The Houston Astros are on another hot streak. They’ve won eight games in a row as of this writing and have no indications of slowing down.
After taking seven of nine games from both New York teams, the teams that had the best records in baseball at the time, the Astros are now on an easy streak, arguably for the rest of the year. The same can not be said for their top-seeded counterparts from the Bronx.
The Houston Astros will overtake the New York Yankees in the standings by year’s end due to the strength of schedule they both face.
The Houston Astros showed in New York that their record was not a product of playing against subpar competition. The Astros play in a division where everyone is under .500 except for them, the only division in baseball with a solitary team over .500.
Before the series against the Mets and Yankees the Astros had beaten good teams in a stretch that included sweeping the Minnesota Twins and taking two of three from the Cleveland Guardians. But they had struggled in their games against the AL East, losing four of six to the Blue Jays and two of three to the Red Sox.
The wins against the top two teams record-wise in the MLB proved they are not just feasting on weak opposition but can play against tough competition and win.
Now, the Astros have an incredibly easy strength of schedule record-wise to close out the year. And while the Yankees still are on pace for 117 wins as of this writing, the Astros are on pace for 106. But that’s only going by current win percentage.
With what the Yankees are facing, having so many tough teams within their division, the inverse of the AL West where all but one team is over .500, and with a moderate 4.5 game lead on the Astros, it’s looking like the team that will be the one seed heading into October will be the Astros. Here is strength of schedule for the remainder of the season as of today, July 6th.
Astros: 24 games against over .500 teams. 58 against under .500 teams.
New York Yankees: 48 games against over .500 teams. 33 against under .500 teams.
The Yankees have double the amount of games against over .500 teams as the Astros do. Not only that, the Astros don’t really have any tough stretches over the second half of the year. The most challenging looks to be a 10 game stretch August 15th-25th where they play four in Chicago against the White Sox, three in Atlanta against the Braves and three at home against the Twins.
The White Sox are hovering around .500 but are still under that mark, though they could come out of their year-long slumber especially if they get healthy. If that happens, it would make that the only stretch where the Astros have more than back-to-back series against above .500 teams the rest of the way.
The Yankees, meanwhile, have two separate stretches of over 12 games against plus .500 teams: a 12 game stretch from August 12th-23rd, and then a 15 game stretch September 2nd-18th.
Those long stretches against good competition can wear out even the best teams when it’s constantly that upper echelon of talent you’re competing against.
Granted, the Yankees have gone 26-13 against teams over .500 in the first half. But they’ve played 42 games against under .500 teams, so they’ve actually faced more sub .500 teams than plus .500 teams. That’s about to get turned on its head for the rest of the season with their aforementioned 48 games against over .500 to 33 against under .500.
The Astros, on the flip side, are 15-9 against over .500 teams which shows they haven’t had trouble with big competition. But they won’t need to as, again, their schedule is weak.
This is not an indictment of the Yankees talent; they obviously are a great team. But considering the Astros are equally talented and have half the games the Yankees do against top tier talent, a 4.5 game lead is not by any means insurmountable.
At this time last year, the Yankees were 10.5 games back of the Red Sox. They ended the season tied for a wild card spot while the Rays, who were 4.5 behind the Red Sox on July 5th of 2021, ended up winning the division by eight games.
Suffice to say it’s a long season. Despite the Yankees historic start, their tough division and upcoming schedule combined with the Astros weak division and 4.5 game deficit for best record in the league makes it almost seem like a foregone conclusion that the Astros will pass the Yankees and hold home field advantage throughout the playoffs come October.