Astros need a strong start to the 2018 season

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Jose Altuve /

The championship hangover may or may not be a thing for the Astros in 2018.

Regardless of the final result last year, the Astros will need to play well in 2018. Yes, that sounds like the obvious statement of the day. As we all know, a hangover to any defending champion can derail plans to repeat. A strong start, though, would go a long way to avoid such a treacherous journey.

Following their historic 2016 season that culminated in a World Series championship, the Chicago Cubs experienced a bit of hangover. In their first 88 games, the Cubs were underachieving with a 43-45 record.

However, the second half was much kinder to Chicago as the Cubs went 49-25 over the last 74 games. This second half surge allowed the Cubs to clinch the NL Central title over the jumpstart Milwaukee Brewers. They even made it to the NLCS before dropping out to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Cubs had a successful season despite the first half hangover and falling in the NLCS.

Here are the next season’s first half records of each World Series champion as far back as 2008.

Boston Red Sox, 2008: 57-40
Philadelphia Phillies, 2009: 48-38
New York Yankees, 2010: 56-32
San Francisco Giants, 2011: 52-40
St. Louis Cardinals, 2012: 46-40
San Francisco Giants, 2013: 43-51
Boston Red Sox, 2014: 43-52
San Francisco Giants, 2015: 46-43
Kansas City Royals, 2016: 45-43
Chicago Cubs, 2017: 43-45

Recent first halves haven’t been kind to the defending World Series champions. No team has finished at least ten games over .500 in the first half since the 2014 Red Sox. Obviously, there hasn’t been a repeat champion in this timespan. First half hangovers seem to be a real deal.

However, the Astros are in an enviable position. The team didn’t lose any of their core to free agency or trades. The roster arguably has been improved. I feel somewhat confident in stating that the Astros won’t have a hangover in the first half. Again, I must caution that the Cubs probably felt the same way last year. We have to temper expectations.

That said, the Astros have said all the right things about a potential hangover in 2018.

And this.

This, too.

Oh, and this.

Last one, I promise.

Next: Chris Devenski's role in 2018 will be interesting to watch

There you have it. The Astros seem serious about starting the season on the right foot. While a repeat of last year’s 60-29 first half is probably unrealistic, this team seems ready for the upcoming season.

**Information courtesy of Baseball Reference**