Astros ALCS Guide- Read this to be ready

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

Here is your LarryTheGM guide to the ALCS. You can hear and watch me describe this article on the Rip Griffin show here.


Below are several tables that will describe various aspects of the rosters for the ALCS for both the Astros and the Red Sox.


Pitchers

First, let’s address what the rotation could be with and without McCullers. I also added a possibility for McCullers being available later in the ALDS.












There is some discussion of who should start ALCS Game 2. The following table shows who has been better at home or away this year. This will show why the Astros have gone with Garcia. You can also check this table when someone says "he is better at home." For many in the staff that is simply not true.

Since Garcia looks to be significantly better at home than away it would be best to start him in Game 2.


Many reports are saying McCullers is out of the ALCS. Here is the staff either way and their likely roles. Odorizzi will be added in either scenario. If McCullers is out, I expect Taylor will be added. I will show you why later.


Here is my expected Astros ALCS pitching staff. Bielak and Solomon are the first two alternatives added here in case the Astros choose them.

I expect Greinke will get the Game 4 start if McCullers is out. It might be more of an opener start but I suspect he would try to get through the first part of the order twice (having Greinke get past the big LHH twice- see the 0.245 wOBA vs. LHH.)


Some have provided feedback that Greinke cannot start game 4 because he is not stretched out. Working backward here are the last five Greinke pitching appearances with the number of pitches thrown.



What I would be hoping for from Greinke would look something like what he did on 9/30/21 and maybe going for a third inning if the first two innings were at a low pitch count.


Here is how the Red Sox Staff lays out.



Update Note: The original version of this projected Barnes and Davis to be on the roster. Instead Sawamura and Hernandez are. The table has been updated.


The Astros RHHs should do well vs. the Starters. The LHH should do well against the bullpen.


Let’s do a role-by-role comparison of Astros pitchers vs. Red Sox pitchers. I use a head-to-head weighted scoring and scored each role against each other and score like a boxing round. He is how that plays out.


With McCullers, the Astros have a 107-103 advantage. Without McCullers, the Red Sox have a 106-105 advantage. McCullers is critical to this matchup.


Batting- Projecting the Batting Orders and Benches

Here are the likely position player rosters. I do not think Stubbs will be included unless Meyers is deemed unavailable for the series. If Meyers is out, I think the Astros will keep Stubbs on the roster to allow more flexibility when to deploy Castro as a late key PH vs. the RHP dominant bullpen. I think, Meyers will be on the roster but may be limited for the first couple of games. Expect Meyers to start vs. Rodriguez if he is physically capable.


One of the beauties of the Astros lineup is the balance of the LHH and RHH. Both Tucker and Alvarez just destroy baseballs from any style pitcher. Brantley has struggled vs. LHP and I would swap Tucker and Brantley as reflected below. Several players have commented that the Astros lineup just keeps coming for you. Even McCormick and Meyers have done well vs. LHP. It would be awesome to see Bregman to bat like 2019 Bregman again this ALCS.

The Red Sox lineup poses some significant challenges and some opportunities. Their lineup is fairly stable and switches depending if the starter is LH or RH.


Dalbec is their most challenging PH/platoon starter vs. LHP. He may start vs. Valdez. Verdugo is often PHand often does not start vs. LHP.


The top of the lineup is very tough on RHP and good but not great vs. LHP. LHHs Schwarber, Devers, and Verdugo are as good if not better than the Astros LHHs vs. RHP. Even RHH Bogaerts and Martinez have reverse splits. Therefore, I expect Taylor may be added to the Astros roster for the ALCS. I can envision Taylor and Raley being challenged with batters 1-6 (possibly one in the 5-6th inning and the other in the 7-8th inning.) There may be some struggles, but Astros fans need to understand a LHP Raley is better than RHP Stanek vs. this part of the order. If possible forcing Cora to PH for Verdugo with Dalbec in the 6th may pay dividends for the RHP the next pass through the order.


The bottom of the lineup would be where to deploy the Yimi Garcia, Stanek, and Graveman. It will be interesting to see how Dusty utilizes the RP against this lineup. Also, who wins the Greinke vs. the LHH who pound RHP matchups?


As an aside, I would deploy a modified lineup vs. Sale (LHP EXCELLENT vs. LHH and below average vs. RHH) which is more RHH centric at the top of the order.

If we use the same ratings system to compare the different slots in the order it looks like this.


The Astros win this weighted comparison 110 to 100 if Meyers can play and 108-102 if he cannot. The Astros win a few key matchups by a big margin- Tucker over Hernandez 11-8 (batting second) and Correa over Verdugo 11-8 (batting fifth). The Astros bench is also an advantage.


Considering the comparison position by position also leads to similar results.

Overall, the pitching is close especially if the Astros don’t have McCullers, and the Astros bats and defense should help them win the ALCS. I say the Astros win in 6.


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Data and Stats from Fangraphs.com

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