Mariners-Astros ALDS position by position

The Mariners did more than just break their decades-long postseason drought, because as sweet as it was to say they “got there,” it would have been more than a little bittersweet to have done so and not play a single game at home (as it would have if they had lost against the Blue Jays in the Wild Card Series). But thanks to one of the most amazing comebacks in playoff history in Game 2 in Toronto on Saturday, Seattle moved on. They have to start in Houston, for sure. But there will be at least one home playoff game at T-Mobile Park. It promises to be an amazing environment.

Of course, they still have to face the Astros, who rested and watched, and who are the No. 1 seed for good reason. No team outside of the Dodgers (111-51) has won more games than Houston (106-56) this year. No team outside of the Dodgers has won more games in the last five years than the Astros. The faces may have changed, on the field and in the front office, but the result never seems to change: Success. lots.

So who has the edge between these two division rivals? Let’s find out position by position:

We’ll be the first to admit that the receiver’s value doesn’t come entirely, or perhaps not even primarily, from the offense. Martin Maldonado, who has already appeared in 43 postseason games for the Astros, and Christian Vazquez, who led the Red Sox to a ring in 2018, are highly regarded for their defensive prowess, ability to handle pitchers and control the game. land. Of great importance.

But they also combined to hit .187/.246/.319 (.565 OPS) as catchers for Houston this year, which is a big hole to get out of. If there’s one Maldonado postseason at-bat you think of, it’s the moment in last year’s World Series when absolutely everyone on the planet knew he wouldn’t swing. Seattle’s Cal Raleigh might not have the same reputation, but he hit 27 home runs this year with a .774 OPS, plus four big hits in the Mariners’ Wild Card Series sweep.

There’s a risk of writing Yuli Gurriel off too quickly, because he posted an excellent 131 OPS+ just a year ago, though his recent postseason record has been spotty (.237/.301/.311 in 196 plate appearances since 2019). . On the other hand, he is 38 years old and has been enduring his weakest full season in the majors, with just 84 OPS+ and a second half that was worse than his disappointing first half.

Meanwhile, Ty France has had what is incorrectly considered a breakout season, posting an OPS+ of 126. Why do we say that? Because, for little attention, he had a 128 OPS+ in 2021 and a 133 OPS+ in 2020. France may be a very good hitter.

Is it possible that José Altuve just had the quietest big season in baseball? He may not be the 50-steal speedster he once was, and nobody’s hitting .340 anymore, but Altuve’s .300/.387/.533 season with 28 home runs and 18 steals results in a 160 OPS+, which not only did he tie his 2017 season MVP for the best offensive year of his career, but it was a top-five mark in the majors. At 32, a decade after his first All-Star appearance, we’re not too far from considering what Altuve’s Cooperstown case might look like one day. (He also has a .907 postseason OPS.)

Adam Frazier has his value, he makes a lot of contact, but his 80 OPS+ doesn’t compare. Overall, Seattle second basemen ranked 28th in wins above replacement, according to FanGraphs. This one is not close.

It might seem like Jeremy Pena (101 OPS+) and JP Crawford (100 OPS+) had similar offensive years, and that’s what the back of the baseball card will show you. But the ways they got there were wildly different, because Crawford had roughly the same year in 2021, that’s right, a league-average bat, while rookie Pena got off to a great start. he got hurt, struggled all summer, then bounced back again in September/October, hitting six home runs with a .790 OPS.

Still, even if you argue the bats aren’t that different, the defensive metrics give Pena a huge advantage over Crawford. good enough for us.

It behooves us to point out that Eugenio Suarez, who left Cincinnati as Jesse Winker’s assistant salary anchor after a .198/.286/.428 performance last year, had a very good season with Seattle, hitting 31 home runs to go along with an OPS+ 129 and solid defense.

It’s that performance that makes this much closer than you would have thought a year ago, given the year Suarez had. We still give Alex Bregman the edge here, since he’s a better fielder, he has a better record and he just gets on base more often (a 34-point lead in OBP this year). But the fact that this is even a question, and it is, speaks to what kind of rebounding season Suarez provided.

The Astros have Yordan Alvarez and the Mariners don’t. That’s not meant to disrespect anyone Seattle has here; it’s the simple reality of the fact that Alvarez, who hit .306/.406/.613 (187 OPS+) with 37 home runs, is one of the most talented hitters in the game. The Mariners won’t match Alvarez, who likely will see some time at DH when the series moves to Seattle, where there’s a lot more ground to cover on the left.

Due to injuries (Jesse Winker and Sam Haggerty are unavailable for the ALDS), the Mariners were forced to turn to Jarred Kelenic in the Wild Card Series, and he did not reach base in six plate appearances after posting an OPS+ of 55. in the regular season. Dylan Moore could start when the Astros have a left-hander on the mound, but this isn’t a strength for Seattle or a matchup they were ever going to win.

On the one hand: One of the most important young players in baseball, the Home Run Derby runner-up, the presumed American League Rookie of the Year, the already-superstar-in-his-first-season Julio Rodríguez.

Secondly? Well, we don’t really know. Dusty Baker said the same thing recently, noting that Chas McCormick, Mauricio Dubón and Jake Meyers are options for center field. We would go into the numbers, but it doesn’t matter that much either. Neither is Rodriguez, and just as Seattle can’t match Alvarez, neither can the Astros here.

It never seems like Kyle Tucker gets the respect he deserves, even though he now has three seasons to become one of the best hitters in baseball. Coming off his second straight 30-homer season, Tucker has a 135 OPS+ in the last three seasons combined, and he’s also astute on base, successfully stealing 25 of 29 bases this year. Mitch Haniger is also a good player, and last year alone he hit 39 home runs. But he’s not Tucker, on either side of the ball.

Every time Alvarez is here, he has a huge lead over Carlos Santana, and we expect that to be the case in games in Seattle (if not more, given that most of Alvarez’s non-DH postseason starts have been in National League ballparks, when the designated hitter was no longer available under the rules at the time). When Alvarez is on the left, Trey Mancini would probably start here, even though he has done little since he joined Houston (75 OPS+). That you get some Alvarez here, we suppose, is enough to give you an advantage.

This is the area where Houston’s ability to rest while Seattle had to go to Toronto will come in handy, because Luis Castillo will likely start in Game 2 and will only be seen twice if the series goes five full games. not exactly a issue that Logan Gilbert will start Game 1 for the Mariners, of course; he just posted a 3.20 ERA in a highly effective first full season. But neither is Justin Verlander, the living legend, the eternal wonder, the owner of a 1.75 ERA and almost certainly an AL Cy Young Award winner.

That would likely set Robbie Ray up for Game 3, and while he’s the defending AL Cy Young winner, he wasn’t effective down the stretch (4.32 in six September/October starts) or in Game 2 of the Series. Wild Card (four runs allowed in three innings), or against Houston this year (.442/.509/.865 against in three starts).

If you go by wOBA, an OPS-like stat that does a better job of adjusting for extra-base hits, then the Mariners had the second-best bullpen this year, allowing just .274. Or they were tied for second, anyway … with the Astros, who also allowed a .274 mark. Both were well-rested down the stretch, facing fewer batters than any of the other 28 teams.

Needless to say, there isn’t much separation here, and if things go as planned for Houston, they won’t even need to rely on the bullpen as much, because they hope their starters can dig deep into games. This one is close, and we’ll give Seattle a slight edge by virtue of having Andres Munoz, perhaps the most overwhelming bullpen arm in the series.

The Astros have home-field advantage, a huge lineup advantage and a better rotation that’s rested and prepared. They don’t have Julio Rodriguez for what it’s worth, and they’ll enter what should be an absolutely wild Seattle atmosphere for what will be the Mariners’ first home playoff game in more than two decades. Seattle is going to win a game, maybe two. But they won’t win three.

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