Using BaseballReference’s playoff odds tool to evaluate the likeliest ways that the Astros can get to the World Series in 2022.
The home stretch of the regular season draws nearer by the day, which means that every team in the big leagues is looking toward the future in some way or another. For rebuilders, this time of year usually means taking stock of their prospect pool and looking ahead to next season. For contenders such as the Houston Astros, though, this is when the focus shifts ahead to October – and hopefully November.
The schedule for the 2022 postseason was released earlier this week and with that, a growing number of Astros fans are starting to brush off their losses (such as the recent late ones against the White Sox) in light of postseason success being the more urgent goal.
A season ago, BaseballReference released a revamped playoff odds page that accounts for factors such as strength of schedule to estimate each team’s record at the end of the year, their chances at advancing through each round of the postseason, and the likeliest arrangement of the individual playoff seeds. With 6 weeks remaining until the regular season ends, let’s take a look at where the number-one-seed Astros stand.
Houston’s current 75-43 record is the best in the American League by 2.5 games, and BaseballReference has it staying that way. Their system projects that the Astros will go 26-18 in their remaining games and finish with 101 wins. It estimates that the slumping Yankees will pick it up and make it a close race in September, but come up just short of the top seed and finish with 100 wins.
Determining the Astros’ opponent in the ALDS is a bit trickier. The entire wild card race is in limbo at the moment, with the Mariners, Rays, Blue Jays, and Orioles separated by just a few games. As well, the top 3 teams in the AL Central are separated by just a single game. However, the current odds have the Chicago White Sox winning the division in a photo finish, with both the Cleveland Guardians and Minnesota Twins missing the postseason entirely. Also, the 3 wild card teams in the AL are projected to be (from best to worst seed): the Mariners, Rays, and Blue Jays.
With the new playoff format this year, this means that the Astros currently have the best chance of facing either the Mariners or Rays in the division series. They’ve had great success against the Mariners this season, and have completed their regular season series. On the other hand, they haven’t faced the Rays yet, with all 6 games between the two teams coming up in late September. At the moment, it doesn’t appear that it will make much of a difference: the Astros would be heavily favored against either team and currently have a 65.2% chance of reaching the ALCS.
A key caveat of these postseason odds is that, despite their horrendous stretch of late, the Yankees still have the best chance out of any AL team to win both the pennant and the world series. The huge amount of ground they gained early in the season, coupled with a weak central division, have resulted in there being two clear favorites in the American League. At the moment, the gap between the AL central/wild card contenders and the Yankees/Astros is too large for there to be any likely world series matchup that doesn’t involve one of those two teams.
Even so, the fact remains that this system favors the Yankees over the Astros to make it to the fall classic. Fangraphs sees it differently, but it would be shocking either way if neither team won the pennant. If the Astros can get there, their most likely opponent would be the Dodgers, who have an absurd 80-35 record and are projected by BaseballReference to finish with 110 wins. The Mets have the next best pennant odds in the NL, followed closely by the defending-champion Braves.
In short, one of the leading projections systems in the industry sees the Astros’ chances this postseason in a similar way to what they’ve been all year: heavy favorites in the division series no matter the team, likely to face the Yankees in the ALCS, and one of the few true world series contenders. If the past few postseasons are any indication, upsets can happen. However, despite faltering to start their series in Chicago, there is no reason to panic: things are still going according to plan.