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Astros Trending into the playoffs

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Who’s got the momentum?

MLB: Houston Astros at Los Angeles Angels Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

They often say, once the playoffs begin, you can just throw it all out the window. All, of course, being everything a team had done before the playoffs.

Is that really true? Does prior performance really have no bearing on playoff performance? Does momentum going into the playoffs have no effect on on a teams’s performance in the playoffs? Can a team playing badly in the weeks leading up to the playoffs suddenly turn it on and kick ass?

I’m sure it has probably happened, and then, at other times, a flat team going into the playoffs fell flat in the playoffs too.

This article is for those of you who think that momentum going into the playoffs has, at least, some effect on performance during the playoffs.

So how are the Astros doin? As a sportscaster beloved here at TCB, A.J. Pieryzinski, once noted, the 2017 Red Sox had the momentum. We know how that turned out. Do the Astros have the momentum in 2019? Who’s hot? Who’s not? What about the other teams?

Well, contrary to Pieryzinski, the Astros HAVE the momentum.

In the last 14 games, the Astros were 12 and 2, although mostly against bottom feeding teams.

Let’t look at team stats, starting with the playoff team batting rankings, season, 14 day and 7 day.

Hitting

Playoff team batting

Team hitting wRC+ season/rank 14 days/rank 7days/rank
Team hitting wRC+ season/rank 14 days/rank 7days/rank
Astros 125/1st 123/2nd 107/5th
Yankees 117/2nd 93/9th 75/10th
Rays 103/9th 95/7th 94/ 9th
Twins 116/3rd 112/3rd 105/7th
A's 107/5th 93/10th 74//11th

The Astros, by wRC+ for the season, were the best hitting team in history since the 1927 Yankees. But remember, the Yankees and Twins actually scored more runs than the Astros this year.

For the last two weeks the Astros have continued the dominance they have shown all season, although in the last week they became close to average. Strangely, every other team on this AL playoff list also slumped in the last week. The Yankees and A’s hit in the 75th and 74th percentile respectively.

Pitching

Below we have the pitching trends for the season and the last two weeks.

AL playoff pitching, season, last 14 days

Team pitching Season ERA/rank 14 days ERA/rank
Team pitching Season ERA/rank 14 days ERA/rank
Astros 3.66/1st 2.66/3rd
Yankees 4.33/6th 3.31/4th
Rays 3.67/2nd 3.69/5th
Twins 4.18/5th 4.26/7th
A's 3.97/4th 2.51/1st

The Astros and Rays have been very close to or at the top statistically in pitching all season, but in the last two weeks the Astros pitching has gone into a new gear, while the Rays have slumped. Two other staffs heading into the playoffs running hot are the Yankees and especially the A’s, best in the AL during the 14 day period.

Individual Stats

Below Is a chart of the individual Astros hitters in the last two weeks.

Look at Aledmys Diaz at the top of the leader board. If it turns out that Carlos Correa can’t go because of his back that might be very significant.

At the the other end of the scale Yuli Gurriel and Jose Altuve have cooled off from the hot paces they had after the All-Star break, and Michael Brantley is deep in the only slump he has had all year.

If you look at the last seven days, (not on the chart) Yordan Alvarez is one 1 for 18, the catchers combined are 1 for 20, and Gurriel is 2 for 19.

Below is a chart of the Astros pitchers for the last 14 days.

The starting pitching during this time had a 2.79 ERA, but that is padded by Wade Miley’s meltdowns. The big three plus Urquidy were all well below 3.00. Gerrit Cole comes into the playoffs looking like Bob Gibson circa 1968. (Gibson: modern era single season ERA leader.)

The bullpen had an ERA of 2.45. The top relief pitchers, Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly, and Will Harris (he of the immaculate inning) all come into the playoffs seemingly at the top of their games. Josh James and Chris Devenski have been scoreless as well, but for both xFIP makes their sustainability look suspect.

Brad Peacock is back from IL, but in three innings he allowed a homer and two runs. Whether he is back at full strength and really ready to pitch effectively in the playoffs is unknown.

Hector Rondon allowed two homers in the 3.2 innings he worked in the last two weeks.

Overall the pitching staff brings strong momentum into the playoffs, especially the top three starters and the top three relievers. The #4 starter is a huge question mark, and like most teams, so is the back end of the bullpen.

Overall conclusion: the Astros are “playoff ready.” Now time to play the games.

And when they do, we’ll probably just end up throwing all this out the window.

Go Stros!