn’t. But if I had a young man like that directly in my life, I’d be pouring into him big time, because I would care greatly.

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  16. Lordy…..I’m as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room of rocking chairs.
    I listen to the radio guys in one ear…..and an ear plug in the other ear…….
    I absolutely *despise* Joe Buck, I wonder if he has some incriminating evidence on Manford. I said a little prayer for Greinke this afternoon to stay focused tonight. But….yeah, I’m a little nervous! Good luck guys!

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  17. Not mincing words but our offense (or lack there of) sucks. ZG has pitched fairly well but it makes no difference if we can’t score runs.

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  18. We know our guys are not just happy to be here, but should be on a mission. Honestly guys, I am at a loss as to why we look so flat. If the previous series was that grueling they better put some Red Bull in the Gatorade and get with it on national television in front of a muted home crowd.

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  19. That was a real shame….Greinke looked good, just left up a couple of balls they hit for homeruns…..the kill shot was the error on Springer.

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  20. It amazes me that we were such a big time offense and we get to the playoffs and we fold like a cheap suit. It puts so much pressure on the pitcher when your offense can’t score. Brantley with a hit so just maybe…..

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  21. Not that the Yankees needed any help, but a Rays (coach probably) gave the Yankees the blueprint they had on how to pitch the Astros. They are still steamed about how many runs we got off their pitcher in game 5…..even tho he was tipping his pitches.
    Greinke got a taste of the no run support that Verlander, and Cole have gotten this year.

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  22. Did anybody see that Judge and another player were looking at still photographs in the dugout. When Judge turned and saw the camera looking his way he moved so as to block the camera. The camera quickly moved to another shot and none of the announcers said anything about it.

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  23. To me – today is a must win – we can’t expect this team to win 4 of 5 against the Yanks with 3 on the road.
    The Astros have given away the home field advantage that they rode to the ALCS win in 2017.
    They need to hit so Verlander and Cole can do their thing and win back home field advantage.

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  24. Well we needed 6 plus to win, as I feared. The tired, spent , bad body vibe team I have watched the last 2 weeks, as much as I have loved my stros for 39 years, this isn’t looking good. In 2017 we had that swagger , that It factor, why we won. I see the same thing when I have watched every Yankee playoff game. )_: If we don’t win today , it may be the last game at MM in 2019.

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    • No, Dan, as I replied to roadthriller above, I’m on AB’s case because I care, about him and about the ‘Stros. AB was actually quiet during the TB playoff. I just didn’t want him to do anything during the Yanks playoff. Like I said above, I never had a son, and if I had one like Alex, I’d be giving him all I’ve got because he is a beaut and I want him to be all he is and all he can be. As for John Lennon, it was always obvious to me that he was totally misunderstood. The point Lennon was making was that it was ridiculous for the Beatles to be getting more publicity than Jesus. He knew all along. John and Paul actually first met at a church function. Lennon saw the futility in the media zipline, but it was already too late.

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  25. You either want to win or you don’t….totally up to you. Ya’ll didn’t come all the way to win 107 games to shut up. If they lose tonight…..might as well pack it in, because playing 3 games there, and winning is next to impossible.
    It’s totally up to you.

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  26. Folks – don’t be glum – this is the day when this series turns on a dime. The Astros will score – Verlander will be Verlander and we will head to New York tied up with Cole on deck.

    Liked by 1 person

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