How the Rest of June may set the tone for the rest of the season for the Astros.
Today we will review where the Astros and Rangers are now that their pivotal series has arrived. I am going to revisit what I said nearly three weeks ago and see how both teams did and this will be the intro for the article - "Astros: THE Most Important Series of the Year."
"The second topic was essentially what could happen between now and when the Astros meet the Rangers on June 30th in Arlington. We agreed that next eighteen games were pivotal to where the Astros 2023 season could go.
Alvarez was put on the 10-day IL today, but the tone of the Astros officials makes me believe he will be out longer than 10 days. For the purpose of this exercise, I will assume Alvarez returns for the Rangers on June 30th but not before."
Update: Alvarez is closer but still two to three weeks away it would seem.
What is on the Astros Schedule
"The Astros are fortunate that the next 18 games are not against the hottest teams in the MLB. (The Reds became one of the hottest teams.)
You may think this is WAY too harsh and negative to think the Astros go 8-10. I think that is how much the Astros are going to miss Yordan Alvarez. If you put this together then the Astros enter the Rangers series 44-37 at the season halfway point."
Update: The Astros did indeed finish the 18-game stretch 8-10. Their record is 44-37 and they are 0.5 games behind Toronto
in the Wild Card standings for the last postseason spot. They are only one game ahead of the Angels.
"I know Astros fans in general have dismissed the Rangers and just assume the Astros are going to catch them. I think that is a little foolish, but I understand that they have had one of the easiest schedules to this point and have one of the hardest remaining schedules. So what could they do between now and when the Astros come to town on June 30th?"
What is on the Rangers Schedule?
"The competition for the Rangers over the next 20 games until 6/30/23 has several challenging series.
You may think this is WAY too easy on the Rangers. I would say the confident Rangers are better than you think. If you put this together then the Rangers host the Astros on 6/30/23 with a record of 52-29. "
Update: This was too easy on the Rangers. The Rangers actually went 1-3 vs. the Angels vs. the 3-1 I predicted. They also went 2-2 against the Tigers instead of the 3-1 I predicted. Instead of going 12-8, the Rangers went 9-11.
The good news in the division is the Astros are only 5.0 games behind the Rangers and the opportunity to catch them really starts tonight.
"Here is the bigger issue for the Astros. It is NOT just the Rangers they have to contend with. As we showed, the Astros are five games behind the Rangers for the AL West. There are SEVEN teams within that same five games above or below the Astros competing for THREE Wild Card Spots. After tonight Cleveland is only 5.5 games behind the Astros.
It has been a long time since the Astros really had to focus on a full season wild card race. While they chase the Rangers, they better watch their backs. I did the same exercise for the other top AL Wildcard contenders."
Update- Now there are eight teams within 5 games above and below the Astros in the Wild Card Standings. Here is where we are today and what fan graphs projects for the rest of the season. They are currently projecting the Astros to MISS the postseason by one game.
"On June 30th, When the Astros go to Arlington, I think it will be clearer to Astros fans how much of a challenge we have ahead. I think the Astros will be tied for fourth place in the wild card- albeit only 0.5 games behind Toronto."
Update- The Astros are in fourth in the WC, and they are one game ahead of the Angels.
On June 30, the Astros could be eight games behind the Rangers and in a complete battle with seven other teams for three wild card spots in the 2H of 2023.
Update- The Rangers helped the Astros and the Astros are only 5.0 games behind them.
Yes, the stretch of games we started on 6/9/23 are critical. The Astros season is on the brink. Without Yordan, EVERYONE will have to contribute. Even Astros fans will have to cheer louder when the team is at home.
This stretch of game will determine what the Astros do in July. Win and they will trade for the critical parts needed to compete in the postseason. Lose badly and this team is far more likely to be sellers than buyers. It truly is the season on the brink.
Get ready Astros fans for a wild ride.
Update: The season remains on the brink as the Astros did what was expected. The Astros have the most important series of the year so far opening with the Rangers tonight. More on that later today.
They still project to be fourth in the Wild Card standing at the end of the season.
Over the next four weeks, the Astros will play the Rangers seven times, the Mariners four times, and the Angels three times. Stay tuned to how the Astros do against those division opponents in July.
What is the LIKELY best-case scenario and the LIKELY worst-case scenario for the Astros in the second half of the season?
I think the likely best-case scenario for the Astros would be for the Astros to go 48-33 in the 2H of the season which is five games better than the current fangraphs projections. This means Houston would finish 92-70. IF the Rangers play to the fangraphs 2H projections of 42-39, they will finish 91-71. Therefore, the Astros would indeed win the AL West!
The likely worst-case scenario is for the Astros to finish the 2H 38-43 (five games worse than projections.) If everyone else holds to their projected finish the Astros 82-80 would be eighth in the Wild Card standings.
Clearly anything CAN happen. The Astros season remains on the brink.
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