The American League was thought to have four superteams at the start of 2019, you could have just played the playoffs then with the Red Sox, Yankees, Indians, Astros. One of these is eliminated and the Indians are still competing for a place with a week to go in the season.
This leaves the Astros and the Yankees. Both have 100 wins and have won their divisions. There is an expectation that they will meet in the ALCS. For both clubs, in their windows of contention, will see anything short of winning the World Series a failure.
So who is best placed to win in the postseason?
Both teams have great players, but who will perform well in the postseason?
Often it is about someone getting hot at the right time – see Daniel Murphy in 2015 or Steve Pearce last year. It is impossible to predict who this will be, but there are plenty of candidates on both teams.
What we can look at is the strengths of each team. The Yankees have an excellent bullpen, leading the majors in fWAR. They have a shutdown closer in Aroldis Chapman and another 4 relievers with an ERA under 4. They will also have CC Sabathia’s experience out of the pen. They will be able to lean on their top relievers in the postseason, so Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino and Chapman can pitch the bulk of the innings.
They also have a very powerful lineup. Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez have now been joined by Giancarlo Stanton to give pitchers nightmares. This is certainly a favourable matchup against the Astros, as both Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole are in the top 20 in the majors in home runs given up.
Some have argued that the fact the Yankees rely on the home run and strikeout too much will be detrimental to their postseason chances. This has been disproven especially well by Yankees blog view from 314 ft (https://viewsfrom314ft.com/the-yankees-october-and-the-myth-of-too-many-home-runs/).
They also are less reliant on homeruns than in 2018. Gio Urshela and DJ LeMahieu are key members of the line up and are hitting above .315 and they also have Mike Tauchmann, Cameron Maybin and Gleyber Torres hitting around .280. It has been an elite offence for the entire year and there is no reason for that to change in October.
The Astros are also well built for the postseason. The majority of their core were key in their 2017 championship team so they will have no problems adjusting to October baseball. They have six regulars hitting with an OPS over .900 and they are fourth in the majors in team Defensive Runs Saved.
They also have an excellent pitching staff. Their top four starters all have ERAs under four and in Verlander and Cole they possess the presumptive top two in the AL Cy Young voting. Having to face them four times in a play off series is a daunting prospect, one the Yankees cannot really match in their rotation.
Their bullpen lacks in comparison to the Yankees’, but that’s a high bar. They still have Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly and Hector Rondon, to be joined by Brad Peacock from the rotation. Peacock will be especially important as a multi inning reliever. He has done this before to great effect.
The two preseason American league favourites have lived up to that billing. There is a pretty good chance they will meet in the ALCS as the two most complete teams in the entire major leagues. There are very few weaknesses on either side and they should be favourites for the World Series alongside the Dodgers.