Why Beating the Astros is Important

Apr 10, 2013, 3:06 PM

By Gary Hill

Strength of schedule is often cited as an important factor in analyzing NFL teams. However, SOS is not often a discussion point in baseball. There are so many games in a baseball season that it is often assumed that schedules tend to even out. They often don’t. The Seattle Mariners played in a division last season where every other team finished above .500 (A’s 94-68, Rangers 93-69, Angels 89-73). Thanks to the unbalanced schedule the Mariners played a higher percentage of their games against teams with winning records. Meanwhile teams in the NL Central feasted on the Houston Astros (55-107) and the Chicago Cubs (61-101). The “Astros Factor” played a significant role in how races across baseball finished.

The Texas Rangers grabbed one of the AL Wild Cards and took 5 of 6 from Houston. Washington won the NL East and went 7-1. San Francisco took the NL West and finished 8-1 against the Astros. The Reds claimed victory in the NL Central and went 11-4.

The second NL Wild Card is where the “Astros Factor” came into play the most. The St. Louis Cardinals (88-74) finished ahead of the Dodgers (86-76) by 2 games and the Brewers (83-79) by 5. St. Louis and Milwaukee are in the same division so it is easy to compare the two. The Cards went 11-4 versus Houston while the Brewers managed just an 8-9 record. Nearly the entire Brewers deficit was reflected in the difference in the Astros tally. The Cardinals played the Astros 15 times. The Dodgers played them six times (4-2). Considering LA only finished two games back those were 9 valuable games they had to spend playing Arizona (6-12), Colorado (10-8), San Diego (11-7) or San Francisco (8-10) instead.

It is reasonable to guess that the win total for the Astros will be somewhere around 55 games again this season. Most likely, every playoff team will again have a stellar record against Houston. Teams in the AL West will have a particular advantage because they get the pleasure of playing them more often. If the Seattle Mariners are going to contend for the AL West or a Wild Card then it is vital that they exploit the Astros.

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