The Houston Astros were unsuccessful in getting to the World Series in 2018, but 2019 looks to be the year their fortunes turn.
The big picture: With the Astros already having two 10-game winning streaks less than halfway through the season, just how good are the Astros?
The 2017 Astros aimed for the stars: The 2017 Astros were dominant in all facets of the game.
They led MLB in:
- Runs and RBI
- Least amount of strikeouts
- Batting average, on-base percentage and slugging.
That was thanks in part to the amazing play of the Astros’ three-headed monster on the infield: Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman.
- Altuve, despite his height, played like a giant, hitting 24 home runs and knocking in 81 RBI.
- Correa also hit 24 home runs with 84 RBI.
- For his part, Bregman had 19 home runs with 71 RBI as well.
Additionally, a pitching staff headed by aces Justin Verlander and Dallas Kuechel was the 11th best in MLB, averaging a collective 4.12 ERA and a win percentage of 62 percent that was third behind only the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Cleveland Indians.
Houston, we don’t have a problem: 2018 could be considered a down year for the Astros as they were defeated in five games in the ALCS against the Boston Red Sox.
Nevertheless, the 2019 Astros are firing on all cylinders:
- First in batting average, pitcher win percentage, defensive efficiency and total Wins Above Replacement.
- Second in RBI, ERA and runs allowed per game.
- Third in runs per game at 5.44 and total home runs hit.
If the Astros are able to keep up their torrid pace into the second half of the season, they are undoubtedly the team to beat in the AL. As the Red Sox struggle in the slugfest that is the AL East, the Astros are chomping at the bit for a potential meeting against the struggling Red Sox.
Perhaps the Astros’ only real threat to take the AL pennant might be the New York Yankees. Already devastated with injury, the Yankees still somehow find themselves at the top of the AL East. Once they are fully healthy, the Yankees are the one team to watch out for.
Best in the AL West: For a lack of a better term, the Astros’ competition in the AL West is laughable. Currently, there is no other team in MLB that has as big of a lead over the next best team as the Astros.
Taking a look at the opposition:
- The Texas Rangers appear to be rebuilding yet again.
- After making it to the AL Wildcard game in 2018, the Oakland Athletics have disappointed thus far, falling below .500.
- Although they have amazing talent in Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, the Los Angeles Angels aren’t really going anywhere anytime soon.
- Hot start notwithstanding, the Seattle Mariners have fallen back to mediocrity and are potentially look at yet another season out of the playoffs.
If the AL West continues to be lackluster for the remainder of the season, that all but guarantees the Astros a berth in the playoffs. Taking into account how the last few years have gone for the Astros and the AL West, that is an almost an absolute certainty.
The bottom line: With the Astros in command of the AL West, there’s not really a competitor to worry about in their own division. The relative ease in which they are beating teams has to worry other teams in the American League and even in the National League.
Considering the lack of obvious weaknesses that the Astros are exhibiting, expect them to be the overwhelming favorite to win the World Series this year.