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Yankees’ AL Pennant Odds Fade to +220; Are the Astros Beatable?

Will Zach Britton and the Yankees pen be enough pitching to win them the pennant? By Keith Allison (Wiki Commons) [CCLicense]
  • Astros hold 4-3 edge over Yankees in 2019 season and own tie-breaker
  • Yankees still trail Astros by half a game in standings entering final two regular-season series of 2019
  • Astros have 15-13 edge over the Yankees in head-to-head last three seasons, regular seasons and playoffs combined

With just five games left in their regular season, the New York Yankees are running out of time to overtake the Houston Astros in the American League standings.

Trailing by half a game as of Tuesday, claiming the No. 1 seed may well be key for the Bronx Bombers’ AL pennant odds this year.

2019 American League Pennant Odds

Team Odds at BetOnline
Houston Astros -125
New York Yankees +250
Minnesota Twins +700
Oakland Athletics +1200
Cleveland Indians +1400
Tampa Bay Rays +1400

*Odds taken on 09/24/19

Head-to-Head

The Astros hold the season edge against the Yankees in 2019 courtesy of a 4-3 edge (a perfect 3-0 at home and one road victory). But in reality the two teams have been very evenly matched over the last three years.

In 2017, when the Astros one their first of three straight division titles on their way to their first World Series crown, the two teams met seven times. Houston went 3-1 at Yankee Stadium and 2-1 at home.

In 2018, it was New York’s turn to go 5-2 in the season series, with the Yankees going 3-1 at Minute Maid Park and 2-1 at home.

The Importance of Home Field Advantage

Anyone questioning just how important home-field advantage is likely to be in any possible ALCS meeting between the Yankees and the Astros need only look back to 2017.

The two teams met with a World Series berth on the line and while the Yankees won every game played at Yankee Stadium, the Astros held serve back at Minute Maid Park. Unfortunately for the fourth-seeded Bronx Bombers, Houston was the second seed that year, and thus won the series 4-3. To make things worse, the Yanks only scored three runs in those four games in Houston.

Houston has also shown it can win a road game in the Bronx, beating the Yankees 3-0 in the 2015 AL Wild Card game.

With a half a game separating the two teams (although Houston owns the tie-breaker courtesy of head-to-head wins this season), both teams will be desperate to finish with the AL’s No. 1 seed.

The Yankees have had astonishing home success in the Bronx this year. After starting the season 3-6 at Yankee Stadium, the Bombers have gone 54-18 since, winning 20 and tying three of the 23 series they’ve played since.

On the other hand, Houston’s 60-21 record has them keeping company with the 1998 Yankees as the only teams to win at least 60 home games in the last 40 years.

Away from home, both teams are performing at a similar level, with the Yankees’ 45-31 record just shading the Astros’ 42-33 mark.

Offensive Juggernauts

While some baseball observers are comparing the 2019 Astros to the 1927 New York Yankees, the fact of the matter is that both of these offenses are in the all-time elite category.

With a major-league-leading 923 runs and counting, the Yankees are having no trouble putting runs on the board, and are just two home runs away from becoming the first team to hit 300 in a season. The return to fitness of the likes of Giancarlo Stanton, who has barely skipped a beat since coming off the Injured List, and the likes of Gleyber Torres, Gary Sanchez and Edwin Encarnacion aren’t far behind.

Houston’s 893 runs isn’t far behind, and its run differential of +265 may be some way off the all-time 411 mark put up by the 1939 Yankees, but it’s still good enough to lead the majors in 2019.

Arms Race

The Astros’ addition of Zack Greinke at the trade deadline certainly gives them a leg up on the Yankees on paper, and likely the entire majors as well.

With Greinke, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, Houston has three of the top-10 ERA holders in the major leagues. That stability more than makes up for the season-ending injuries succumbed to by Aaron Sanchez and Lance McCullers.

In contrast, Masahiro Tanaka is has the highest ERA among Yankees starters, good enough for 49th on the list.

For the Yankees, the loss of Domingo German and his team-leading 18-4 record after he was placed on leave under MLB’s domestic abuse policy leaves the Bombers with a big hole to fill. The return of Luis Severino from the Injured List helps, but it is difficult to see how the Yankees’ rotation can keep up with that of the Astros.

Prediction: Home-field advantage will be crucial, and it’s hard to see the Yankees claiming the AL pennant without it. (HOU -125)

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