Preview: Astros vs. Red Sox in the ALDS

The season starts now.

After 101 wins since April, the Houston Astros body of work the last six months come down to one frenzied month of baseball. The first team to win 11 games takes home the World Series title, and the Astros are among the favorites after amassing the third-best record in MLB during the regular season.

In the visitor’s dugout to open the American League Divisional Series at Minute Maid Park are the Boston Red Sox, who won the American League East with a record of 93-69. They clinched the division on the second to last day of the season and enter the postseason after having lost five of their last seven games.

We’ll go position-by-position and compare and contrast each team.

Catcher

Red Sox: Christian Vazquez
Astros: Brian McCann
Advantage: Astros

While Vazquez is a better catcher defensively, neither he nor Sandy Leon present much of a threat as a hitter, nowhere near the caliber of McCann. The pair of Boston catchers combined for 12 home runs and 71 RBIs on the season; McCann hit 18 homers, drove in 62 RBIs and had an OPS+ of 109, in just 50 more at-bats than Vazquez alone. McCann’s leadership qualities certainly help as well, especially in an Astros clubhouse where the core does not have much postseason experience.

1st Base

Red Sox: Mitch Moreland
Astros: Yuli Gurriel
Advantage: Astros

Despite some growing pains in his transition to first base, Gurriel has adjusted well to MLB at the plate and slashed .299/.332/.486 with an OPS+ of 124 in his first full season in the U.S. Moreland, on the other hand, struck out nearly twice as many times as Yuli (120 to 62) with an OPS+ of 99. Advantage, Astros.

2nd Base

Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia
Astros: Jose Altuve
Advantage: Astros

The 2008 AL MVP vs. the likely 2017 AL MVP. At least this season though, the only category where Pedroia has a leg up on Altuve is height, 5’9″ vs. 5’6″. Altuve continues to improve every year and is as tough an out as ever, both at the plate and on the basepaths.

Shortstop

Red Sox: Xander Bogaerts
Astros: Carlos Correa
Advantage: Astros

We truly are in a golden age of shortstop talent. Bogaerts is 24, Correa is 22, and the pair are just two of at least 10 high-ceiling young shortstops scattered throughout the majors. But based on this season alone, Correa is the clear winner in this category. Don’t get me wrong, Bogaerts had a good season, batting .273 and scoring 94 runs. Correa though played 39 fewer games and had more total bases (232) with a higher average (.315) and higher OPS+ (158). Correa was in the middle of the MVP discussion before his untimely injury caused him to miss six weeks.

3rd Base

Red Sox: Rafael Devers
Astros: Alex Bregman
Advantage: Astros

Devers burst onto the scene in late July and has provided stability to Boston’s revolving door at third base. His bat cooled off a bit in late August, but he closed the season out hitting .277 in September and is expected to contribute in the postseason. Bregman on the other hand began the season ice cold but heated up as the season wore on, slashing .329/.413/.608 in July and .345/.395/.584 in August. Both players are young to say the least, but Bregman had the better overall season and is streaking at the right time.

Left Field

Red Sox: Andrew Benintendi
Astros: Marwin Gonzalez
Advantage: Red Sox

By advanced metrics, Marwin has been one of the best hitters in baseball this season. By more advanced metrics, Marwin is a liability in the outfield, contributing -0.4 dWAR this season. The basic batting numbers indicate that Benintendi’s offensive season was not far behind Marwin’s (.352 OBP vs. .377, 20 HRs vs. 23, 90 RBIs vs. 93), although Marwin’s OPS+ of 149 dwarfs Benintendi’s 103. Benintendi’s value in the outfield tilts this matchup in the Red Sox’s favor.

Center Field

Red Sox: Jackie Bradley, Jr.
Astros: George Springer
Advantage: Astros

What a season George Springer had. From opening the season with a leadoff home run to putting the nail in the Arlington Rangers’ coffin with a grand slam in the season’s last week, Springer has had a career year. Remarkably, his OPS+ of 144 fourth on the team, but his 34 home runs were 10 more than his closest teammates. His positive attitude is the pulse of this team. While Bradley is a better defensive player by any measure, Springer’s value at the plate easily puts him over the top.

Right Field

Red Sox: Mookie Betts
Astros: Josh Reddick
Advantage: Red Sox

Reddick has been spectacular for the Astros this season, posting career highs in almost all hitting categories, including batting average (.314), OBP (.363), slugging percentage (.484), and OPS+ (134). Betts simply is a better player, with a WAR two full points above Reddick. Betts led Boston in home runs (24), RBIs (102), stolen bases (26) and dWAR (2.3). He’s a complete player and the best position player on the Red Sox.

Bench

Red Sox:Eduardo Núñez, Sandy Leon, Chris Young, Brock Holt
Astros: Evan Gattis, Carlos Beltran, Cameron Maybin, Derek Fisher
Advantage: Astros

Even after being named an All-Star last year, Núñez is having a career year, and his numbers have only improved since the Red Sox acquired him. Holt is a poor man’s Marwin Gonzalez, a sentence which would have been inverted before this season. Gattis is the most accomplished hitter on either team’s bench. Maybin and Fisher can fly on the basepaths, and keep an eye on Tyler White as a pinch hitter if he makes the team. He’s slugging .525 since being called up in September.

Starting Pitchers

Red Sox: Chris Sale, Drew Pomeranz, Doug Fister, Eduardo Rodriguez
Astros: Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Brad Peacock, Charlie Morton
Advantage: Astros

This one is pretty close; Verlander vs. Sale is a push, and Keuchel and Pomeranz are pretty even as well. Peacock has been spectacular this season, though Fister has been great as of late. So coming down to the fourth starter, Morton’s numbers overall are better than Rodriguez’s, from FIP (3.46 vs. 3.97) to WHIP (1.193 vs. 1.282).

Bullpen

Red Sox: Craig Kimbrell, Joe Kelly, David Price, Fernando Abad
Astros: Ken Giles, Chris Devenski, Will Harris, Joe Musgrove
Advantage: Red Sox

Devenski has been phenomenal this season, Giles is underrated, and Musgrove has an ERA of 1.44 since moving to the bullpen. But Kimbrell is one of the two best closers in the game, Price has been just as good as Musgrove since moving to the bullpen, and Abad, the former Astros farmhand, is the lefty-specialist that Houston desperately needs.

Overall

This Astros team is good, y’all. It’s not like the Red Sox are bad, but the Astros are really, really good. They have three of the top ten position players in the AL in OPS+ as well as two of the top 10 pitchers in the AL in WAR. I expect the Astros to win this series based on their talent and recent form.

Astros in 4.

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