MLB Postseason: American League Division Series preview
An in-depth look at the upcoming American League Division Series.
After a couple of Jekyll & Hyde games to start the MLB Postseason, the stage is set. The Boston Red Sox in the American League and the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League have won their Wild Card Games and will advance to the Division Series.
While difficult to predict, the best-of-five series is one of the most exciting in all of sports. It decides who from this field of Elite Eight teams will compete for their respective league’s pennants.
Throughout the MLB Postseason, Our Esquina will provide you with everything you need to know before each series. Today, we’re going to take a deep-dive into the two American League Division Series – Chicago White Sox and the Houston Astros; the Red Sox versus the Tampa Bay Rays.
We begin with the White Sox vs. Astros, two teams led by MLB’s oldest managers: Tony La Russa and Dusty Baker.
Though Houston is considered one of the most analytically sound teams in the majors, their lineup is reminiscent of the Big Red Machine. They hit for average with very few strikeouts, and, if necessary, can swat a big home run like the best of them.
Statistically speaking, here is where the Astros rank offensively. Their 33.9 fWAR is tops in all MLB as is their 116 wRC+, a park adjusted statistic that calculates how good a team is at creating runs. Their 19.4 K% is the lowest in the game as the team relies heavily on solid contact hitting.
One negative about this team is their baserunning. According to FanGraphs, the Astros have -6.2 BsR, which is tied with the Baltimore Orioles for 22nd in MLB. Also, they simply refuse to give up outs by stealing bases. This season, they only swapped 53 bases, fourth worst in baseball.
Like the Astros, the White Sox have one of the most dynamic offenses. Though Houston does have an advantage at the plate, beware of taking the Southsiders’ season stats too lightly. Their lineup suffered plenty of injuries this season and are primed to take on the postseason at full force.
Here’s where they place statistically. Their 23.5 fWAR is the sixth best and 109 wRC+ ranks 3rd in MLB. This is impressive when you consider that the following impact players missed significant time to injuries this season:
- Eloy Jiménez
- Luis Robert
- Yasmani Grandal
Compared to the Astros, the White Sox strikeout a lot. Their 22.8 K% ranks 11th in the game. To put this in perspective, this season Houston struck out 1,222 times while the Sox struck out 1,389 times. That’s a 3% increase overall.
Though definitely not the Houston team of recent past, the Astros do just enough in the pitching department. They don’t have a pitcher in the top 25 fWAR rankings and have recently lost familiar faces like Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, and Charlie Morton to free agency or injury.
However, this does not mean that the team lacks pitching. Statistically speaking, they are still one of the best teams on the mound. Their 16.9 fWAR ranks 9th and 3.78 ERA ranks 7th in MLB.
Most importantly, they do a phenomenal job leaving runners on base. Their 74.4 LOB% is the third best in the game.
While the Astros are arguably the best offensive team in baseball, it can be argued that the White Sox have the best pitching. With a rotation that features Carlos Rodón, Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, and Dylan Cease – all rank top 25 in fWAR – and a bullpen with the likes of Liam Hendriks and Craig Kimbrel, I wouldn’t want to be in the batter’s box against this team.
Statistically, here is where the White Sox rank in MLB. Their 27.1 fWAR ranks 1st and their 3.73 ERA ranks 5th overall. Though they are not as good as the Astros at preventing runs, they’re not bad at it either. Their 74.4 LOB% is the 7th best in baseball.
Prediction: Based on prior postseason experience, The Houston Astros will win the series in five games.
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