HOUSTON - The ALCS matchup everyone anticipated is here. The Houston Astros and the New York Yankees combined to win 210 games and have two of the top three run differentials in baseball.
Both teams can claim to have the best lineup in baseball, as the Yankees scored the most runs and the Astros hit for the highest average.
Here's a breakdown of the four main areas of play, and how the teams stack up:
These are arguably the top two lineups in baseball. The Astros have the most dangerous 1-7 in recent memory. Carlos Correa is the 7 hitter. Let me say that again. CARLOS CORREA, who had a .926 OPS is the *SEVEN* hole hitter.
The Yankees are similarly deep, with power coming from pretty much any spot in the lineup. Dealing with Springer then Brantley then Altuve then Bregman then Yordan then Yuli then Correa is just as tough as D.J. LeMahieu then Aaron Judge then Brett Gardner then Edwin Encarnacion then Giancarlo Stanton then Gleyber Torres then Gary Sanchez. There are no breaks in either lineup.
This is the spot where, at least on paper, the Astros have a clear advantage. It's hard to beat Verlander, Cole and Greinke as a top three. The Yankees have Luis Severino, who only made 3 starts in the regular season coming off an injury and isn't stretched out, behind Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton. Paxton is a dangerous lefty and has been mostly hot throughout the end of the year. Tanaka is volatile. He can either go 7 scoreless or get shelled early. Tanaka has a 1.54 career postseason ERA and has been nails in the playoffs. The Yankees have a wider range of outcomes from their pitching staff than the Astros. Overall, there isn't a starter in this series – and maybe in baseball – better than Gerrit Cole right now.
The Astros' back end hasn't been great throughout the end of the year, aside from Will Harris. Roberto Osuna was shaky in game 2 of the ALDS when brought in for a 4-out save. Ryan Pressly is still coming off that knee surgery and gave up 2 runs in game 1.
Beyond that, the Astros don't have a lot of lockdown guys. The Yankees are built on their bullpen. The idea is to lock up the last 3 innings and they have typically done just that. Aroldis Chapman is one of the best closers in the game, while Adam Ottavino and Zack Britton both pitched to sub-2.00 ERAs this season.
Via Fangraphs, the Astros check in at 4th in DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 10th in overall defense. The Yankees defensive numbers are not quite as strong, with a negative DRS. The Astros grade out positively across the board, including strong contributions from the left side of the infield in Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa. The Yankees have some standouts on defense, like Aaron Judge, but otherwise are closer to league average than standout.
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