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A few Issues as the Astros Enter Game 1 of the 2022 ALCS

The Astros go for their fourth straight playoff series victory over the New York Yankees starting today.

MLB: ALDS-Seattle Mariners at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

As Cody Poage pointed out earlier today, any playoff series is a crapshoot. The small sample size guarantees strange outcomes almost every year. Just ask this year’s Dodgers or Braves.

Here are a few of the things to look for in the first two games of the ALCS against the New York Yankees, the fourth playoff matchup in the last eight years between these two teams. (The first three all won by the Astros)

  1. Jose Altuve, who finished the months of September and October hitting.355, with a 202 wRC+, and who struck out in only 12% of his plate appearances, was 0-16 in the ALDS with six strikeouts. Will the couple of days off allow Altuve to reset and regain his playoff mojo?
  2. But it’s not just Altuve that needs to pick it up. The Yankees batted only .182 in their series with the Indians. And although Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton came up big in the last game, their batting averages were .200 and .125, respectively, for the series.
  3. As a team, the Astros weren’t much better against Seattle, hitting only .217. After Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, Yuli Gurriel, Jeremy Pena, and Kyle Tucker, there was almost zero production from 7, 8, 9, and 1 in the batting order. With Aledmys Diz and Trey Mancini looking lost at the plate, does the rookie David Helnsley get a chance to start?
  4. Justin Verlander finished the season with a 1.75 ERA in, coincidentally, 175 innings pitched. Yet, in Game 1 of the ALCS, he had one of the worst games of his career, allowing six runs in four innings after a long layoff. He’s pitching once again after a long layoff. Will he be his Cy Young self, or will Game 1 Verlander show up today also? Let’s hope for the Game 2 2017 ALCS Verlander, who pitched an eight-inning, one-run gem for the ages.
  5. How will lefty Framber Valdez hold up against the right-handed Yankees sluggers at Minute Maid Park? Against righties, Valdez has a .280 wOBA against as opposed to a .236 wOBA against lefties. And at MMP, Valdez has a 3.54 ERA, while on the road, it’s only 2.27.
  6. The Astros pitching staff comes in on full rest. But the Yankees start the series today with arguably their fifth starter, Jameson Taillon. Presumably, Gerrit Cole starts tomorrow on short rest. And probably their best pitcher this year, Nestor Cortes, won’t be available on full rest until Game 4 on Sunday. The Astros seemed poised to use their pitching depth against New York the way they did against Seattle. And they will probably need it.
  7. Will beating the “cheaters” motivate the Yankees, or will such an approach, which they have said will be a motivation for them, prove to be a distraction?

Eight more to go Astros fans. Let the games begin.

Go Stros.