Tuesday, October 4, 2016

An Astros fan's guide to the 2016 playoffs: American League edition

No, the Astros did not make the playoffs. I know. Yes, it's sad. I know Sports Illustrated lied to you. They lied to me, too. Bastards. Anyhow, even though the Astros are not playing any more baseball this season, there are still reasons to watch the playoffs from a fan's perspective. Here's a guide:

American League

Toronto Blue Jays, 89-73, 1st Wild Card.

Record vs. Astros: 5-2.

I need Toronto to beat the Orioles tonight so that we can all watch a rematch of the Blue Jays/Rangers series from last year. Should the Blue Jays win - and I think they will - there is a better chance of seeing blood on the field than there is of a Dallas Cowboy getting arrested for drug paraphernilia in a routine traffic stop.

Former Astros: There are a few former Astros on the Blue Jays roster, notably Scott Feldman and J.A. Happ. Hell, Jimmy Paredes and Matt Dominguez even made 29 plate appearances for the 2016 Blue Jays. But Feldman and Happ are the most prominent. Happ - whom the Astros traded as part of the ten-player deal that brought in Joe Musgrove, among others, back in 2012 has put up ridiculous numbers for Toronto, going 20-4 (!) with a 3.18 ERA.

Scott Feldman's time in Toronto has been a series of mostly acceptable appearances peppered in with some terrible ones. Overall you look at how he's done after leaving Houston and shrug your shoulders: 14 earned runs in 15 innings, but seven of those earned runs came in back-to-back appearances of 3.1 total IP.

Bottom Line: I have a rooting interest in the Blue Jays simply because Rangers fans absolutely hate them. I hope Jose Bautista hits a home run off Sam "The Gingerbeard Man" Dyson and rides his bat around the bases before shaking the knob of his bat at Dyson like it's his penis. Should this happen, however, the entire Metroplex would likely get the rest of us in a war with Canada. I'll take that trade-off.

Baltimore Orioles, 89-73, 2nd Wild Card

Record vs. Astros: 1-6.

The Orioles have Kevin Gausman and Chris Tillman at the top of their rotation and three dudes. Then you have Cy Young candidate Zach Britton as the shutdown closer, who has allowed four earned runs in 67IP. I have no thoughts about the Baltimore Orioles.

Former Astros: Your memories of Steve Pearce in an Astros uniform depend on how closely you watched the August 2012 Astros, because he only played in 21 games for the Astros. Or how many times you've watched the Blocked Bunt play. Anyway, Pearce put up a .930 OPS for the 2014 Orioles and was hitting .309/.388/.520 for the 2016 Rays before the Orioles reacquired him. But you won't see him this postseason as he's on the 60-Day DL.

Michael Bourn was traded from Arizona to Baltimore on August 31 after having revived his career with the Blue Jays. In 2011 Bourn posted a .766 OPS for the Astros, which is still a career-high. This month for the Orioles, however, he's hitting .283/.358/.435 and playing in all three outfield spots.

Bottom Line: Whatever. I like Buck Showalter, but have zero interest in the Orioles.

Boston Red Sox, 93-69, 1st Place - AL East

Record vs. Astros: 5-2.

Remember when you could pull for the Red Sox in the playoffs and feel like you were supporting the underdog? That was fun. The Red Sox have a bunch of exciting hitters and some mediocre pitchers and then David Ortiz, who is making temporarily insane Red Sox fans forget about a guy named Ted Williams. But AS A TEAM the Red Sox are hitting .282/.348/.461, all best in the American League. This is insane. And you can get away with letting Clay Buchholz throw in 37 games and still win a division with three playoff teams by four games when you can hit like that.

Former Astros: None. This is probably why they won the division.

Bottom Line: Playoff Fenway is fun to watch but I will derive no satisfaction from the Red Sox winning the World Series.

Cleveland Indians, 94-67, 1st Place - AL Central

Record vs. Astros: 3-4.

Former Astros: Brad Mills has been Terry Francona's bench coach for the past few seasons but will shift to the 3B coach in 2017. Pitcher Adam Plutko was a late September call-up for the Indians. He was originally drafted by the Astros in the 6th Round of the 2010 draft, but elected to go UCLA and win the College World Series in 2013.

Bottom Line: First LeBron and now this? I'm getting sick of Cleveland winning everything. Lucky SOBs. They're the new Boston.

Texas Rangers, 162-0, 1st Place - AL West

Record vs. Astros: 159-0.

You probably did not know that the Rangers beat the Astros 159 times this season, but it's true. The Rangers won because they're lucky. They won because they're good. They won because they're clutch. They won because they're good and being luckily clutch. The Rangers won and it doesn't matter why, it only matters that it happened.

Things I want to have happen before the Rangers win a World Series, ranked:

1) The Astros win the World Series
2) The coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
3) I get a migraine for a month
4) I get put into a human centipede-esque situation

Former Astros:

Carlos Gomez. The Rangers got the Carlos Gomez the Astros thought they were getting when they got Carlos Gomez. Unfortunately the Carlos Gomez the Astros got was a shadow of his former Carlos Gomez - a wreck at the plate, in the field, on the basepaths. He was almost literally bad at every aspect of baseball. So the Astros moved on, as was their right. And it was the right move. The Rangers got him and turned him into the Carlos Gomez he could have always been.

Consider: in 85 games with the Astros in 2016 Gomez hit .210/.272/.322 for a .594 OPS. By God in 33 games with the Rangers Gomez hit .284/.362/.543. Yes, his SLG with East Fort Worth was only 51 points lower than his OPS with the Astros. His OBP was 40 points higher with the Ramgers than his SLG was with the Astros. This is witchcraft.

Lucas Harrell: Yeah, if the Rangers win the World Series Carlos Gomez and Lucas Harrell get a ring. Now tell me you don't want to set yourself on fire.

Cole Hamels: For about 20 minutes I thought Mr. White Privilege would be an Astro. That counts. I hope he boo-boos on himself on the mound.

I hope they get swept in the first round. Or I hope they lose the World Series when Bryce Harper reaches in the bottom of the 9th of Game 7 on a dropped third strike that he beats out to first base and then scores because Sam Dyson thinks about Jose Bautista and balks three times in a row to allow Harper to score on a walk-off balk. I hate the Rangers.