The Astros Gave the Indians an All-Time Beating

We know half of the ALCS, as the Astros on Monday wrapped up a sweep of the Indians. And the way I see it, there are two ways you can read the brief series that was.

In one sense, the series was closer than it seems. Game 1 was tight until the bottom of the seventh. It was only then the Astros managed to pull away. Game 2 was decided by only two runs, and the Indians actually led into the bottom of the sixth. The contest turned on a Marwin Gonzalez double off Andrew Miller. And then even though Game 3 was a blowout, the Indians led into the top of the seventh. That catastrophic inning turned in part on an excuse-me ground-ball single. It turned in part on a throwing error on a would-be double play. It turned in part on a double well out of the zone that Marwin Gonzalez thought he fouled off. The score got out of hand, and it got there fast, but the Indians had it where they wanted it to be. It all unraveled in the last third of the game.

So based on one reading, the Indians could start, but they just couldn’t finish. Through the first six innings, they were outscored 7-5. Over the final three innings, they were outscored 14-1. It looks very bad, but it’s not like they were all laughers. At some point, the Indians were very much in every game.

Based on another, different reading, the Indians got destroyed. They didn’t even belong on the same baseball field. The Astros coasted to maybe the most lopsided series win in history.

Over three games, the Astros collected three wins, while the Indians collected zero. The Astros scored 21 runs, while the Indians scored six. The Astros knocked 34 hits, while the Indians knocked 13. The Astros clobbered 14 hits for extra bases, while the Indians clobbered three.

Baseball Reference tells me there have been 308 completed playoff series on record. That means there have been 616 team-series, or team-specific series performances. Obviously, even the longest playoff series is short, and the shortest playoff series is finished before you even know what happened, but the playoffs are everyone’s goal. Playoff games are the games that matter the most. They’re the games for which each team is supposedly best prepared. We’d never analyze a series in the regular season, and all small-sample caveats still matter, but I want to show you some tables. I want to show you what the Astros just did. This was a systematic dismantling.

Remember: 308 completed series. The Astros just outscored the Indians by 15 runs, or 5 runs per game. Here are the most lopsided series of all time, in run differential per game.

Playoff Series Run Differential
Team 1 Team 2 Year Series Team 1 R Team 2 R R Diff/G
Orioles Twins 1970 LCS 27 10 5.67
Yankees Athletics 1981 LCS 20 4 5.33
Astros Indians 2018 LDS 21 6 5.00
Red Sox Angels 2007 LDS 19 4 5.00
White Sox Red Sox 2005 LDS 24 9 5.00
Reds Dodgers 1995 LDS 22 7 5.00
Red Sox Rockies 2007 WS 29 10 4.75
Dodgers Cubs 2008 LDS 20 6 4.67
Cardinals Diamondbacks 2002 LDS 20 6 4.67
Cardinals Braves 2000 LDS 24 10 4.67
Braves Astros 1997 LDS 19 5 4.67
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

Impressive. It took some time in each showdown for the Astros to take control, but they seized control in all three games, and they hardly gave the Indians a chance. The winner isn’t determined by what the score is in the fifth or the sixth. The winner is determined by what the score is at the end. The Astros scored a lot. The Indians scored a little.

Runs are one measure. I’m going to show you four more. They’re all simple, and they’re all essentially components. In this next table, let’s look at the biggest-ever differences in team batting average.

Playoff Series Average Differential
Team 1 Team 2 Year Series Team 1 BA Team 2 BA BA Diff
Astros Indians 2018 LDS 0.327 0.144 0.183
Cardinals Braves 1982 LCS 0.330 0.169 0.161
Orioles Twins 1969 LCS 0.293 0.155 0.138
Tigers Yankees 2012 LCS 0.291 0.157 0.134
Cardinals Diamondbacks 2002 LDS 0.314 0.184 0.130
Brewers Rockies 2018 LDS 0.272 0.146 0.126
Red Sox Athletics 1975 LCS 0.316 0.194 0.122
Dodgers Braves 2013 LDS 0.333 0.214 0.119
Athletics Red Sox 1990 LCS 0.299 0.183 0.116
Red Sox Rockies 2007 WS 0.333 0.218 0.115
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

Look at that! The Brewers just did a number on the Rockies. In their own series sweep, the Brewers out-hit the Rockies by 126 points. The Astros out-hit the Indians by 57 points more than that. The Astros had one of the better-hitting series ever. The Indians had one of the worst. Bad time for those to overlap.

Moving on, let’s check out the biggest-ever differences in team on-base percentage.

Playoff Series OBP Differential
Team 1 Team 2 Year Series Team 1 OBP Team 2 OBP OBP Diff
Astros Indians 2018 LDS 0.421 0.196 0.225
Athletics Red Sox 1990 LCS 0.399 0.216 0.183
Cardinals Braves 1982 LCS 0.395 0.219 0.176
Dodgers Cubs 2017 LCS 0.366 0.193 0.173
Brewers Rockies 2018 LDS 0.370 0.210 0.160
Dodgers Pirates 1974 LCS 0.401 0.252 0.149
Yankees Athletics 1981 LCS 0.415 0.267 0.148
Dodgers Diamondbacks 2017 LDS 0.397 0.252 0.145
Red Sox Cardinals 2004 WS 0.404 0.261 0.143
Phillies Reds 2010 LDS 0.301 0.160 0.141
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

It gets uglier. Not only did the Astros out-hit the Indians by a ton — they also drew 14 walks, while the Indians had to settle for six. There are the Brewers and Rockies again. You’re not wrong if you feel like the division-series round has been a little underwhelming. But while the Brewers-Rockies series was one-sided, it wasn’t this one-sided. At least they had that one game go to extras.

Moving on again, time for the biggest-ever differences in team slugging percentage.

Playoff Series Slugging Differential
Team 1 Team 2 Year Series Team 1 SLG Team 2 SLG SLG Diff
Astros Indians 2018 LDS 0.615 0.222 0.393
Dodgers Braves 2013 LDS 0.572 0.275 0.297
Yankees Rangers 1998 LDS 0.451 0.174 0.277
Diamondbacks Cubs 2007 LDS 0.532 0.255 0.277
Cardinals Braves 1982 LCS 0.437 0.180 0.257
Brewers Rockies 2018 LDS 0.437 0.188 0.249
Yankees Cardinals 1928 WS 0.530 0.282 0.248
Orioles Twins 1969 LCS 0.472 0.227 0.245
Red Sox Angels 2007 LDS 0.495 0.253 0.242
Reds Yankees 1976 WS 0.522 0.281 0.241
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

Good lord. I mean, good lord. Look at those numbers closely. Yes, what’s most evident is that this Astros-Indians series was the most lopsided slugging series ever. But it was also the most lopsided slugging series ever by almost a hundred points. BY ALMOST A HUNDRED POINTS. I don’t like to type in all caps, but I feel like in this instance it is more than warranted. And I’d linger here longer, too, if I weren’t getting to the final table of this post. To the most comical table of this post. What do you have when you have OBP and SLG? You have OPS. Here are the biggest-ever differences in team OPS.

Playoff Series OPS Differential
Team 1 Team 2 Year Series Team 1 OPS Team 2 OPS OPS Diff
Astros Indians 2018 LDS 1.037 0.418 0.619
Cardinals Braves 1982 LCS 0.832 0.399 0.433
Yankees Rangers 1998 LDS 0.764 0.351 0.413
Brewers Rockies 2018 LDS 0.807 0.397 0.410
Dodgers Braves 2013 LDS 0.962 0.564 0.398
Dodgers Cubs 2017 LCS 0.881 0.491 0.390
Dodgers Braves 2018 LDS 0.803 0.429 0.374
Athletics Giants 1989 WS 0.964 0.595 0.369
Orioles Twins 1969 LCS 0.832 0.463 0.369
Red Sox Angels 2007 LDS 0.864 0.503 0.361
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

This table is incredible to me. It’s incredible to me for two reasons. One, this is a top-ten table, and we have three entries from just this year’s division-series round. The Brewers-Rockies series was very lopsided. The Dodgers-Braves series was also very lopsided. Yet, two — the Astros-Indians series was spectacularly lopsided. Unfathomably lopsided, by this measure. No series before had ever seen such a big difference in team OBP. No series before had ever seen such a big difference in team slugging. And so, no series before had ever seen such a big difference in team OPS. The difference between the Astros’ OPS and the Indians’ OPS was greater than the Indians’ OPS by 201 points. The gap between first and second here is 186 points. It’s not like this has to *mean* anything; the Astros aren’t perfect, and the Indians don’t need to blow it all up. The Indians are still a solid baseball team, a team likely to return to the playoffs a year from now. But there’s no ignoring the reality of what took place. Soon, the Astros will turn their attention to whoever they’re going to face in the ALCS. For now, they have a little more time to reflect on and appreciate a total obliteration.

Both of the series in the National League were pretty one-sided. They didn’t generate much in the way of memorable moments. The Astros-Indians ALDS also didn’t generate many memorable moments, yet it all came together for a memorable outcome. That was a beatdown. That was a complete and utter beatdown, like nothing we’ve ever seen before. Not by the numbers. Not by almost literally all of the meaningful numbers.

Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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5 years ago

Those 2007 Red Sox.

Record run diff’s in ALDs and WS, but went 7 in ALCS.

5 years ago
Reply to  tb.25

That was my first reaction too. Those 2007 Red Sox really had a couple series to remember (if you’re a Sox fan, if you’re not then you’d probably want to forget it).

5 years ago
Reply to  tb.25

Tells you how good Cleveland was. They probably would have won that series if the midges had returned.