The Astros are built on hitting, and that is why the Yankees can beat them
Remember when the Indians were the best team in the AL and were supposed to steamroll the Yankees in the ALDS? Good times. The Yankees silenced EVERYONE last night and became the tenth team in history to come back and win a five game series after being down 0-2. Up next? The Houston Astros, who beat Chris Sale twice in the ALDS against the Red Sox, and ultimately closed it out in four games. They will be tough. However, they are a much different team than the Indians…and that might be what gives the Yankees an edge for the ALCS.
Let me preface this by saying that no, I’m not insane. The Astros are a very good baseball team, with a deadly 1-2 punch in their rotation and a scary good lineup. They had Brian McCann batting ninth in the ALDS! Beating them is not going to be easy. However, the Yankees just beat the Indians, a team that was built on pitching and was the World Series favorite. The Astros, meanwhile, are a team built on hitting, and less pitching. The Indians led baseball with a 3.30 team ERA. The Astros ranked 11th with a 4.12 team ERA. If the Yankees can hit enough to beat the Indians, they surely can hit enough to beat the Astros.
Let’s take a look at the Astros pitching. It was already announced that Dallas Keuchel will start Game 1 of the ALCS, and Justin Verlander will start Game 2. Neither of these guys is a picnic, especially Keuchel, who’s history against the Yankees is very well known, but they are far from unbeatable. Remember when Kluber was the Yankees’ kryptonite and they had no chance to beat him? The same applies to Keuchel. He did have a solid start against the Red Sox in the ALDS (5.2 IP, 1 R, 3 H, 3 BB, 7 K), but at the same time, he has not really been himself since he was activated off the DL at the end of July. Take a look:
Before injury (up until June 2nd): 9-0, 1.67 ERA (3.12 FIP), 8.21 K/9, 2.14 BB/9, 0.71 HR/9, 67.4% ground ball rate, .222 BABIP
After injury (July 28th and on): 5-5, 4.24 ERA (4.51 FIP), 7.20 K/9, 3.73 BB/9, 1.16 HR/9, 66.4% ground ball rate, .286 BABIP
Now that is a beatable pitcher. His ground ball rates are pretty much the same, but his walk rate has skyrocketed, his strikeout rate has decreased, and his home run rate has increased. He’s been decent, but just not really the Dallas Keuchel that knocked the Yankees out of the 2015 Wild Card game and won the 2015 Cy Young award. The Yankees can beat him.
Okay, now for Verlander. The Yankees have not faced him in a while, but some of the mainstays in the lineup have good numbers against him. Take a look:
Most of these guys will be in the lineup facing Verlander as well. Of course, the debate on whether Ellsbury, Holliday or Headley should be DH has been going on for some time now, but you really can’t go wrong with Headley or Holliday here. As for Verlander himself, he’s been lights out since joining the Astros, but at the same time, he’s not unbeatable. He looked human in both ALDS appearances against the Red Sox:
Game 1: 6 IP, 2 R, 6 H, 2 BB, 3 K
Game 4 (relief): 2.2 IP, 1 R, 1 H, 2 BB, 0 K, 1 HR
That’s good! But not great, especially since he somehow has only struck out three batters in 8.2 innings. Again, Verlander can be beaten. The Yankees can do it.
This might just be my insane opinion, but the rest of the Astros' pitching staff does not scare me at all. They'll need at least two more starters in this series, such as Lance McCullers and Brad Peacock, and neither of them have been great. McCullers has dealt with injury problems all year, and has been awful since the All-Star break. In 27.1 innings, he's given up 25 runs, 37 hits, and 13 walks. That's a 1.83 WHIP, which is, uh, not good at all. His strikeout rate has remained the same (8.56 K/9), and his home run rate was incredibly low (0.66/9), but batters had a whopping .402 BABIP against him. There's a reason Peacock started Game 3 of the ALDS, and McCullers came out of the bullpen. He's been much more hittable the last couple of months.
As for the bullpen, the Astros have some big names, but none of which are too scary. Chris Devenski and Ken Giles stand out, but overall the Houston bullpen has been average. They ranked 17th in MLB with a 4.27 bullpen ERA, and gave up the 11th most home runs with 77. For a team like the Yankees who lives and dies by the home run, this is a positive sign.
Overall, I don't expect the Yankees to go out and score ten runs a game and sweep the series. That would be insane. However, I do think they have much more of a chance against this Astros club than most people will give them credit for. The Astros can hit, don't get me wrong. They can flat out destroy the ball. But the Yankees can match them, and with the bullpen being as lights out as it has been so far this postseason, they have a real shot at making it to the World Series.
Article by: Alex WeirFollow @waelierx