HOUSTON – As soon as Justin Verlander left the game, the incredible Yankees line-up continued to resemble their 1927 club with four of their next five batters smashing the ball and scoring to pass Houston for the second-best record in the AL.
Until then, Verlander dominated that killer line-up with 14 strikeouts in eight shutout innings to make the incredible trio of starters a combined 10-1 with a 1.50 ERA after seeming barely above average when the Astros picked each of them up:
|Last 2 non-Astros seasons||55||49||3.88||8.7||2.7||143|
Gerrit Cole (27 years old), Charlie Morton (34) and Verlander (35) now give the Astros three of the top four pitchers in the American League based on ERA, even though Cole is the only one who should be in his prime and he as well as Morton and Verlander seemed to have declined to barely above average pitchers when the Astros chose to sign each of them one at a time. The addition of Cole makes the Astros team potentially even better than the 2017 World Series champions – but the Yankees improved even
As I cover in this report breaking down this snapshot of Statis-Pro baseball calculations, the Yankees seem to have a slight edge over the Astros. The Cleveland Indians’ incredible entire pitching staff with some new power and the Boston Red Sox adding the power of JD Martinez to team that had everything except
The Astros analytics team is so good that it turned an 100-loss team into World Series champions and made a St. Louis Cardinals official so jealous that he ended up in jail for multiple years for hacking and stealing the data. However, even they can’t expect three pitchers who were barely above average at 55-49 with a 3.88 ERA keep their ERA’s this low all season:
And assuming they do fall off just a bit, can they win out against the other three AL teams that were practically even with them last year and all added more power. As dominant as the Astros starters are, their best batter based on OPS is Carlos Correa at 16th in the league, and both the Red Sox and Yankees have two in the top 10 including the two Yankees who smashed the Astros as soon as Verlander left the game Tuesday.
The Yankees looked like a potential juggernaut in winning nine straight before Morton beat them in the series opener Monday 2-1 to nudge the Astros past them for a day with Ken Giles saving the game. However, the Yankees seemingly could not wait to get another shot at Giles, and as soon as Verlander left a 0-0 tie after eight innings, Giles was greeted with four smash hits – a single by Aaron Judge, double by Didi Gregorius, 423-foot homer run by Gary Sanchez and single by Aaron Hicks who would later cap the scoring in a 4-0 win.
Last year we wrote throughout the entire season that the Astros were the best team in baseball, and they backed it up with the World Series win. This year’s team looks even better than the 2017 Champs with the addition of Cole and Max Stassi. However, the Red Sox, Yankees and Indians look like they improved even more than the Astros even though the Indians have started somewhat slowly as they did last year before setting the all-time record with 22 consecutive wins.
As the first two games of the Yankees visit to Houston the last two nights may indicate, the entire AL playoffs could be a classic. Here is how they would stack up now:
Mariners (.593 winning percentage) at Yankees (.655) in a 1-game wild card with the winner facing Red Sox (.724)
Indians (.536) facing Astros
If instead the teams played as well as our Statis-Pro pre-season projected, then the Angels would play in the one-game playoff at Boston for the right to play the Indians, while the current Yankees-Astros series would be a preview of the other playoff series.
Follow John Pudner on Twitter @jpudner