Let’s just say that the Astros are not exactly the favorite in the American League per one famous voice.
When you read the title, you probably figured out who I was talking about. That’s right, Chris “Mad Dog” Russo comes out on High Heat and claims the Yankees are the team to beat in the AL. Meanwhile, he says the Astros won’t be happy about this.
While he is known for his bold takes and talking loud and quick, it doesn’t mean he’s always right. He who speaks the loudest gets the attention, right? On the other hand, people could also look at that person and ask why does he have to scream?
Well, his logic is that the Yankees have added Giancarlo Stanton to the team. No disrespect to Stanton, but I do believe the Astros handled the Yankees last year. I know, the Astros lost three straight games at Yankee Stadium. But look at it the other way, the Astros took a commanding 2-0 lead, then won the two most important games. That would be the last two games to advance to the World Series.
Hey look, Justin Verlander just made Todd Frazier look like a fool again with that pitch.
I would proclaim that the Yankees won Game 3 only on back luck with Charlie Morton on the mound. Frazier did hit that homer that barely cleared the wall and Cameron Maybin made a boneheaded attempt on a ball in left field. The Yanks beat the bad luck “Ground Chuck” that day, but he owned them in Game 7 of the ALCS.
The Yankees won Game 4 behind Ken Giles and a bullpen implosion but were held scoreless until the seventh inning by Lance McCullers. I’ll give the Yanks credit for that win because they went through the best the Astros bullpen had to offer. The team morale of the club was down after blowing the game late.
Then it happened, the Yankees finally got to Dallas Keuchel. The Yankees went on to win 5-0 behind the dominant Masahiro Tanaka and bullpen. While the Astros had lost three in the row, they had the home field advantage. The Astros came back to Houston to dominate the Yankees 7-1 and 4-0 behind Verlander and Morton.
Back to Russo.
“The Yankees have a good enough starting pitching, not dominant, but good enough.”
Okay, the Astros win that battle before they added Gerrit Cole. The best thing is that we really don’t know how good Cole can be under the tutelage of Brent Strom and Verlander. Look how much better Verlander was after coming to Houston.
Unfortunately, I am going on a brief vacation so I don’t have time to go into in-depth comparisons of the team. So let’s just line up the names for now and compare the projected WAR via Fangraphs. The order is based off the MLB.com team depth charts.
Verlander (4.1 WAR) versus Luis Severino (4.8 WAR)
While Severino is projected to have a higher WAR, you can’t discount Verlander’s it factor. The emerging ace wins this round. But if it is a big-time game, I’ll trust Verlander.
Keuchel (3.4 WAR) versus Tanaka (3.5 WAR)
This is a close comparison of the projected WAR between these two pitchers. Tanaka narrowly wins this round, but should
Cole versus (4.3 WAR) Sonny Gray (2.9 WAR)
While Keuchel versus Tanaka was close, Cole versus Gray is a landslide win for the Astros. The key here for the Astros is that there too three pitchers were opening day starters last season. Raise your hand if you thought Cole would have a higher WAR than Verlander.
McCullers (3.6 WAR) versus C.C. Sabathia (1.8 WAR)
While Sabathia has his moments, especially against the Astros, he is an aging veteran. McCullers needs to prove he can stay healthy, but when he is on, he can be dominating. Many think that McCullers is better as a reliever, but he has a bulldog personality as to wanting to be a starter.
Morton (3.0 WAR) versus Jordan Montgomery (3.4 WAR)
This is a crapshoot here. Montgomery does have a high upside, and Morton may have peaked in the playoffs in 2017. Morton was a reclamation project for Jeff Luhnow, but he showed the power and breaking pitches of a solid backend starter. On some teams, he could be the third starter.
With spring training starting today, it is too early to proclaim favorites. Once the season begins, we will get a better feel for things. There are also many unknowns at this point of the season, who knew Judge would be that MVP candidate he was.
When the end of November comes, we will know who the top dog is. Until then Astros fans, let’s watch this historically good offense and pitching get us to October again.
***Stats from Baseball-Reference anecdotes Fangraphs***