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Yankees 2018 Potential Playoff Opponent: Houston Astros

Could we see a Yankees-Astros ALCS rematch?

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Houston Astros Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees have their work cut out for them. Looking way ahead in the postseason, there is the possibility that we’ll see the Yankees and Astros battle it out in the ALCS again. However, they’d have to beat the Athletics in the Wild Card Game first. They would then be faced with the difficult task of defeating the Red Sox in the ALDS. Of course, the Astros would need to conquer Cleveland to meet the Yankees. If the stars aligned, we could see a Yankees-Astros rematch. Do the Bombers stack up any better against Houston this year?

The Rotation

2018 Yankees: 840 IP, 9.16 K/9, 2.79 BB/9, 4.02 ERA (3.84 FIP)
2018 Astros: 930.1 IP, 10.41 K/9, 2.82 BB/9, 3.19 ERA (3.28 FIP)

Well, this isn’t what you want. It’s no secret that the Yankees’ rotation has been the real weakness of this team. After Jordan Montgomery’s injury, they were forced to run the struggling Domingo German and Sonny Gray out there for 30 or so starts. Even the starters who have had decent seasons, like CC Sabathia, have failed to take the team deep into games. That is abundantly clear in a head-to-head comparison.

We’re still waiting to hear who will start the Wild Card Game, but the postseason rotation would presumably consist of Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, and Sabathia. It has potential, but it’s not as good as the Astros. Whether Sevy has returned to first-half form remains to be seen. Tanaka absolutely dominated in the postseason last year, but he’s so homer prone. Happ has been a beacon of light since he joined the team, but fellow southpaw Sabathia has not appeared to have much left in the tank over his last few starts.

Meanwhile, the Astros have Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Dallas Keuchel. Those three are workhorses. Verlander owned the Yankees in the playoffs last year, and owns a 2.60 ERA and 0.91 WHIP this season. The Bombers managed just one run and eight hits off him through 14.2 innings earlier in the year. Houston is apparently where pitchers go to bounce back into the best form of their careers, as Cole is putting together a great season too (12.60 K/9, .195 BAA). The one real positive is that Keuchel hasn’t been quite as sharp this season, and the Yankees got to him both times they faced him at the beginning of the year.

Advantage: Astros

The Bullpen

2018 Yankees: 564.1 IP, 11.31 K/9, 3.35 BB/9, 3.37 ERA, 3.30 FIP
2018 Astros: 472.2 IP, 10.68 K/9, 2.46 BB/9, 3.05 ERA, 3.12 FIP

The Yankees have arguably the best bullpen in baseball. Between Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, David Robertson and Zach Britton, they have four relievers who could close for any team out there. They’ve had the luxury of using Chad Green and Jonathan Holder as middle relievers, and they’ve had fine seasons. The bullpen gets a little bit shaky beyond them, with Tommy Kahnle failing to find last year’s success, and A.J. Cole falling off a cliff here lately.

On the other hand, Houston’s bullpen has been really good. They’ve had to turn to them far less than the Bombers thanks to their staff. Roberto Osuna has been 10/10 in save opportunities since joining the Astros. Their set-up man, Hector Rondon, has put together an awful September (7.1 IP, 9 ER), but they have the depth to fill others in his spot and be just fine without him. Ryan Pressly, Will Harris, and veteran Joe Smith round out their solid bullpen.

Advantage: Push

The Lineup

2018 Yankees: .248/.328/.447, 252 HR, 10.0 BB%, 22.5 K%, 109 wRC+
2018 Astros: .257/.331/.429, 198 HR, 9.2 BB%, 19.4 K%, 112 wRC+

When the offense is firing on all cylinders, they’re hard to beat. However, that hasn’t been the case for most of the season. They’ve dealt with extensive injuries to Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres, and Didi Gregorius, just to name a few. Just when everyone seemed to be healthy, Torres was scratched from yesterday’s game, Gregorius is dealing with torn cartilage in his wrist, and Aaron Hicks has a tight hamstring. This team has hit a heck of a lot of home runs, but the offense has its weaknesses. They have struggled with runners in scoring position so often that we even pondered whether the Athletics could win the Wild Card Game if they did nothing but load the bases. The good news is that they’re only ever a couple of home runs from getting right back in the game.

Then there’s the Astros. Houston’s lineup was so unbelievable last year that it was bound to come down to earth. Even with down performances from Carlos Correa, Josh Reddick, George Springer, and most of their lineup, the Astros have amassed 112 wRC+ and still have the best offense in baseball. Alex Bregman has been stupid good (7.4 fWAR), and Jose Altuve has been solid as ever. They may not be as much of a power threat as the Yankees, but their offense gets the job done regardless.

Advantage: Astros

If we do end up with a 2017 ALCS rematch, the Astros appear to have the edge. When the Yankees are rolling though, they’re unbeatable. We have to assume that is the case if they happen to get through the Athletics and Red Sox. It should be a great series if they happen to make it this far.