BERGEN COUNTY, NEW JERSEY- The New York Yankees, with well-documented (through recent years) starting pitching needs, did not get themselves a starting pitcher at the 2019 trade deadline. The Houston Astros, already having a better team pitching staff than the Yankees, did. In fact, the Astros traded for:
SP Aaron Sanchez and RP Joe Biagini (and minor league outfielder Cal Stevenson): for outfielder Derek Fisher
SP Zack Greinke: for 4 prospects: first baseman/outfielder Seth Beer, right-handed pitcher J.B. Bukauskas, right-handed pitcher Corbin Martin, and infielder/outfielder Joshua Rojas
If all goes according to plan, the Yankees and the Astros are headed on a collision course for the American League Championship series this fall. To address the team pitching dynamics between the Yankees and Astros, I narrowed down the three most important statistics to winning games: earned-run average, batting average against, and runs allowed per game. My table shows that, if the season ended today, the Astros have the advantage over the Yankees in all three categories.
The most prominent argument among Yankees fans is that ‘sure, the Astros might have a better rotation, but the Yankees have a far superior bullpen’. I examined that next, isolating team relief pitching, and using the same three categories (ERA, BAA, and runs allowed per outing). If the season ended today, the Astros have the advantage over the Yankees in all three categories.
To further punctuate their Major League Baseball pitching dominance, the Astros, in Sanchez’s debut, pieced together a combined no-hitter Saturday night. Sanchez (6 IP), Will Harris (1 IP), Biagini (1 IP), and Chris Devenski (1 IP) combined for eight strikeouts, four walks, zero earned runs, and zero hits. Two of the arms that Houston traded for at the deadline played a role.
— Houston Astros (@astros) August 4, 2019
“The Bronx Bombers”
‘Okay’, says the Yankee fan, ‘they’re called the ‘Bronx Bombers’ for a reason. New York has a much better offense than Houston!’ I’ve narrowed down the seven most important batting categories (batting average, runs per nine innings, on-base percentage, on-base-plus-slugging percentage, home runs per nine innings, RBI per nine innings, and total bases per nine innings). From here, I input the Yankees’ current statistics through the Saturday night game of the Boston Red Sox series (110 games). With the help of a trusty calculator, I began crunching numbers. If the season ended Saturday night, the Astros would lead the Yankees in four of the seven offensive categories: batting average, on-base percentage, on-base plus slugging percentage, and total bases per nine innings. New York would lead Houston in, per nine innings: runs, home runs, and runs-batted-in. Let the arguments commence over which offensive categories are most important to a win…
‘But the Yankees have had such key injuries to their main players,’ says the Yankee fan. That’s true. There are fifteen Yankees currently on the Injured List and, when looking at the talent on that list (Luis Severino, Giancarlo Stanton, Dellin Betances, Miguel Andujar, Gary Sanchez, etc.), it’s incredible that they’re still eight games up in the AL East on the second-place Tampa Bay Rays.
…But the Yankees need help in the pitching department. In a way, when Severino and Betances come back to the Bronx, it would be, theoretically, like gaining two arms around the trade deadline. Severino has yet to pitch in the 2019 season due to shoulder and lat issues. Betances also has yet to pitch in the 2019 season due to ongoing shoulder issues. New York’s hope is that both the starter and the reliever come back at full-strength in time for a deep playoff run, but for now, the team has been surviving without them.
Not to that degree, but the Astros have also been battling injuries to their key players. Of Houston’s 112 games, here are the games played totals for their key players:
- Jose Altuve: 76 (left hamstring strain and ‘fatigue and soreness’ in surgically repaired right knee)
- Carlos Correa: 58 (cracked rib)
- George Springer: 79 (Grade 2 strain of left hamstring)
- Aledmys Diaz: 38 (hamstring strain and re-aggravation of it)
The baseball nerds say that should there be a New York and Houston showdown in the ALCS, the Yankees will find it to be an uphill battle. Will the Yankees be able to top the Astros and compete for their 28th World Series Championship? That’s why you play the game.