Here’s who your TCB staff thinks will win the ALCS. Spoiler alert; it’s the Astros! Tell us your thoughts and vote in our poll below.
By the way, among these writers below, Exile in St. Louis, Scottydouble, Theo, Spencer and bilbos correctly predicted this ALCS match up in our last Starting Nine on Oct. 1. Welcome Hon17, whose comment earlier this week earned a spot in this week’s Starting Nine.
I’ve been firm in my view of the Astros as the best team in baseball since the preseason- it has felt obvious from my perspective. They are the defending World Series champs, and they are a significantly better team this year than last. Boston is a much more formidable opponent than they were in 2017 as well, thanks in large part to their acquisition of J.D. Martinez, but for a number of reasons I still believe they will come up short against the Astros in the ALCS. The Sale/Verlander pitching matchup is a push to me- Verlander had an outstanding postseason last year while Sale was mediocre in the ALDS, but Sale has been the better regular season pitcher and is throwing much better this October than last. After game 1, I think things start to look pretty ugly for Boston in terms of pitching matchups. David Price was a headache for Houston in last year’s ALDS and had a very strong year overall, but Gerrit Cole has been borderline untouchable for most of this season in what has been a massive breakout campaign. Cole embarrassed the Indians in the ALDS and I expect him to build on that performance. In games 3 and 4 the gap in pitching quality will continue to widen, as Dallas Keuchel will match up with Nate Eovaldi and Charlie Morton with Rick Porcello.
X-Factor- Lance McCullers, Jr. - Lance is unlikely to make starts but should be primed for a long outing as his name is likely to be the first called out of the pen should a starter falter. After his heroics a year ago, I expect the Astros will feel very comfortable deploying him in big spots against Boston.
Prediction: Astros in 6
The two best teams in baseball will square off with a chance to go to the World Series, and the storylines abound. The Astros had the best pitching in the league this season and the Red Sox had the most offensive prowess. Boston has the likely MVP (Mookie Betts) and Houston has a strong contender for the award (Alex Bregman). The mentor (A.J. Hinch) versus the mentee (Alex Cora). The team with the best road record in baseball (and second-best in MLB since 1961) against the team with the most wins at home (identical 57-24 marks). The 211 combined wins are the most for teams competing in any LCS (tied with Yankees-Mariners, 2001 ALCS) and second-most in a postseason series (212, Yankees-Padres, 1998 WS). A rematch of last year’s ALDS, when the Astros toppled the Red Sox in four games. Boston was five games better than Houston in the final standings, but the Pythagorean and Expected W-L projections favor the Astros by six and seven games, respectively. Basically, we’re in for an epic battle.
X-Factors: The starting pitchers for Boston were a combined 0-19 in the postseason entering their ALDS against the Yankees. All but David Price—who only recorded five outs in Game 2 against New York—were able to win a game in that series. Price is now 0-9 as a starter in the playoffs, and his teams have lost all 10 games he’s started. However, Price locked down the Astros in last year’s ALDS and has pitched well against Houston this season, too (12.1 IP, 3.65 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 7 H, 17 K, 3 BB). He’s also been really good at home this season (9-2 with a 2.98 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, and 95 K in 96.2 IP). If Price makes two starts in this series, they will likely both be at Fenway.
On the offensive side, it is imperative the Astros contain Andrew Benintendi. The left-handed Benintendi typically hits second—sandwiched between Betts and J.D. Martinez—when a righty is on the mound. Benintendi hit a go-ahead home run off Justin Verlander in Game 4 of last year’s ALDS—a gut-wrenching blow at the time—and has also had success against Houston this year (.333./.394/.567, 2 HR, 4 RBI in 33 plate appearances). In Red Sox wins this season, Benintendi is slashing .309/.381/.505 and in losses he’s hitting .246/.330/.371. Slowing down Benintendi means less baserunners for Martinez and fewer opportunities for Betts to score.
For the Astros, I think it’s pretty obvious the health of Carlos Correa is a huge question mark. Correa homered (opposite-field, no less, which is classic Carlos) in his final at-bat of the ALDS against the Indians and seemed more comfortable at the plate as that series progressed. Hopefully, he can contribute at the plate because he’s been great defensively.
Pitching-wise for the Astros, Charlie Morton is a key piece. He hasn’t pitched since September 30 (when he threw three innings at Baltimore) and will have had more than two week’s rest by the time he starts in this series. Obviously, Morton came up huge for the Astros last postseason on their way to a World Series title, and he’ll likely be needed to step up again.
Prediction: Astros in six.
To me Boston’s pitching looked a little exposed once you got past the big names with obvious pedigrees in the ALDS. While I think that the Price can’t hack the postseason story line is overplayed, I also think that Boston’s bullpen has obvious weaknesses. On top of that we saw an Astros offense that started to pick up steam against Cleveland, looking like a much more complete lineup than they had most of the season, especially against bullpen pitching.
The ALDS also showed a sharpening pitching staff, who were able to make a good Indians lineup look anything but. Now the Red Sox lineup would be a much bigger challenge than Cleveland at almost any point this year, but good pitching can shut down the best offenses. While Boston has the pitching to keep the Astros down for 6 or 7 innings, those last 2 might be the ones to bring home the pennant.
X Factors: I’m going to say the DH spot in the lineup and am curious to see how Hinch will juggle White, Kemp, and Gattis there versus pinch hit duties. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s at least a couple of critical moments where that spot in the lineup can turn a game.
Prediction: Red Sox only get two games in Boston as the Astros keep on rolling and win in 5.
Match-ups, strategy, ‘momentum’, story lines....
It would seem apparent the two best teams in baseball are set to square off Saturday. Just some of my personal intriguing shit that I look forward to. Yours? *Stats used are intended to be general.
Astros exceptional pitching vs Red Sox outstanding hitters
Top Pitching Teams-Houston-1st vs Red Sox-3rd (ERA)*
Mentor-Hinch vs Apprentice-Cora
Will David Price start, pitch in relief, both?
Health of CFM? (Astros saying very little)
Red Sox bullpen-Lot’s of question marks
Now seemingly healthy (healthier), do Astros bats continue to trend up?
Both teams played with intentional strategy and it worked in ALDS
Top defensive teams-Houston-1st Boston 4th (in AL, Fielding percentage)*
Bregman vs Sale part 2
Is George making history in front of our eyes?
Does Marwin continue his ‘momentum’?
Will Josh James see any action or…is he on ALCS roster?
Dallas Keuchel? To some, keep off roster-to others, it doesn’t always look pretty but at the end of the day, 2 or 3 runs given up. What, realistically, can we expect from Correa?
Who makes ALCS Roster (Gattis out? Straw out? Smith/Rondon/Peacock in?)
The Big 4’s (Springer, Altuve, Bregman, Correa (Gurriel?) vs (Betts, Benintendi, Martinez, Bogarts)
Prediction: Given season series, how teams play, last year psychology hangover and removing homer bias: Astros in 7!
The Astros came into the playoffs No. 1 in ESPN power ratings, No, 1 in run differential, but No. 2 in overall record, meaning they may face the Red Sox four times in Fenway Park.
For the season in hitting the Astros and Red Sox were tied for team wRC+ at 110, but the Astros pitching staff has been by far the best in MLB with a 3.11 ERA, more than a half run better than that of the Red Sox.
The Astros were absolutely one of the most dominant teams in the history of the ALDS (see here), mainly by beating up on the very suspect Indian bullpen. So far in the post-season the Astros have four of the five top hitters in the MLB by BA. Going into the ALCS the Astros playoff OPS is 1.037, compared to the Red Sox OPS of .787.
The Astros team ERA in the ALDS was an even 2.00, whereas the Red Sox held a tough Yankees lineup to 3.5 runs per nine innings.
Going by both season performance and who’s hot going into the series, the Astros have the edge.
To beat the Astros the Red Sox have to beat Justin Verlander or Gerrit Cole at least once out of four possible appearances. Considering how well they have been pitching, and the superb bullpen support they have gotten for the most part, that will be difficult, especially considering the instability in the Red Sox staff, both starter and bullpen.
If the Red Sox can steal one game started by Verlander/Cole, they then have to win all three games started by Dallas Keuchel/Charlie Morton. Keuchel has been hittable but solid. Morton is a combination of injured and/or rusty, or perhaps just well rested, but taking all three games against these pitchers, again considering the problems the Red Sox have with their own pitching, seems unlikely.
The possible equalizer for the Red Sox is Nathan Eovaldi, if he can continue his recent 30 day performance of 0.77 ERA into the ALCS.
For the Astros the x factor is the hoped for and now long-awaited breakout of Carlos Correa, which, if it finally happens, will give the Astros a batting advantage on top of their pitching advantage. And if one of the starters falters, Josh James could become famous this week.
Despite the Red Sox’ awesome 1-2 punch of Mookie Betts and J. D. Martinez, the Astros are a better team top to bottom in all phases and are coming in hitting on all cylinders. The Sox, not so much. And never underestimate the heart of a champion. Especially THIS champion.
Prediction: Astros in six.
Exile in St. Louis
I believe the Astros will win in 7. It will be one of the best series in memory. A few deeper predictions: in at least one game, the Sox get to the back of the Astro’s bullpen, either Osuna or Pressley. The Astros win at least one game because Big Game James comes through with 3 IP or more of spotless relief. Sale will be much better than he was last year. Gurriel is ALCS MVP with a line of something like 400/450/600 with 3 HR and 11 RBI. After being down 3-2 heading back to Boston, the Astros ride Cole to a Game 6 victory. After Keuchel looks shaky, Game 7 turns into a BP game and the Astros outslug the Sox. How’s that for heart-stopping drama?
Prediction: Astros in seven
The difference in quality between the Astros and Indians was always pretty clear. No disrespect to Cleveland, but it was clear the entire time that they were the underdogs, winning twelve fewer games out of a weaker division and with more glaring weaknesses. Not picking the Astros to advance meant betting on a cold streak, bad luck, something akin to those, or even a combination of factors.
The Boston Red Sox will be a much more formidable opponent, in comparison. The ALCS could well be the toughest match-up in the entire postseason, featuring a 108-win Red Sox team that paced MLB and an 103-win Astros team that posted a better run differential (including a 109-53 Pythagorean record). Neither team went unchallenged en route to their division titles, with playoff-bound runners up and respectable third-place teams on their tails during the regular season, and any Astros’ advantage in head-to-head play in recent seasons is minuscule (11-7 over the last two years, counting the playoffs, and 13-12 over the last three).
My thinking on close series like this is usually to go with the team with fewer potential failure points, and right now, I think that’s Houston. The biggest question mark of Boston is of course the starting rotation (David Price’s October weirdness, plus the slightly smaller questions of whether Chris Sale has anything left after a long year), but I also think Houston has a stronger bullpen and lineup overall (the two teams have identical team weighted Runs Created+ marks, despite no one on the Astros having an individual wRC+ as high as Mookie Betts or J.D. Martinez, showing an unevenness at the bottom of Boston’s lineup). I still think it will be a close series overall, though.
Prediction: Houston in 7.
Who will win the 2018 ALCS
This poll is closed
Astros in Seven
Astros in Six
Astros in Five