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Statistical Overview of the 2021 Playoff Teams

Who were this season’s best and worst regular-season performers going into the playoffs and how do the Astros compare?

MLB: ALDS-Workouts Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The playoffs begin in earnest today. The Wild Card playoffs are done and we’re down to the baseball elite eight.

At this point, any one of these teams can win the championship. Even the lowliest of these teams can get hot at the right time and win eleven games between now and the end of the World Series.

Still, the team(s) with the most or nearly the most regular series wins generally wind up with the trophy. In the last five years, the team with the most regular-season wins won the World Series three times. The Astros had the third-most wins when they won the World Series in 2017, and the only team near the bottom of the elite eight to win the World Series was the Washington Nationals in 2019, who beat the best team in baseball that year...yeah, the Astros.

So let’s compare the relative strengths of the last eight teams still in contention for the 2021 World Series championship.

The following chart lists key overall hitting statistics of the eight playoff teams. Keep in mind that the lack of a designated hitter depresses NL stats slightly.

Offensive Stats of 2021 Playoff Teams and the MLB Rank of Each

Team Wins Pythag Wins/ runs/rank HR's/rank wRC+/rank DEF rank Off fWAR/rank
Team Wins Pythag Wins/ runs/rank HR's/rank wRC+/rank DEF rank Off fWAR/rank
Astros 95 101 863/1 221/9 116/1 16 33.9/1
Giants 107 103 804/6 241/2 108/5 4 30.0/3
Rays 100 101 857//2 222/6 109/4 17 29.8/4
Dodgers 106 109 830/4 237/4 106/7 7 29.5/5
White Sox 93 97 796/7 210/11 109/3 25 25.3/6
Boston 92 88 829/5 219/10 109/3 24 23.2/8
Brewers 95 94 738/12 194/18 91/23 1 22.2/10
Braves 88 94 790/8 239/3 98/13 10 22.1/11

The Astros look strong in offensive categories, leading MLB in wRC+, runs, and offensive WAR. The Astros are only fourth in wins but are tied for third in Pythagorean wins with their AL East counterpart, the Rays.

Leading all baseball in wins are the Giants, but the Dodgers lead in Pythagorean wins. The Astros, Giants, Rays, and Dodgers are 1-4 in Offensive War, but in terms of wRC+ the White Sox sneak into this group at #2 among playoff teams.

According to the Fangraphs DEF defensive ranking, the Astros were middle of the MLB pack. Their opponents in Chicago were one of the worst defensive teams, ranked 25th.

Below is a chart of key pitching statistics of the eight playoff teams. Keep in mind that the DH will tend to inflate these members for the AL compared to the NL.

Pitching Stats of the 2021 Playoff Teams and the MLB Rank of Each

Team ERA/rank xFIP/rank fWAR/rank (pitch)
Team ERA/rank xFIP/rank fWAR/rank (pitch)
White Sox 3.73/5 3.85/3 27.1/1
Dodgers 3.03/1 3.75/2 26.9/2
Brewers 3.50/3 3.75/1 23.5/3
Giants 3.25/2 3.87/4 21.9/5
Boston 4.27/15 4.07/10 19.2/6
Rays 3.67/4 3.97/5 18.7/7
Astros 3.78/7 4.12/13 16.9/9
Braves 3.89/8 4.09/12 15.9/12

Here the Astros look a little weak. Their ERA is 6th in this group (but third among AL contenders), but in the peripheral stat xFIP they are the worst in this group. The Astros’ pitching WAR is 7th among the contenders.

The three best teams in this group and in MLB in terms of ERA are Dodgers, Giants, and Brewers respectively, with the Rays and White Sox rounding out the top five.

So overall, the Astros come into the playoffs with the strongest hitting team in baseball, but pitching that is somewhat below the level of most of the other contenders.

And this assessment applies to the ALDS matchup with the White Sox. The Astros have a slight edge in hitting, the Sox a slight edge in pitching. The Astros had two more wins than the Sox, and four more Pythagorean wins.

One wonders how much strength of schedule affects these numbers, as the White Sox played in the weak AL Central, and the Astros had inter-league play against the NL West that produced the two best teams in baseball.

ALDS action begins today at 3:07 CDT.

Go Stros!