HOUSTON -- In Game 2 of the ALCS at Minute Maid Park, the Astros will face Yankees young ace Luis Severino. Severino is the hardest-throwing starting pitcher in all of baseball. Pair him with that conga line of elite-velo Yankee relievers like Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Tommy Kahnle, and Chad Green, and opposing hitters just don't get a break. Speaking of which, consider this from Severino's ALDS Game 4 start against the Indians ...
Absurd indeed. This harrowing prospect, of course, isn't lost on Houston skipper A.J. Hinch, who had this to say in the hours before Game 2:
I think everything starts at the fastball. Our guys are hunting fastballs from the very beginning of the at-bat and a lot of these guys can time it up. We hit off the fastball, our timing, our pitch recognition all comes off of where the slot where the fastball is. And these guys have some high-end fastballs across the way. It can be pretty intimidating given that one after another come in throwing 95 to a hundred. They're all a little different. Some guys are four-seam carry guys, some guys are moving. They got a dude down there left-handed that throws pretty hard. We just have to hit off the fastball first and in that challenge mentality we're going to make sure we cover their best pitch.
Speaking of "hunting fastballs" that's absolutely what you have to do against fire-breathers like Severino and company. As it turns out, the Astros are pretty darn good at it. That stands to reason, given that during the regular season they paced the AL in runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. They can hit, and that doesn't change against top-tier fastballs.
Let's take the Astros OPS against finesse pitchers, average-velo pitchers, and power pitchers relative to the league average in those same categories. We'll divide the Astros' mark by the league mark, so the higher the resulting figure the better Houston fares relative to the mean (anything higher than 1.0 of course means the Astros were better than the average squad. The results ...
Astros OPS/MLB OPS
As you can see, the Astros are better than the league average in every category, but they're especially adept at producing against hard-throwers. When it comes to facing fastballs of 95 mph or higher -- i.e., the kind they'll see a lot of on Saturday -- the Astros this season slugged .479 against such pitches. Only the Diamondbacks had a higher mark. They're .285 batting average against such fastballs is tied with the Royals for the best in all of baseball. So, yeah, the Astros can handle what the Yankees' arms are going to bring them in Game 2. That stands to reason for a lineup that has no less a hitter than Alex Bregman .
When the Yanks are on the mound and the 'Stros are at the plate in Game 2, you're going to see a pretty compelling clash of strengths.