Before every series I will post these charts to help you get ready for the games, The methodology is described below.
Buckle up Astros fans. We are in the middle of possibly the hardest nine game stretch on the 2023 Astros schedule. Next up for the Astros is a Rays team that is off to an INCREDIBLE 19-3 start in the MLB. It's the Red Hot Rays vs. your Astros on a winning streak. The Rays offense is off the charts hot at levels never seen before, and their pitching leads the league as well.
Overall, THIS series may be the toughest test yet for the Astros.
However, maybe the Astros team, which itself has gotten hot has a better chance than we might believe.
Overall Preseason WAR Comparisons
Before the season this is how the two teams compared from a projected WAR standpoint.
The two teams are VERY close. The Astros bats projected to be better and the Rays pitching (particularly the starters) projected to be better.
New for THIS series I am showing a modified table that shows the WAR by position so far, the projected WAR for the ROS, and then what the cumulative total WAR would be.
This table shows you just how hot the Rays have been. Through 22 games (13.6% of the season), the Rays have already amassed 8.7 WAR from the bats. EVERY position would project to deliver 2.9 - 10.3 WAR if they kept up this pace. That is part of the silver lining. They WON'T keep up THIS pace.
With that said you can see where the Rays project to have positional advantages and you can get a sense of how much of a challenge this series will be. Again, these are the season projection numbers and NOT my opinion.
By the preseason WAR method, the Rays would be predicted to win 87 games in 2023 vs. the 89 for the Astros. Projected after their starts and the Rays would track to 96 wins while the Astros remain at 89.
Let's compare the competition these two teams have faced.
According to the website MLB Strength of Schedule Rankings (powerrankingsguru.com),
The Rays have played by far the easiest schedule so far in the MLB. Don't worry they have the third hardest remaining schedule.
The Astros have played the 13th hardest schedule. Their remaining schedule is only the 24th hardest remaining schedule.
This data says expect a tough and tight series. Let's look at the grades.
Yordan Alvarez is experiencing neck discomfort. The Astros sent him back to Houston to get examined. It’s unclear if he’ll need a stint on the injured list or if he’ll be available during this series in Tampa.
This Could have a HUGE IMPACT. It is not clear how much time he will lose. I will update charts if that becomes clear.
Chart 1- Position Player Roster
Defensive Positions and rosters with bench and key minor league players. Who is injured? Then, the relative scores to arrive at who is better.
The Rays have been good on position player injuries with the exception of Siri. Overall, the Rays have a balanced offensive attack with six batters projected at B or better. LOOK at their starts! NINE players have started with an A+ start! That is crazy. They will not sustain THIS performance. Perhaps they have been so good because the pitching they have faced has been so bad.
Overall, my letter grade scoring system does project the Astros bats to be slightly better. It will be interesting to see how that plays out in this short series.
Chart 2- The Projected Batting Orders
In this section I predict the general batting order I expect both teams to use this series. I MIGHT update this as the series progresses. You also see how the batting lineup compares with the 2023 projected grades.
If the Astros pitchers can succeed against the top of the order perhaps, they can cool the red hot Rays down.
Chart 3- Pitching Rosters
Starters and Relief pitcher rosters with key minor league players. Who is injured? Then, the relative scores to arrive at who is better.
The Rays are stacked in pitching especially in their bullpen right now, but they have already had some recent injuries that will have potentially huge impacts. Some of their best pitchers are out. Only Glasnow and Thompson are likely to be back, and the others are definitely out for the season or it could be possible.
Even with that said, the Rays have a small advantage in the pitching department but DO NOT have a 5th starter named yet with Springs having Tommy John surgery today.
This series will be so interesting to see these two teams go at it.
Chart 4- Starting Pitching Matchups,
In this section we look at the SP matchups by game.
The Astros miss McClanahan and Eflin at least. Game 1 may set the tone for the series and Brown in Game 3 may have the advantage vs. a Rays opener maybe? Imagine that. Brown the rookie is the biggest matchup advantage.
Folks, I will say it again. Buckle in. This might be a rough series for the Astros.
Series Prediction- I need to address this. THIS Article is about the matchup and not a prediction. Predicting three games series results is nearly impossible. I do these predictions as a SUMMARY of what I think all of the matchup data is saying.
I believe the Astros will win at least one of three in this series. The Rays are REALLY a good team although I DO NOT think they are the 19-3 team they have been so far. This is truly a test to see how good the Astros can be.
As we have discussed in the previous Astros Report Card Articles here is the grading scale for the position players.
To account for the value of defense a player can get a letter grade bump up or down based on their projected defensive WAR (or actual defensive WAR for 2022) for their primary defensive position.
For the pitchers we will use these two scales- one for 2023 based on projected FIP and the other for the 2022 actual FIP- data.
The overall score will be based on the point values to the right. The differences are tallied in the columns to the right.
Overall Score = Starter Differences + Bench Differences / 2 + MiLB Players Differences /4