The Houston Astros have been one of the best teams in Major League Baseball since 2017, when they won the first World Series in franchise history. They failed to repeat last year, losing to the Red Sox in the ALCS, but the Astros look primed to win another World Series title this month. The Astros won a franchise-record 107 games this season, and this year’s team is seemingly better than the squad they had two years ago. It appears that the World Series is the Astros’ to lose, and here are four reasons they’ll win it all in 2019.
One word: pitching
The old cliche is pitching and defense win championships, and the Astros have a ton of good pitching. They already had the best 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, who will finish in the top two of Cy Young voting, in some order. Then at the trade deadline, they added Zack Greinke, a former Cy Young winner himself, who is the third-best pitcher in their rotation.
Cole and Verlander led the majors in strikeouts this season, with 326 and 300, respectively, becoming just the second pair of teammates in MLB history to each have at least 300 strikeouts. The two also led the majors in WHIP — Verlander was No. 1 at 0.803, and Cole was right behind him at 0.895. They were also best in ERA in the American League, with Cole posting a 2.50 mark and Verlander a 2.58.
One more word: hitting
Not only do the Astros have the best starting pitching in the majors, but they also have one of the deepest and best lineups in baseball history. Whether you want to look at traditional stats or advanced stats, the Astros are at or near the top of the majors in most offensive categories.
- They’re tops in batting average and OPS at .274 and .848, respectively.
- Their 288 home runs were the third-most in the majors, as were their 920 runs scored.
- The lineup also has good discipline at the plate because they led MLB with the most walks (645) and fewest strikeouts (1,166).
Individually, they have names like Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Alex Bregman, who all had significant impacts during the 2017 championship season. This year, that trio is joined by Michael Brantley, who hit .311 with 22 home runs in his first season with the team, and Yordan Alvarez, the shoo-in for the AL Rookie of the Year award. Alvarez made his debut on June 9, and in the less than four months in the majors, he hit .313 with 27 home runs and 78 RBIs.
Houston home cooking
The Astros’ 107 wins were the most in baseball, which means they have home-field advantage throughout the postseason, including the World Series. That spells trouble for their opponents because the Astros were 60-21 at Minute Maid Park during the regular season. They are just the second team in MLB history to win at least 60 games at home in a season. The other team that did it — the 1998 Yankees — won the World Series. Verlander posted a 2.34 ERA at home, nearly half a run lower than on the road. He also went 10-4 at Minute Maid, where he’ll be pitching in Game 1 of the ALDS.
World Series experience
Much of the core of this year’s team was also on the 2017 team that won the World Series, along with manager AJ Hinch, so they know what it takes to win the title and how to perform on the big stage. They’ve been through it before, so they likely won’t be as nervous as guys who haven’t been to the World Series before.
The experienced core can also help guys like Brantley and Alvarez know what to expect and how to help keep their nerves down since Altuve, Verlander, Bregman, and Springer have been through it before.