The biggest factor to tip the balance in the Yankees’ favor was Cole’s move to New York. He becomes the bona fide ace they needed, and his absence from the Astros’ rotation will be conspicuous. Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke are a strong duo, and Lance McCullers Jr. can certainly baffle the Yankees bats, but there’s not much certainty beyond that.
The Yankees have a trio of Cole, Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka that can match up against anyone. They’ll be without James Paxton for a few months, but he’s expected to be back in the second half of the season. That quartet may be able to trump any four the Astros could counter with, simply thanks to the quality of the Yankees’ depth.
We know how good the Yankees offense is. Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Gary Sanchez and DJ LeMahieu are the headliners, and a healthy season from Giancarlo Stanton would be a huge boost. The Astros’ depth and lack of injury concerns probably give them the edge here.
But the bullpens are another story. Even though their last appearance saw Jose Altuve launch one off Aroldis Chapman, the Yankees have a clear advantage. Chapman, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle and Chad Green make for a stout group. The Astros have Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly and Joe Smith, but a lot of question marks behind them.
On paper, the Yankees probably have the better team. But that’s on paper. The Astros have had their way with the Bronx Bombers in the postseason since 2015, so any postseason matchup between the two is going to mean more than just what the stats say. It would be another heavyweight bout to be sure, but can the Astros cobble together enough pitching?