Despite winning a club record 103 wins in 2018, the Astros have left their fans wanting more from them. By the Pythagorean formula for wins, the team should have won something more like 109 wins based on their huge 263 run differential for the season. Though they were a marvelous 37-8 in blowouts (games decided by 5+ runs), they were a non-Champion 24-24 in one-run games. Though they were a wonderful 57-24 on the road, one of the best records in decades, they were a just above average 46-35 at home (which was a really blah 35-32 heading into September).
After being the very best offense in the world in 2017 (First in all of baseball in runs scored, BA, OBP, SLG, OPS and avoiding Ks), they were a big step down in 2018 as they were 5th in the AL (not baseball) in runs scored. Yes, they had the best pitching in all of baseball with the best starting pitching ERA (3.16) and the best bullpen ERA (3.03), which is unusual for an AL team that is not facing pitchers hitting most of the season. The team was frustrating at times; even when they were winning steadily, there were quite a few great starts wasted with an inconsistent offense.
Injuries to some of their best players (George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa) not only upset the offense when they were gone but lingered due to rustiness or perhaps hangovers from a not quite healed thumb, knee and back, respectively. The Astros played well down the stretch to hold off the Oakland A’s, but this came against questionable competition. Could the Astros take things to another level once the playoffs began?
The answer through a complete domination of the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS is a resounding “YES!” The Astros questionable offense? Well the team as a whole is hitting .327 BA/ .421 OBP / 1.037 OPS – easily first in each category. They’ve scored 21 runs and the Dodgers are second with 20 runs (in one extra postseason game). For teams still alive, they have the second best 2.00 ERA behind the unreal Milwaukee Brewers (0.74 ERA). The Astros are first in WHIP (0.70) and batting average against (.144 BA) and second in OPS against at 0.418 OPS.
Yes, this could collapse quickly, but watching this team they have the definite air of a team that has been there before, believes in itself and knows that it can win against anyone anywhere.
They now have four days off and head into the ALCS with nicely rested Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Dallas Keuchel not to mention Charlie Morton, who might have too much rest, but might have needed too much rest. The Astros bullpen led by Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly, Collin McHugh, and Lance McCullers Jr. does not look like the group that melted down as often as it didn’t last playoffs.
So far the Astros have four of the top six players in the playoffs with OPS in Alex Bregman, George Springer, Tyler White and Marwin Gonzalez. Carlos Correa showed life with his opposite-field homer on Monday, Josh Reddick has had some big hits and Jose Altuve is starting to hit.
If the Astros offense comes within 90% of the 2018 model during the playoffs, this team is supremely dangerous and will be the team no one wants to play over the balance of October.