ASTROS vs. YANKEES
American League Championship Series
It’s not the ALCS matchup we expected – not in May when the Astros went to Cleveland, and certainly not when the postseason started – but it is the matchup we wanted. Although it looked for all the world that the Astros and Indians were on an ALCS collision course, the Yankees made a dramatic 0-2 comeback to take their series. Not only is the matchup better for the Astros (on paper, at least), it gives them home field advantage.
Despite the 10-win discrepancy in the regular season, and the fact that the Astros went 5-2 against New York this year, this series won’t be a layup for the Astros. And despite bouncing baseball’s hottest team down the stretch, the Yankees face a tough challenge as well.
Team ERA: Houston 4.12 (11th), New York 3.72 (5th)
Starter ERA: Houston 4.03 (6th), New York 3.98 (5th)
Bullpen ERA: Houston 4.27 (17th), New York 3.34 (3rd)
Quality starts: Houston 67 (18th), New York 75 (10th)
K/9: Houston 9.91 (2nd), New York 9.69 (3rd)
BAA: Houston .240 (6th), New York .228 (T-1st)
OPS against: Houston .720 (9th), New York .680 (3rd)
Postseason ERA: Houston 4.63, New York 3.21
Let’s not bury the lede here: the Yankees have some scary-good pitching. It’s been that way in the postseason as well, and it largely starts with the work they’ve gotten in relief. Aroldis Chapman, Tommy Kahnle, Jaime Garcia, David Robertson, and Dellin Betances combined for a 0.71 ERA and 37 K’s against a Cleveland offense that was hardly incompetent.
The starting rotation hasn’t been as good in October, Masahiro Tanaka’s seven shutout innings in Game 3 notwithstanding. Luis Severino barely got his uniform on before hitting the showers in the Wild Card game, although his ALDS start was much better (7 IP, 3 ER). CC Sabathia had two good, if somewhat abbreviated, starts against the Indians. Sonny Gray gave up three runs and four walks in 3.1 innings.
As we know, the Astros’ postseason ERA is thrown off kilter by the 10-3 loss in Game 3. Also, in the regular season, the Astros’ 5.52 ERA against the Yankees was their worst against any team in 2017. Most of the offenders for that are probably not going to be on the ALCS roster (Feliz, Diaz, Hoyt, Sipp, and Guduan all had ERAs over 6) so there’s that, but shaky outings by Morton and Devenski, and a real stinker by Harris, shouldn’t be overlooked either.
Then again, the Yankees’ 5.75 ERA and .822 OPS allowed against the Astros in 2017 were also their worst against any opponent in 2017.
Runs scored: Houston 896 (1st), New York 858 (2nd)
Home runs: Houston 238 (2nd), New York 241 (1st)
Extra-base hits: Houston 604 (1st), New York 530 (8th)
Batting average: Houston .282 (1st), New York .262 (7th)
OBP: Houston .346 (1st), New York .339 (T-2nd)
Strikeouts: Houston 1,087 (1st), New York 1,386 (19th)
Stolen bases: Houston 98 in 140 tries (70%; 23rd), New York 90 in 112 tries (80.36%; 1st)
GIDP: Houston 139 (T-24th), New York 119 (10th)
Postseason slash line: Houston .333/.402/.571, New York .213/.302/.391
The Yankees and Astros were the top two MLB teams in runs scored and home runs, and the same can be said of the postseason. I was kind of surprised to see the huge disparity in the postseason slash lines, but the Astros have more hits, more doubles, more triples, and nearly as many runs and home runs in 60 fewer ABs. Aaron Judge went 1×20 with 16 K’s in the ALDS and was almost a complete non-factor in the series. Aaron Hicks (.316) led the Yankees in batting while Didi Gregorious (.435, .588) led the team in on-base and slugging.
We’re about to find out how much of a factor Cleveland’s pitching was.
Statistically speaking, the Astros and Yankees were fairly comparable in the number of errors committed in 2017. The typical outfield of Gardner in LF, Hicks/Ellsbury in CF, and Judge in RF combined for 20 outfield assists.
Gary Sanchez tied for both the most passed balls (16) and most errors as a catcher (13) in MLB. He did throw out 38% of runners, though, which puts him in the top 10.
This has the potential to be a very hard-fought series. The Astros knocked around some great pitchers to get to the ALCS and have had significant success against the Yankees this year, even in New York with Aura and Mystique working the pole. The Yankees got past the best pitching staff in the league while also keeping a potent offense at bay. Whoever wins this series will have earned it.
ALCS GAME 1
Friday, October 13, 7:08pm CDT – Minute Maid Park
Masahiro Tanaka (1-0, 0.00) vs. Dallas Keuchel (1-0, 1.59)
It’s a rematch of the 2015 Wild Card game, just in a different venue.
This is Tanaka’s second postseason, and in his only October start this year he held the Indians scoreless for seven innings in Game 3. Tanaka’s 2017 season was the worst of his MLB career, going 13-12 with a 4.74 ERA. He set a new career high for home runs allowed (35) despite also setting a career high in strikeouts. In mid-June he had a 6.34 ERA, but a solid summer whittled it down to 4.54 by early September. That last month was feast or famine: in five starts he allowed 17 earned runs, and 14 of them came in just two starts.
No team has hit Tanaka harder than the Astros and it’s not even close. In four career regular season starts he is 0-2 with a 10.38 ERA; his next worst ERA against another club is a full four runs lower. Houston’s .381 OBP and .753 slugging percentage against him are also the best any team has done against him. This was certainly borne out earlier this year in the Jeter Jerkoff, when Tanaka couldn’t finish the 2nd inning while the Astros went yard on him four times, including a granny by Bregman.
Keuchel, on the other hand, has had a ton of success against the Yankees. In six starts against them he is 4-2 with a 1.41 ERA – his best against any team he has faced more than twice in his career – and Yankee hitters have managed just a .452 OPS against him. As we know, Keuchel blanked the Yanks in their house in the 2015 Wild Card game, and this year allowed just one unearned run over six innings in the same game that this happened.
Select pitcher/batter matchups:
Correa vs. Tanaka: 10 AB, .500/.545/1.100
Springer vs Tanaka: 9 AB, .444/.545/1.111
Altuve vs. Tanaka: 11 AB, .364/.364/.727
Maybin vs. Tanaka: 8 AB, 0-fer
Headley vs. Keuchel: 22 AB, .273/.273/.455
Gregorius vs. Keuchel: 10 AB, .200/.200/.300
Hicks vs. Keuchel: 11 AB, .182/.357/.455
Castro vs. Keuchel: 14 AB, .143/.143/.214
Ellsbury vs. Keuchel: 16 AB, .125/.176/.125