On June 30th, we called the Astros trip to Arlington THE Most Important Series of the Year. It might very well have been- until now. Taking three of four in Arlington was HUGE. Can the Astros sweep or at least take two of these three games? The Astros nation hopes so. The trade deadline looms in eight days. Do NOT get swept Astros if you want Dana Brown to go all in.
We said earlier in the month that July was the golden opportunity. It is here. It is NOW. Get LOUD Minute Maid! The season may depend on THESE games.
In my view, THIS will be THE MOST IMPORTANT SERIES OF THE YEAR for the 2023 Astros- Part 2.
The Astros enter this three-game series THREE games behind the Rangers. They are currently in the second wild card spot- 1 game ahead of Toronto and 3 games ahead of the Yankees and Red Sox for the last Wild Card spot. I added the fangraphs.com projection for the rest of the season for the likely PS teams.
The next week can tell us so much.
The Yankees and Red Sox have hard schedules this week. Toronto is on the road vs. the Dodgers. Who is buying?
The Angels, Mariners, and Guardians are all close to being considered out of the race. Do they sell?
Then there are the Astros and the Rangers.
If either sweeps the series, the loser is in trouble.
Injuries have been impacting both.
At LEAST one key player is returning for the Astros.
The best-case scenario for the Astros is probably this and probably starts with winning at least TWO of these games.
The worst-case scenario for the rest of the season is probably this and starts with a Rangers sweep.
The Astros would miss the post season in this nightmare.
Folks, EVERY game is important. The six-game spread from 86 to 92 games COULD mean the difference in the one seed and sitting at home in October. Games vs. the Rangers are extremely important because the AL West race is so close. The Astros NEED these games.
So, let's dig into these two teams and how they compare.
You can see how the Astros:
Projections at the beginning of the season.
Performance year to date
Projections for the rest of the season
The fangraphs.com projections are translated into the LGM letter grade system and those who get a defensive bump up or down are in red font.
Generally, it has been a disappointing season so far for several Astros with the following coming up significantly short of projections:
The rest of the season projections indicate that most of these Astros will do better.
McCormick has FAR outperformed his projections. Can he keep this up? Will he be traded? Stay tuned.
I expect Alvarez to be back today. Can he ignite a slumping offense? Well Alvarez is NOT in the starting lineup, so it is unclear if he goes to Las Vegas with Sugar Land or comes to see me in San Antonio with the Hooks tomorrow or if he stays in Houston with the Astros team. When we learn more, I will update this section.
All baseball fans know the Rangers had a good season so far, but let's use the same method to show exactly how good it has been.
Only Grossman has performed worse than his projections so far. He was benched.
The list of significant over performers YTD is LONG and crazy:
If over half of your position players are over performing, then your offense will be GREAT. It has been.
The ROS projections for the Rangers players are generally not so lofty. Which version of the Rangers will we see in this series and beyond? If one can answer that question, they can probably tell you who wins the AL West.
Putting is all together, here is a summary of where the two offenses have been and where they are likely to be the rest of the season.
The Astros have been right in the middle of the league batting. The Rangers have been a top 2-3 offense all year. Going forward both teams are likely to be top 5-10 teams offensively. The projected stats for the two teams are essentially the same.
Seager is out for this series. THIS could be key for the Astros.
Generally, the Astros have had a good pitching staff most of the season. They have been impacted by some major injuries. Urquidy and Garcia went down in the span of two days. McCullers got hurt in Spring Training, and had a setback, and now he is out for the year.
France, Bielak, and Blanco all have ERAs significantly better than their FIPs. Neris has a similar ERA / FIP disconnect.
Montero has been a major disappointment from his projected 3.59 FIP. Both Clint and I discussed this possibility on our preseason prediction show. Maton has been a pleasant surprise.
Urquidy will be back soon, but I would guess not for this series.
The Rangers have similarly been hit very hard with pitching injuries. The similarities do not end there.
Overall, the Rangers starters have pitched very well this season too.
They have two starting pitchers who have FIPs significantly higher than their ERAs- Dunning and Gray.
The Rangers have a few relief pitchers performing significantly better than their projected performance.
Here is a summary of the YTD performance and the ROS projections.
Both pitching staffs have struggled in July. Here are their stats.
Pulling all of this together, the comparison of the Astros and the Rangers makes it clear WHY the Rangers have been so good- their spectacular batting. Will it sustain and will both pitching staffs continue to perform well are key questions for the remainder of the 2023 season. I think both offenses will be good. I think both pitching staffs NEED a trade or two or they are going to be very average.
Here we sit hosting the Rangers in what may be THE most important series of the year. These three games may very well be a key indicator of what is to come.
Let's go Astros!!
(Data from Fangraphs.com)
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