Next up in the playoff preview is the AL West Division winning Houston Astros. The 2017 World series champions are currently sitting two and a half games up on the Yankees for first in the AL, and two games up on the Dodgers for first in all of the MLB.
Death, taxes, and the Houston Astros coming in as the probable world series favourite for the past three seasons... all guarantees. Rightfully so for a team that spent over a decade sitting at the bottom of the league accumulating an incredibly deep roster.
The position players have remained relatively similar over the course of their run the past few years. The biggest change for them this year is the emergence of 22 year old phenom Yordan Alvarez. The rookie exploded on the scene this year with 27 home runs and 78 RBI in just 83 games. His 1.099 OPS is good for first among qualified rookies, and his 3.9 WAR is good for fifth among rookies despite his lack of games played. He managed to take an already dominant Astros lineup and bring it to another level.
The most incredible thing about this team however, is the starting rotation that they've managed to put together. It's very rare that you will see a pitcher walk away with a Cy Young award before the season is even over; it's typically a fight between two or three aces. It might be even more rare that the clear cut two favourites for the award are on the same team. That's exactly what we have here.
2018 AL Cy Young runner up Justin Verlander should start things off for the Stros in the postseason. The 36 year old righty continued his dominance from last year, sitting at a 20-6 record with a 2.53 ERA, a 0.80 WHIP, and 288 strikeouts. His numbers are even better than last year in which many people thought he should've won the Cy Young award (including his wife apparently, who might've gave us the tweet of the year last year). He would be a lock for it this year if it weren't for his teammate Gerrit Cole.
Cole has had himself a career year, with a 19-5 record, a 2.52 ERA, a 0.88 WHIP, and a league leading 316 strikeouts. His numbers are incredibly similar to Verlander across the board apart from blowing him away in strikeouts. He set a franchise record for strikeouts in his last start, is tied with Chris Sale, and Pedro Martinez as the only starters to strikeout at least 10 batters in eight straight games, and is one of only four pitchers since 1920 with at least 10 strikeouts in 20 different games.
With that coming at you from the second spot in a rotation, you would think that's all you need to worry about... you would be very wrong. Following Cole is former Cy Young winner and six time all star Zach Grienke (18-5, 2.93 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 187 Ks) who came over at the trade deadline. Then to round it off you have Wade Miley (14-6, 3.91 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 138 Ks) who has had another big year despite being the fourth option in a stacked rotation.
These four guys alone should be enough to carry you at least to a World Series final.
1. George Springer
2. Jose Altuve
3. Michael Brantley
4. Alex Bregman
5. Yordan Alvarez
6. Yuli Gurriel
7. Abraham Toro
8. Robinson Chirinos
9. Josh Reddick
Kyle Tucker, Martin Maldonado, Aledmys Diaz, Jake Marisnick
1. Justin Verlander
2. Gerrit Cole
3. Zach Greinke
4. Wade Miley
Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly, Will Harris, Chris Devenski, Josh James, Hector Rondon, Joe Smith, Brad Peacock
What do they have to do to win?
This should be the Astros year barring anything ridiculous. They have a deep and dynamic lineup that can beat you in many ways, and a rotation that has two of the best pitchers in baseball this season. Barring any injury, or typical baseball voodoo, the Astros should have a really good chance of taking this years World Series. They just have to play their game and hope the cards fall in their favour.