Preview: Astros vs. Yankees in the ALCS

After disposing of the Boston Red Sox in four games, the Astros take on the New York Yankees, who defeated the top-seeded Cleveland Indians in five. With home-field advantage, Houston looks to reach the second World Series in franchise history in the American League Championship Series. Here’s a position-by-position breakdown of the matchups in the ALCS!

Catcher

Yankees – Gary Sanchez
Astros – Brian McCann
Advantage: Yankees

McCann is the best catcher that the Astros have had in a long time, maybe since Hall of Famer Craig Biggio. He provides power at the plate and a veteran presence in the dugout. However, every single starter in Houston’s lineup has an OPS+ over 100, and McCann’s 109 is the lowest of the bunch. Sanchez is just 24 years old and is one of the best catchers in the game. He hit 33 home runs, drove in 90 RBIs, and slashed .278/.345/.531 with an OPS+ of 126. In addition to his contributions at the plate, Sanchez is above-average defensively and threw out 38% of base-stealers in 2017.

1st Base

Yankees – Greg Bird
Astros – Yuli Gurriel
Advantage: Astros

Bird missed a lot of time during the regular season with a nagging ankle injury, but when healthy, he hits for power, mashing nine home runs in just 48 games. Gurriel, on the other hand, won’t hit for as much power, but his slash line of .299/.332/.486 far outpaces Bird’s (.190/.288/.422). In addition, Gurriel hit .529 in the ALDS compared to .222 for Bird.

2nd Base

Yankees – Starlin Castro
Astros – Jose Altuve
Advantage: Astros

Castro has not had a bad year at the plate. He slashed .300/.338/.454, and his OPS of .792 was a career-high for the four-time All-Star. He’s just not Jose Altuve. Fresh off what is likely to be an American League MVP season, Altuve hit three home runs in Game 1 of the ALDS and finished the series with a .533 average and an astronomical 1.765 OPS. There is no better player in this series, in the playoffs, in the league than Altuve.

Shortstop

Yankees – Didi Gregorius
Astros – Carlos Correa
Advantage: Astros

Guess which shortstop was 4-17 with two home runs and three runs scored in the ALDS? Trick question—it was both of them. Correa though had the much better regular season and was an MVP candidate before a thumb injury derailed his season. He still finished with a .315/.391/.550 slash line and an OPS+ of 158, just six points behind Altuve’s pace. Gregorius wasn’t bad though; he slashed .287/.318/.478 himself and single-handedly chased likely AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber from the decisive Game 5 in the ALDS.

3rd Base

Yankees – Todd Frazier
Astros – Alex Bregman
Advantage: Astros

Frazier was dreadful in the ALDS; his OPS of .610 would have been ninth on the Astros, he committed two errors, and he was even caught stealing. On the other side though, Bregman also had just four hits, but two of his hits were home runs off Chris Sale, none bigger than his game-tying shot in Game 4. Bregman was better during the regular season, too, hitting 62 points higher than Frazier overall.

Left Field

Yankees – Brett Gardner
Astros – Marwin Gonzalez
Advantage: Astros

As good as Marwin was during the regular season, he struggled at the plate in the ALDS, with an OPS of just .561. And while Gardner is not the player he once was, he was still an above-average hitter (OPS+ of 104) and led the Yankees in steals in 2017. We’ll give Marwin the advantage here on the basis of his spectacular regular season.

Center Fielder

Yankees – Aaron Hicks
Astros – George Springer
Advantage: Astros

Hicks was the most consistent Yankees batter in the ALDS, hitting .316 and slugging .526. And in just 88 games this season, Hicks accumulated 3.9 WAR. Springer though had a career year, hitting 34 homers and driving in 85 RBIs from the leadoff spot. With more playing time, Hicks might just take this from Springer though.

Right Field

Yankees – Aaron Judge
Astros – Josh Reddick
Advantage: Yankees

Reddick was great this year for his new team, but Judge was other-worldly. He’ll win the AL Rookie of the Year easily after finishing second in WAR (behind Altuve) with 8.1, leading the league in OPS+ with 171, and mashing 52 homers. Yes, Judge strikes out a lot and hit .050 (!!!) in the ALDS with 16 K’s, but have you looked at the Crawford Boxes lately?

Bench

Yankees – Chase Headley, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ronald Torreyes
Astros – Evan Gattis, Carlos Beltran, Cameron Maybin, Derek Fisher
Advantage: Astros

Gattis hit .400 in limited appearances in the ALDS, Maybin and Fisher can fly, and Beltran is possibly the best postseason hitter of our lifetimes. Not kidding; for his career, Beltran is slashing .325/.433/.645 in 58 postseason games. On the other side, none of Headley, Ellsbury or Torreyes recorded a hit in the ALDS.

Starting Pitchers

Yankees – Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Sonny Gray
Astros – Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Brad Peacock, Charlie Morton
Advantage: Astros

At the trade deadline, each team made moves to bring in a starting pitcher. The Yankees traded for Gray, the Astros for Verlander. JV has been spectacular in Houston, giving up just seven earned runs in seven appearances, while Gray sports an 8.10 ERA after one postseason start. Keuchel owns the Yankees, with a career 1.24 ERA against the Bronx Bombers.

Relief Pitchers

Yankees – Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle
Astros – Ken Giles, Chris Devenski, Joe Musgrove, Will Harris
Advantage: Yankees

The Yankees have the unquestioned best bullpen in the majors, with five guys with ERA’s under 3.00, and that doesn’t even count closer Chapman, who’s average fastball is 100.6 miles per hour. On the other side, Devenski has fallen off since the All-Star break, Harris isn’t fully healthy, and Giles can’t earn two-inning saves in every game.

Overall

The way to beat this Yankees team is to score off their starters and hold on for dear life, because this bullpen does not give up a lot of runs. The Yankees can mash, and the Crawford Boxes have to look appealing to their right-handed hitters. The Astros though are more talented and deeper as a team, featuring an entire starting lineup of above-average hitters, with OPS+ over 100. In the end, that puts Houston over the top into their second-ever World Series.

Astros in 6.

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