In praise of the 2018 Houston Astros


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.

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79 comments on “In praise of the 2018 Houston Astros

    • Dan, I’m sorta stunned. I had thought the Astros would split the first four games and win the game 5.
      So, I’m trying to get a sense of just what the hell happened.
      You touched on what I was thinking when you gave the Astros slash line for the 3 games against on of the best rotations in baseball. I had already gone there and compared it to the slash line of the Astros for the regular season, which was .255/.329/.425/.754. Three of those numbers were 7th in MLB while one was 8th.
      The thing that keeps popping up in my mind is that the Astros pitching staff was the best all year, BUT, their staff was also healthy all year.
      The lineup was decent all year, but weren’t healthy and that held them back from dominating the division.
      It took Gurriel three months to recover from his surgery.
      McCann could not hit all year because of his knee.
      Correa was injured for 3 months.
      Altuve was injured for two months and Springers two injuries hurt him for two months.
      When Gattis was hitting well, White was in Fresno.
      When White was hitting well, Gattis was not.
      Reddick was hot for one month and then lost his swing for about two months.
      Kemp was good but wasn’t around until mid-May.
      Marisnick was terrible at the plate.
      Maldanado didn’t show up until late July.
      This team did not have a chance to really get going with the bats until September and still was winning at a .600 pace.
      Now, I think they are close to full strength for the first time all year.

      Liked by 2 people

      • And one other guy was Marwin, who was early/bad Marwin for most of the season, but late in the season and against the Indians looks like 2017 Marwin.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Good morning Dan et al. Yesterday was one of the more gratifying wins ever and really put an exclamation point on this season to this point and served warning to everyone who will face us going forward. I think we want perfection when we’re only getting dominance. For example, how many of you were like me when Marwin swung at ball four with the bases loaded only to say, “Sorry, my bad. I guess a two run double is a bit better than a walk?”
    After the game I heard Bregman (who else) grousing a bit about the defending champs being relegated to the undercard while the supposed game between the Yankees and Red Sox was the prime time main event. I almost hope we play the Red Sox so we can leave no doubt as to which is the best team in the AL.

    Liked by 2 people

      • When he hit it I thought it was a foul ball for sure – just looked like a shot that would hook foul. Hey, even if it was out of the strike zone he went the other way, which is what Correa did on his HR, which was outside the strike zone.

        Like

  2. All I can say is for 2 weeks all I heard on ESPN was man is that Red Sox- Yankee series going to be awesome , and watch out for that sleeper team Cleveland BAM! Im with Breggy World Champs got no respect!!! NEXT

    Liked by 3 people

  3. A few playoff things I find interesting:
    -Boston pitchers have issued 13 BBs to the Yankees in 3 games.
    -The Astros hit 4 solo homers off of Eovaldi in his only appearance against us early in the year. He was good for 5 innings and then gave up three HRs back to back to back in the sixth, pitching for the Rays.
    -Still can’t get over Springer being left of the Top 50 Players in the playoffs list. So far, Springer has 3 singles and 3 HRs in 3 games. So many Cubs players on that list that are now playing golf.
    -I don’t usually go after a manager for an individual move, but, why Lance Lynn in the most crucial point of the series? If I want to get out of that jam, I’m bringing in one of my most vaunted relievers. I thought Boone made a huge mistake there. Three batters later, that game is lost.
    -The Brewers kept getting better and better as the season went on. Now you look at how good they were statistically and wonder how you missed it.
    – I laughed at Jonathan Villar being described as part of the Orioles core, in an article I read.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great article. With this epic description of the Astros’ plan for the season:

    “Think about the plan the Astros had for this season:

    – Have Justin Verlander dominate
    – Unlock Gerrit Cole’s full potential
    – Enjoy unprecedented rotation depth
    – Reach October without a wheezing, gasping bullpen
    – Produce at least one MVP candidate out of Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, or George Springer
    – Employ 73 different gigantic, bald lumberjack-looking dudes who look like a dad that answers the door while his daughter is still getting ready”

    https://www.sbnation.com/mlb/2018/10/8/17953114/astros-alds-indians-alcs-yankees-red-sox-bregman-correa-altuve

    Liked by 2 people

  5. mlbtraderumors.com has posted their estimate of arbitration salaries for all those eligible and I guess I am numb to numbers because these look pretty good to me…..
    Astros (10)
    Gerrit Cole – $13.1MM
    Roberto Osuna – $6.5MM
    Collin McHugh – $5.4MM
    Carlos Correa – $5.1MM
    Lance McCullers – $4.6MM
    Will Harris – $3.6MM
    Ryan Pressly – $3.1MM
    Brad Peacock – $2.9MM
    Jake Marisnick – $2.4MM
    Chris Devenski – $1.4MM

    Like

      • You added wrong. That is $48.1 million. Add that to the Astros guaranteed salaries and that puts the Astros right at $130 million with all their free agents leaving.
        They will have some holes to fill. Forbes estimated that the increased attendance netted the Astros an additional $27+ million this season. I think the Astros will try to stay near or under $175 million in payroll next year.
        As you would imagine, how the Astros finish this season will determine how richly they invest next season.
        All the rich teams who held back their spending on free agents in 2018 are going to let it fly in 2019. That might be a good year for the Astros to use the trade route to fulfill their desires, rather than free agency.

        Like

    • Dan, Funny you mentioned this because I was just making a list of what wed have in personnel and salaries next year.
      Cole 11
      Osuna 6.5
      McHugh 6.o
      Correra 2.8 (maybe a little low)
      LMJ 3.5 (also maybe low)
      Harris 3.2
      Pressly 3.2
      Peacock 3.o
      JFSF 2.4
      Devo – Trade

      Buy out Bregman’s remaining options
      Trade, Devo, Fisher, Gattis
      Kemp: 2 year deal
      Add: Josh James, Framber Valdez, Perez or Guduan in place of Sipp
      Maldonado 2 -3 year deal or go after JT Realmuto
      Let Keuchel go or sign and trade

      Just playing a lot of what if’s for next year.

      Like

  6. How about a little ‘Get Back’ -Chipalatta style?

    Luhnow wrote ‘the plan’, and Crane dished out the money;
    A.J. told them ‘I’m your man’.
    After Harvey’s rains we knew we had it comin’;
    and filled those flooded streets with fans!

    Let’s Get Back! Get Back! Let’s Get Back
    and Show ‘em ‘ more of ‘Houston Strong!’
    Let’s Get Back! Let’s Get Ba-a-ack!
    Let’s Get Back on top where we belong! Get back, Astros!

    Jose’ made us smile when we were at our lowest,
    losin’ every game we played.
    The big free agents passed us right on by so they could Go West;
    no one wanted Minute Maid!

    Let’s Get Back! Get Back! Let’s Get Back!
    and Show ‘em more of ‘Houston Strong!’
    Let’s Get Back! Let’s Get Ba-a-ack!
    Let’s Get Back on top where we belong! Get Back, Astros!

    Springer came up wearin’ a smile that woke the sun up,
    CC made us our hearts explode.
    Bregman came up next bringing fire to the line-up;
    the offense went on overload.

    Let’s Get Back! Get Back! Let’s Get Back!
    and Show ‘em more of ‘Houston Strong!’
    Let’s Get Back! Let’s Get Ba-a-ack!
    Let’s Get Back on top where we belong! Get Back, Astros!

    Keuchel and McHugh kept us close through all the dark days,
    Til JV, Cole, and Salty brought the heat we need;
    And now that we lead the universe in ERA and big Ks,
    a chance to win is guaranteed.

    OOOHHHHHH.
    Get back, Trend-setters!
    Your fans are waitin’ for you;
    Wearin’ that orange and blue ‘We’re World Champs’ sweater.
    Let’s go for two – two crowns mo better!

    Liked by 6 people

    • The McCann option decline is a no-brainer. Didn’t see the Harris option. Gonzales will be up for a big raise or contract extension. I got my figures from Cot’s baseball salaries which is just a little more extensive.

      Like

      • I think they offer Marwin a deal similar to the 4/56 that the Cubs gave Zobrist and I think they either QO Morton or offer a 2/30 type deal. I think Marwin is going to be a very hot commodity on the FA market and the Astros will probably get priced out if he is not willing to give a home town discount to stay. The outfield is going to be real crowded next year with Straw and Tucker pushing for playing time. I think Straw will push out Kemp for the 4th outfield spot before mid- season. He’s just a much better fielder and has a much higher ceiling. Kemp and Devo would form the basis for a nice package to be dealt for Realmuto. Two long- term controllable, proven MLB producers and a couple of prospects could get it done.

        Like

  7. Pythagorean. I can’t spell that one. And I think it’s a total non stat. A team can play a weeks worth of ball, have two blow out wins and go 2 and 4. It happens.

    We just have a much better team than last year. Someone was smart enough to know that we would not hit as much as we did in 2017. So we got a second ace by trading a few guys we really had no room for, massaged his game a bit and then built up the pen to be as deep as any team in the game. It worked. And this group seems to have the uncanny ability do play better baseball when it really counts. Zero errors against Cleveland. No lost base runners. Back breaking home runs. Incredible pitching.

    The Yankees lost by 15 last night. There is no way that could happen to this team. Their starter started warming up for the biggest game of his life 8 minutes before game time. Seems he did not know when game time was. Where the heck was the bullpen coach and the pitching coach? And in a playoff game, they pitched a non pitcher in the 9th? That’s sacrilegious. Boone could be on thin ice already. And the Red Sox? They only have a couple of starters. We’ve got two arms sitting right now that I’ll bet they’d like to have in their pen. Any team can get hot, but we’ve got most balanced group in the AL by far.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Forest needs to pile up some innings and regain some of the seasons he lost due to bad decisions and injuries. He needs to be in position to get a taste of big league hitting in September next year.

      Like

  8. The Yankees have a lineup (1-9) that can hit any pitch, out of any park, at any time.They don’t need a mistake to go deep. They can hit a pitcher’s pitch deep. They are a very dangerous, feast or famine team that beats you with the long ball.

    The Red Sox have a great 1-4 and a mishmash of average hitters at 5-9 based on splits. They are better at getting runners on base for the table setters, but have fewer “game changing” bats. They can beat you with the long ball at the top and can single you to death at the bottom.

    The Yankees really don’t have an ace right now with Severino struggling and have to cobble together a few average starters. But they have a lights out, deep, shut down bullpen that can handle the last 4-5 innings of any game.

    The Red Sox have a struggling ace and a couple of salvageable starters behind him. Their bullpen is arguably as bad as Cleveland’s once you get past Kimbrel.

    Would you rather have home field advantage against the Yankees or face the Red Sox without it?

    My gut feel is that we match up better against the Red Sox. Our pitching can limit the Red Sox lineup and our hitters can work through Red Sox starters and exploit their bullpen. With one win in Boston we would shift home field advantage.

    I would rather face the Yankees to avoid facing Cora. He just knows too much about the team and is a pitch tipping guru.

    I’d rather face the Red Sox to avoid the Yankees’ strong bullpen and greater chance to get lucky on a good pitch.

    Either way, I like the Astros chances. Good pitching wins over good hitting and I think we are superior in pitching to either team.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. -Don’t sell Tony Kemp short.
    -The Astros know Cora. They never keep things the same.
    -I read an interview with Luhnow today and I never realized how fluid the Astros are. They never sit still. They never stop innovating. They are always looking forward.
    -Luhnow says when you stay put, you lose your edge.
    -The Astros do not let people go or change things around just to find somebody better. They have a program to install and they install it, perfect it, and then move on to another program without getting rid of the first. Once something is in place, they don’t necessarily need the same people to start up another. They may let someone move on in order to hire someone else to start up the new thing because it is in their wheelhouse, not the wheelhouse of the person or persons who did the previous project.
    – The Astros efforts to stay at the forefront of analytics is massive and Luhnow is looking at every advantage he can find in that area and in every area he can find pertaining to training and medicine and technology and in scouting.
    -One of the areas Luhnow is interested in using is in AI and he says that he won’t talk any more about it, except to say the Astros are into every facet of improving their brand.

    Like

    • “-Don’t sell Tony Kemp short.” Now I can’t tell if that was a word play on height. Or a stock market term. Or just a simple statement of your opinion. (I have to get off Facebook where every statement has about 5 meanings.)

      Like

  10. Red Sox might not have the best pitching rotation, but they have some BIG bats in their lineup! Our pitchers will have all they can handle trying to keep them off the bases. Sabathia is pitching tonight……Red Sox should win tonight pretty handedly.

    Like

  11. I’m perfectly happy with a match up against the 108 win team. I know Hinch
    would not have felt it necessary to bring Verlander in the pitch the 8th tonight, up 4 to 1 in a non elimination game.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Red Sox manager, knows ALL about our manager, and his “secrets”! Their bats can wear a pitcher out! Time for our guys to do the same! Kimbrel will drive me nuts watching all his weird stance trying to close the game.
    As long as we didn’t have to play the Yankees, I like the matchup.

    Like

  13. -I recall listening to Yankees GM Brian Cashman calling the Astros a beast during last offseason. That was before he got Stanton.
    -Houston/Boston is a dream scenario for MLB. Sale vs Verlander is everything they could have hoped for to open the ALCS.
    -I’m not saying it’s perfect. I’m saying that the Astros are a better team on the road than they are at home. I’m saying that they are one of the best road teams in baseball history and that they start this series with two games on the road.
    -The Astros went to Boston in September and took 2 out of 3 without using Verlander.
    -Now that the Yankees have been eliminated, some adoration will be directed toward the Astros.
    -Did anyone notice how few women and children were in Yankee Stadium last night? I pointed it out to Mrs.1op and she looked and agreed that it looked like a Boys Club meeting.

    Like

  14. Dave Loggins -if he was an Astro Fan:

    Please come to Boston for some Fall Ball.
    They’re say there havin’ a Sale, and the Price is right.
    They’re makin’ Betts on whuppin’ butts in Beantown;
    And some Cello player says he’s itching for a fight.
    Please come to Boston, all you ‘Stros.
    Then bring it back to H-Town for The Show!

    Hey, road-trip stars, go out and shut-’em down!
    Boston ain’t our kind of town;
    The got no roof and their wall’s butt-ugly green.
    And you’ve got a date next week at Chavez Ravine.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Apparently, Tyler Bauer and Mickey Clevinger could be twitter twins.
    “Social media has been bery, bery good to me” said no ball player, ever.

    Like

  16. howdy yall. i am wondering when does the roster for this series have to be set? i looked at the astros site and it appears to be the same as for cleveland at this point. is it already set or gets set before sat?

    Like

  17. i like that the format is 2 – 3 – 2, since we are the visitors. if we take either of the first two, home field advantage shifts to us. though i think the series will go at least six and probably seven just like last year. i like game seven’s, especially when we win!!

    Like

  18. Stop and appreciate!
    -The Astros won the AL West. That has happened only once in Astros history.
    -The Astros are in the playoffs. That has not happened enough times in Astros history.
    -The Astros pitchers have the lowest ERA, WHIP, and BAA in MLB and the most strikeouts. That is so good.
    -The Astros are playing the Red Sox in a 7-game series for the AL pennant. The AL pennant. Did we ever think we would hear that five years ago?
    -An Astros third baseman is a candidate for MVP. That is amazing right there. I mean, we are talking Astros third basemen here.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Alright, 1op, you got me curious. Here are Astros with career WAR over 10 while playing 3B, with at least 300 games at 3B:

      Rader WAR 18.3, 128 HR, 600 RBI, slash .250/.318/.402
      Caminiti WAR 16.7, 103 HR, 546 RBI, slash .264/.330/.402
      Ensberg WAR 14.1, HR 105, 335 RBI, slash .266/.367/.475
      Walling WAR 14, HR 47, RBI 345, slash .277/.345/.402
      Howe WAR 13.7, HR 39, RBI 266, slash .269/.337/.394
      Bregman WAR 12.7, HR 58, RBI 208, slash .282/.366/.500
      Garner WAR 12.3, HR 49, RBI 320, slash .260/.323/.389

      Bregman of course has far fewer games at 3B than any of those other guys.
      Why .402 is such a popular slugging pct…?

      Kind of surprised Rader is still up there after all these years…which of course is somewhat to your point.

      Liked by 2 people

  19. -OK, I’m calling it total BS! There is no way that the Astros are going to be totally silent about Correa’s back for 3.5 months and then let him get with ESPN and tell them his back is killing him two days before the ALCS starts. Complete shade! I am totally convinced his back is now good.
    -Whitley’s performance in the AFL opener was better than good. And it was great news for the Astros. I cannot believe the Scottsdale manager let him start the 4th inning when he was completely gassed. If I was the Astros I would be talking to them about that.
    -Yeah, sure. With the best record in baseball and with home field advantage, everyone says the Red Sox are underdogs. This is spreading all around the baseball blogs. The people spreading this dookie are the people who own the dookie. The people on the east coast. Houston is favored in their home games and Boston is favored in their home games. So you tell me how the Astros are favored to win the series.
    -Can’t wait to see the Astros ALCS roster.
    -Ronnie Dawson was a batting hero in Scottsdale’s second game of the AFL season.

    Like

  20. Well, Hello, Mr. Alice Cooper. What’s that you say?

    “Line-ups will form, in A.J.’s strong hands.
    JV and Coletrain will soon be starin’ you down!
    Get ready, Fenway, we’re gonna spoil all your plans.
    You got boys, but we’ve got men!

    It’s EIGHTEEN, and I think you know what we want!
    It’s EIGHTEEN we won’t come in nonchalant!
    It’s EIGHTEEN, We’re gonna clean your clocks!
    We’re not afraid of Mookie, JD, or Brock!
    And we’re unimpressed by the blood on your socks, Bleh!

    We’re gonna take all the wind from your Sale.
    We’re gonna tie Benitendi in knots.
    Tell David Price, our guys are hot on his trail;
    and tell Pearce and Bogaertz they can go straight to . . . oh, well,

    It’s EIGHTEEN, and I think you know what we want!
    It’s EIGHTEEN we won’t come in nonchalant!
    It’s EIGHTEEN, We’re gonna clean your clocks!
    We’re not afraid of Mookie, JD, or Brock!
    And we’re unimpressed by the blood on your socks, Bleh!

    Liked by 3 people

  21. And during lunch I finished the head-to-head with the Red Sox – so should be posted later today…..The weird thing is going through their stats they don’t look individually as good as the Indians, but they sure had better results – sum better than the parts

    Like

    • The Indians stats were completely inflated by their AL Central competition. That is why I made a point to mention that Cleveland’s strength of schedule was #30 out of 30 teams.
      Boston’s SOS was #25 and Houston’s was 20th.
      I have been saying it all year: The AL West was the best division in baseball and the Astros won 103 games having to play each of those teams 19 times.
      If the Houston Astros had not had four of their starting position players injured at the same time and had been playing Cleveland’s schedule, they probably would have been the first team in history to win 120 games in a season.

      Liked by 2 people

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