What the remaining strength of the schedule tells us about the Astros’ chances of catching the Yankees

Let’s face it: the No. 1 seed in the American League playoffs looks pretty good, right? The fact that he’s even in play considering the loss of Carlos Correa and absolute legend Zack Greinke in the offseason, following the losses of George Springer and Gerrit Cole in the previous two offseasons, is quite remarkable.

So now that we’ve had some respite from Astros baseball for a few days, I took a look at the remaining Astros, Yankees and Mariners schedules. What are the odds of the Astros catching the Yankees for home-field advantage through the ALCS or the scorching Mariners catching the Astros in the AL West?

First, let’s recap where we are now. The Astros currently have a nine-game lead over the Mariners with 71 remaining. That was brought down from the Astros’ 13.5-game division lead two weeks ago, thanks in large part to the Mariners winning 14 straight and going 22-3 since June 20. Looks like the Astros limped into the All-Star Break but it bears repeating that the Mariners have won 88% of their last 25 games and only won four games against the Astros, who went 18-7 in the same sequence. (The Angels went 6-16 in the same span).

In the overall American League table, at 64-28, the Yankees have the best record, 4.5 games better than Houston. New York has benefited from 23 games played against teams currently in last place in their division (record: 17-6). Twelve of MLB’s 30 teams are under .500, and the Yankees have faced those teams 23 times, going 18-5 in those games. What would it take for the Astros to catch them?

Houston Astros (59-32)

Of the Astros’ remaining 71 games, 39 of them are tucked away inside Minute Maid Park, where they’ve won two-thirds of their games this season and 63.6% of their games since the start of the season. 2017 (2020 excluded for obvious reasons – 2020 did not exist). The Astros will spend more time at home for the rest of the season than any other team I highlight in this article. The Astros finish the regular season with eight home games, the first two of which are against Arizona, but the last six are against the Rays and Phillies, both of which are currently in playoff position.

41 of their remaining 71 games are against teams at or above .500, but 24 of those games are against teams currently in the playoffs. It’s not the fewest number of games against a playoff team, but it’s by no means the most.

Astros projection of the rest of the season from FanGraphs: 40-31.

New York Yankees (64-28)

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JULY 13: New York Yankees DJ LeMahieu #26 celebrates scoring the winning run with Gleyber Torres #25 and Isiah Kiner-Falefa #12 on crazy pitch in the 10th inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Yankee Stadium on July 13, 2022 in New York City.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Yankees entered the All-Star Break with a scorching record belied by a pretty rough July (by their 2022 standards, anyway). They were 56-21 on June 3 after losing to the Astros in that one-game random “series.” But when given the opportunity to play the Pirates and Reds five times, they went 2-3. New York took two of the Red Sox’ three heading into the break, but come here with an 8-7 record in July.

Still, they enjoy a 13-game lead in the AL East which, if maintained, would amount to the biggest division win since the six-division move established by the White Sox from the start. [squints] 2021. They are nowhere near the 21-game margin of the 2019 Dodgers.

That said, the Yankees are playing 38 of their 70 remaining games on the road, and 53 of those games are against teams at or above .500 (including six others against the suddenly .500 Baltimore Orioles). Thirty-five of their next 54 games are against teams currently in the playoffs, so if the Astros want to catch them, sooner would probably be a little easier than later … starting with the unique double-header between the two Thursday.

FanGraphs Remaining Season Projection: 40-30

Seattle Mariners (51-42)

The Seattle Mariners dance in a circle after the quarterfinal baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas on Sunday July 17, 2022. The Mariners won 6-2.  (AP Photo/LM Otero)
The Seattle Mariners dance in a circle after the quarterfinal baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas on Sunday July 17, 2022. The Mariners won 6-2. (AP Photo/LM Otero)LM Otero/Associated Press

The Seattle Mariners haven’t made the playoffs since 2001, which is the longest active streak in MLB. It was the season they went 116-46, then won two playoff games and got bounced by the Yankees in the first round. Still, as mentioned earlier, they are on a hot streak and are looking to end this 20-season drought.

This could well be the year, though, and honestly, if they don’t play in October, it’s their fault. Thirty-seven of their remaining 69 games are at home, and only 28 of those games are against teams at or above 0.500. The Mariners open the second half with home series against the Astros and Rangers, then travel to Houston and Yankee Stadium, before a four-game break against the Angels, followed immediately by three games against the Yankees in new. That’s 13 games in their next 20 against the top two teams in the American League. After that, it’s been pretty smooth sailing for Seattle: Only five of their last 49 games have been against teams currently in playoff contention, and they end the regular season at home with 10 games combined against Arlington, Oakland and Detroit ( combined teams have 55 games under .500).

FanGraphs projection for the rest of the season: 35-34 (but with a 67.7% chance of ending this post-season drought).

It’s worth mentioning that FanGraphs’ projections for the rest of the season aren’t very favorable for many teams and are actually a bit far-fetched. Four teams have won at least 60% of their games so far this season: Yankees, Dodgers, Astros and Mets. FanGraphs puts the highest projected winning percentage on the Dodgers at .575. Meanwhile, the Reds are 34-57, but FanGraphs predicts they’ll go 32-39 down the straight…and that’s before they trade anyone with a functional pulse at range in both. next weeks. Guess we might as well sit back and watch it all unfold.