The wildcard games are over and the real test begins now. We gave you our picks for the NLDS series and now we’re back for the ALDS.
Both series should be primed for some runs … of the home run variety. Three of the four teams representing the American League ranked within the top four in home runs hit in 2019. Even the Rays showed us all in the wildcard game that they can swing it with the best of them.
The fireworks get started early on Friday with the Rays traveling to Houston to take on the vaunted Astros, before the Yankees host the Twins for the night game. Plenty to cover with these matchups so let’s dive right in!
Rays @ Astros – October 4, 2019 – FS1
Brendan → Rays
Cue the Gnarls Barkley because I think I’m crazy … but I also think you are too if you don’t give this Rays team a chance. Houston is a power house; it’s not up for debate when a team wins 107 games and locks up the number one seed in the postseason. However, they are not without flaws and in October, the records don’t mean everything. See: 2001 Mariners, who won 116 games.
For starters (no pun intended), Houston has a troubling inability to keep the ball in the yard and they ranked 20th in the MLB in home runs allowed with a whopping 230. Comparatively speaking, Tampa ranks at the top here with 181. After watching this team hit four homers against the A’s in Oakland, it’s not a stretch to say they’re capable of more in a five game series.
Offensively, the run differential clearly favors the Astros, and when it comes to team pitching, both teams are separated by .01 in team ERA and .04 in bullpen ERA – the Rays edge them out ever so slightly in both categories. Now, that was the regular season and while the sample size is great, it does not account for the pressure of playing in the postseason— ask Zack Greinke, the highly touted trade acquisition of the Astros, who hasn’t pitched below a postseason ERA of 5.40 since 2015.
The Rays, on the other hand, are new to the playoffs – there is not much in the way of experience with this team as only Charlie Morton carries significant postseason history – and good history at that. For me, when it comes down to it, these teams are extremely evenly matched, but what might sway the outcome is this Rays bullpen and Kevin Cash’s ability to deploy his relievers in a plethora of high leverage situations. The Astros will be good, but I think this series will come down to the Rays ability to get outs in unique ways, and the Astros’ inability to keep the ball in the yard. I’m taking the hot team, and I’m taking the Rays.
Rays in 4
Joe → Astros
While it is awesome to see a team like the Tampa Bay Rays, who own the league’s lowest payroll advance to the ALDS, I have to be realistic about their expectations against the powerhouse Astros. If the Atheltics had won the Wild Card game, I would be singing a different tune as they have owned the Astros all year. I am certainly not counting the Rays out in this series, they have some serious pieces that can cause an upset. Ex-Astro pitcher, Charlie Morton, knows most of the hitters in the current lineup and that knowledge can come in handy when he is on the mound, giving pointers other starters like Blake Snell and to the bullpen.
I am going to have to give this series to the Astros however, as I believe they have been the best team in the AL all season long. With 2 Cy Young contenders on the team in Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander, not to mention Zack Grienke, they have the ability to rack up the strikeouts and leave the Rays lineup in disarray. Oh yeah, they also have AL MVP candidate in Alex Bregman who put up some MLB The Show type numbers for most of the season. They also boast Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer and rookie sensation Yordan Alvarez.
I like both teams in this series. The inexperience of the Rays may prove invaluable in not overthinking approaches and Kevin Cash may pull a rabbit out of his hat. However, the core of the Astros have been there and done that with them being even more stacked than in 2017 when they won it all, I have to give them the edge here.
I have the Astros winning in 4 games.
Drake → Astros
The Rays have been a great Cinderella team but in the end, every part of the Astros is better. From a stacked rotation of Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, Zack Grienke and Wade Miley to a greatly built lineup with such names as Alex Bregman, Michael Brantley and George Springer. The only part of the Rays that’s better is that power house bullpen. However, the Astros have a ROY candidate in Yordan Alvarez, who in 12 at bats has a .333/.467/.917 with a 1.383 OPS. Bregman has a slashline of .313/.333/.500 with a .833 OPS. That’s just two hitters of their great core of OPS beasts.
This series is going to have a ton of great pitching and will bring some memorable moments, but the underdog Rays will find out real quick how good the Astros are at scouting talent.
Seriously, this is a match of David v. Goliath as the Astros have spent 197 million compared to the Rays 89 million. But the Astros as a team are better built for this playoff run and can compete with the Yankees and Dodgers. They have a great shot of making it to the World Series.
I’m going Astros in 4
Danny → Rays
Something about these Rays is special. They have the talent to go up against anyone and win. They powered their way past the A’s and I can see some magic in them, just like they did in 2008 making it to the World Series.
I’m not saying beating the Astros is going to be easy and by doing so, you need to at least beat one of Cole or Verlander twice in order to advance, but I do think it’s possible they can find a way to steal a game in Houston early.
Rays in 5.
Tommy → Astros
I think the Astros are just too talented here. I mean, who do you pitch to? The starting pitching is so talented on both sides, so I’m not going to give a HEAVY advantage to the ‘stros in this matchup. Not only that, but both bullpens were top three in ERA this season, so there’s no strong advantage there either. So, we turn to the lineups.
That is where Houston has a clear advantage. This lineup is what hitting coaches dream of. Third in runs, third in home runs, first in average. An unbelievable amount of talent and pop in this lineup. Tampa Bay, conversely, not top 10 in any of those stats. Uh oh.
They say good pitching beats good hitting in October. But what happens when both teams have good pitching? Well, good hitting will emerge, and that’s why Houston will have the advantage.
I think Tampa will make this a better series than what most of the analysts are saying. There is always something to be said for a team that doesn’t give up, and we have seen that this year. Four extra inning wins in the last eleven days of the season prove that. Add into that, stealing the Wild Card game on the road. I love chaos, and in this playoffs, this Rays team I think can provide it. Maybe not enough to steal the series, but enough to keep us on the edge of our seats.
*It’s worth noting, Tampa Bay is 24-7 (two of the losses coming against the Astros) when they wear their navy road alternate jersey, versus 18-16 in their traditional road grays. In the words of Deon Sanders, “If you look good, you feel good, If you feel good, you play good, If you play good, they pay good.” If they rock their navy uniforms in game one or two, it may give them that extra chaos boost they need.*
That being said, I still don’t think it will be enough.
Astros in 4
Twins @ Yankees – October 4, 2019 – MLB Network
Brendan → Yankees
The Yankees will look to make a deep run this postseason and are primed to do so, matching up with the Twins right off the bat. This is probably the only team I would take the Yankees because of their pitching. The Yankees lost Domingo German, but gained ace, Luis Severino, while the Twins are going to be without Michael Pineda. Both teams sport great bullpens, but this is a series that could be swayed by the starters and for once, I’ll give the edge to New York.
Game one starters have been announced and you might be leaning towards the Twins and Berrios, but upon further examination it’s been Paxton, not Berrios who’s been riding the hot hand. Paxton enter the postseason as one of the AL’s hottest pitchers. Over his last six starts, he’s pitching to a 1.69 ERA while allowing only 20 hits in that timeframe and 45 strikeouts in 37 innings. Berrios has not had the same success and enters October with a troubling 4.85 ERA, 46 hits allowed, and 23 earned runs over his last 42 innings pitched. This series is likely dependent on game one for either side, so a strong showing will go a long way. In front of the home crowd, I give the edge to Paxton who will pop his postseason cherry Friday night.
A pointless, but interesting statistic to take into account as well: the Yankees are 13-2 all-time against the Twins in the postseason, with both losses coming to Johan Santana in his prime. Furthermore, the Yankees are 87-35 (.713) against the Twins in the regular season since 2002. That is the highest winning percentage any team has against any other team during that time (min. 100 games played). Again, this means little to nothing as the teams are largely different this time around, but New York has been a house of horrors for Minnesota.
The power will be on full display and you probably can’t go wrong betting the over in any of these matchups – both teams combined for 613 homers this year and in their season series alone, they combined for 81 runs in only six games. Minnesota and New York are both extremely reliant on the long ball, and both teams are dealing with key injuries coming into this series, but if Paxton can pitch the way he has been on Friday, the rest of the series looks favorable to New York.
Get the brooms, I’m calling a sweep and Yankees in 3.
Joe → Yankees
The two biggest slugging teams all season long were the Minnesota Twins (306 HR) and New York Yankees (305 HR). They are set to face off in the ALDS. Both teams have not captured their respective division crown in quite a while, and it will be interesting to see if the few days of layoff impacted their teams in any way. As stated before, both teams can hit for massive power and can run up the score on any given night. The Twins are interesting as they do not have a superstar player leading the lineup while it is more done by committee with veteran Nelson Cruz and Eddie Rosario being some of the offensive catalysts.
Meanwhile on the Yankees, being ravaged by injuries all season long, still had a lineup that punished opposing pitchers. The managing by Aaron Boone deserves ultimate praise as he is my pick for AL manager of the year – keeping the team together during the injuries. Now with most of the lineup healthy including: Aaron Judge, Gleybor Torres, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez. The depth of the lineup slightly outmatches the lineup of the Twins for me.
As for the pitching, it will come down to who does not get lit up the most in my opinion. Paxton of the Yankees has been a legitimate ace the second half of the season and the Twins have reliable arm in Jose Berrios, but outside of them it may be tough. Yankees fans were screaming for Cashman to acquire a starting pitcher at the deadline which didn’t happen. However, the Yankees bullpen is deadly even with the injury to Betances and could shut down any team in the league.
I am giving the Yankees the edge in 4 games.
Drake → Twins
The Twins shock the world and beat the powerhouse Yankees,ep I said it!
In terms of power, the Yankees and the Twins are as equal as it gets as Minnesota hit 307 home runs, and the Yankees hit 306. The Twins have a .494 slugging and the Yankees have a .490. So, the Twins have just as much if not more fire power than the Yankees.
The Yankees rotation is better, but the Twins rotation can surprise as they are in great hands with pitchers such as Jake Odarizzi and Jose Berrios. After that is the problem. I can see the Twins doing a bullpen type of game. They have some nice arms in Trevor May and Taylor Rodgers, who definitely can surprise and miss bats when it counts.
The Yankees have the better bullpen as they have a three headed giant in Ottovino, Chapman and Britton, which is a great mix of lefty and righty pitchers. They also have Kahnle and Green who equally are as good as advertised.
The Twins aren’t as stacked as the Yankees in terms of talent, but if they continue to click like they have the entire year, I think the Twins surprise and go on to face the Astros in the ALCS
I’m thinking Twins in 5
Danny → Twins
Pitching in the postseason wins … and who has the better pitching in this series? The Twins. Granted, the twins haven’t been able to beat the Yankees in the postseason in what feels like 100 years – this may finally be their year. The Twins finished the year with a record-setting 307 home runs as a team and maybe the home field disadvantaged will help with that short porch in right field in Yankee Stadium.
Severino needs to be on his game and will likely be the key to the series. He pitched in only a handful of games so far this year and as we saw with Oakland’s Sean Manaea. And while coming back and helping your team is great, doing it against lesser teams in a short span, you will get exposed.
Twins in 4
Tommy → Yankees
No Indians sour grapes here, I promise. Well, okay, maybe a little. But there’s sour grapes on both sides because of Giovanny Urshela and Edwin Encarnacion. Okay, back to the actual analysis.
The Yankees, much like the Astros, are just so strong at the plate. They trot out a lineup that has been through a ton of adversity this season. The first half of the year was essentially the Yankees saying “Look how deep we are, we can put out a AAA lineup and still compete.” And guess what? They did. Now, they are healthy (enough) and ready to make some noise. Do I see ring number 28 in their future? No. But do they have enough to get past Minnesota? I think so.
Minnesota has seemingly overachieved all year. They are fun to watch but it’s felt like we are all waiting for the other shoe to drop. I think October is when the magic slipper finally doesn’t fit. Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi headline this rotation now that Pineda is on the shelf with a PED suspension. Again, I see this being when the magic runs out because they are going to be asked to carry a bigger role on potential short rest.
The Twins bullpen ranked 20th this year in innings pitched. While that is a testament to good starting pitching, you have to wonder if the nearly 100 inning difference in experience will rear its ugly head in this series, as we’ve seen in recent history that these outings quickly become bullpen dependent. The Yankees and the Twins rank ninth and tenth respectively in bullpen ERA, so there isn’t a clear cut difference there. If these turn into bullpen games, I give the edge to the Bronx Bombers from the experience they’ve had this year.
However, if these games stay close, the edge actually goes to Minnesota. The Twins are 23-12 in games decided by one run this year, while the Yankees come in at only 18-19 in those tight matchups.
Ultimately, I don’t see them being close. I see the Yankees jumping on the Twins starters early and often. I think Minnesota gets game 3 at home, but the Yankees will be packing their bags for Houston Tuesday evening.
Yankees in 4.
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