Sox-Astros position-by-position breakdown

October 7th, 2021

One team knows the postseason inside and out. The other is making its first American League Division Series appearance since 2008.

The Astros and White Sox are ready for their first October showdown as AL foes, with their only prior postseason meeting coming in 2005, when Chicago beat Houston in the World Series. That's also the last time the Sox won any postseason series, while the Astros have been ALCS mainstays four years running.

The one commonality? Both teams have been on relative cruise control in their divisions since June and, locked in as the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds, they’ve had weeks to scout each other. Before they take the field for Thursday’s series opener in Houston, let’s take a position-by-position look at how these two AL powerhouses stack up.


White Sox backstop swings less than anyone, but that feeds into a rare on-base ability for a catcher. Grandal’s 23.2% walk rate ranks as the highest single-season mark by any Modern Era AL/NL catcher with at least 350 plate appearances, and all those free passes, coupled with 23 home runs in 93 games, is why his low batting average takes a back seat. is an equal to Grandal on defense, and he has guided a young Astros rotation through a strong season. But Grandal’s bat is the big difference here.

Advantage: White Sox

First base

is the reigning AL MVP Award winner, but won this year’s AL batting title and nearly makes this a dead heat. Abreu won’t repeat as MVP, but he did almost take home a third straight AL RBI crown. In a big showdown of Cuban boppers, we’ll give the slight edge to the leader of Chicago’s clubhouse.

Slight advantage: White Sox

Second base

found a power stroke with Cleveland, but that pop hasn’t carried over since he was traded to the South Side. tied a career high with 31 homers and is looking like the former AL MVP that dominated before 2020. Altuve should be in the middle of every Astros rally, and he might represent Houston’s biggest advantage at any position.

Big advantage: Astros


Now this is interesting. brings the high batting average and speed from the South Side, while brings power and world-class defense from Houston. Correa owns the edge in fWAR and weighted runs created plus, and his immense postseason track record (including 17 home runs, tied for ninth most all-time) cannot be ignored. Each team will expect its superstar shortstop to play up his reputation, but with apologies to Anderson, we’ve seen Correa meet the October challenge year after year.

Slight advantage: Astros

Third base

was in the best-players-in-baseball discussion not too long ago, but quadriceps and hamstring injuries have limited his production and availability this year -- and that comes after a subpar 2020, by his standards. Bregman’s plate discipline remains elite, however, and he can keep an Astros rally moving by drawing a walk.

also suffered through a lost 2020 while battling residual effects from COVID-19, but he might be the White Sox second-most valuable contributor this year (122 wRC+, 4.5 fWAR) after Abreu. He’s had the better season, but Bregman has the postseason experience.

Slight advantage: Astros

Left field

Are you starting to sense the offense we could see in this series? Here’s another stud matchup between , the Astros’ other batting title competitor who seemingly never strikes out and always puts solid contact in play, and , a future 40-homer-a-year star who is back and bopping after months away on the injured list. Brantley missed time in September while he rested an aching right knee, but the Astros enjoyed the luxury of time in getting him right. There’s enough swing-and-miss in Jiménez’s game to suggest that Brantley’s contact ability makes him a better bat in a postseason series, but when Eloy gets hot … look out.

Slight advantage: Astros

Center field

has torn the cover off the ball (.350/.389/.622, 12 HRs) since he returned from a torn right hip flexor, and the even bigger development is that he’s sliced his strikeout and whiff-per-swing rates from 2020 at a nearly unprecedented level. Robert’s footspeed and grace in the outfield already made him a legitimate five-tool star, and now he’s stopped striking out one-third of the time. He could be the series X-factor if he keeps swinging a hot bat and deepens the White Sox attack.

The Astros didn’t devote resources toward addressing center field in free agency last winter, and their internal scouting was proven correct. Youngsters and have held their own out there, with McCormick ranking among the best outfield defenders in baseball, and Meyers also showing strong leatherwork since debuting in August. But neither player possesses Robert’s superstar potential that could take over a short series.

Advantage: White Sox

Right field

Don’t be surprised if you see earn some down-ballot AL MVP Award votes in November. He and Brantley form the next layer of stars in the Astros’ impossibly deep lineup behind the more familiar infield of Altuve, Bregman, Correa and Gurriel. Tucker isn’t the flashiest player, but he’s been a low-key Statcast stud this year, ranking among the top 20% of MLB players in hard-hit rate, strikeout rate, expected batting average and slugging and defensive Outs Above Average. He’s also entering this series red hot, batting .327 with 15 home runs and a 1.029 OPS in the second half and a .346 average with eight homers since September 1.

Right field might be the White Sox weakest position around the diamond, as they have used a rotating cast including , , , and Gavin Sheets. The group combined for a subpar 97 wRC+ this season.

Big advantage: Astros

Designated hitter

Remember when put up one of the best rookie seasons the Majors had ever seen? After missing almost all of 2020 and undergoing double knee surgery, Alvarez looks like that same generational talent again. The Las Tunas, Cuba, star has averaged a homer for every 14 at-bats since he debuted in ‘19, still gets on base when he’s not clearing the fence and is putting up nearly identical, top-of-the-line batted ball contact to when he was the unanimous AL Rookie of the Year Award winner.

Jiménez could start the whole series at DH given his shaky reputation with the glove, and has shown flashes in the DH role. But Alvarez is a machine whenever he’s healthy, and probably still isn’t recognized enough. Remember: Alvarez bounced back from a nightmarish 2019 ALCS to be a force in that year’s World Series, slashing .412/.524/.588 in the Astros’ seven-game loss to the Nationals.

Advantage: Astros


This is where the Astros previously enjoyed an advantage in most postseason series, but that might not be the case here. was an AL Cy Young Award contender for much of the season, is still capable of an ace performance in a big game and took huge steps forward. Chicago’s rotation has been the class of the AL throughout the season, pacing the Junior Circuit in fWAR.

But you know who was right there alongside the Sox for the AL’s best team rotation ERA? The Astros, who surprised with an unheralded group last October and could do so again. , no stranger to October, likely slots in as the Game 1 starter with moving to the bullpen. and are already battle-tested from last year's postseason (and Urquidy from the 2019 World Series). AL Rookie of the Year Award contender was lights out this year at Minute Maid Park.

The wild card here is White Sox lefty , a legitimate AL Cy Young Award contender before his pitching shoulder experienced fatigue down the stretch. Rodón returned to the mound on Sept. 29, and he pitched five scoreless innings against the Reds, but his fastball velocity remained down and his status for this series is a giant question mark. Rodón was Chicago's best pitcher against Houston when he was in peak form during the summer, allowing just one earned run and four hits across two starts while racking up 18 strikeouts.

Slight advantage: White Sox


The Astros’ relievers are no slouches. enjoyed another tremendous season in the back end, and the unit improved with the addition of . moved into the bullpen along with Greinke to give manager Dusty Baker length and, just like the rotation, the Houston ‘pen exceeded expectations last October.

But there’s no need to overthink this. Chicago already owned one of the AL’s better bullpens before it acquired and built a two-headed closing monster. It’s more than just Kimbrel and AL saves leader for the White Sox; and come in and throw gas to set them up, is now a ground ball and strikeout machine, is back from a lacerated right index finger, and the resurgent could bring his improved high-octane fastball to the ‘pen.

White Sox relievers have combined for the most 95-plus mph pitches in baseball -- and it’s not particularly close. They could make things feel late early, even for an offense as talented as the Astros’.

Advantage: White Sox

Prediction: These clubs were division favorites entering the season, and each of them delivered without too many hiccups. The White Sox have the on-paper pitching edge, but it’s hard to look at the Astros' lineup and not remember the times they ground down good pitching staffs in years past. Houston has particularly had Lynn’s number (0-3, 12.06 ERA) across the past two seasons. That feels significant.

This Astros core hasn’t lost a first-round postseason series since 2015, and the streak continues here. Houston takes this in four games, keeping the White Sox without a postseason series win since 2005.