The Astros pitching has started to take shape once again, and it’s scary.
What a time to be a Houston Astros fan.? On the heels of taking two out of three from Alex Cora’s Red Sox in Boston and winning nine out of ten while the autumn weather inches closer and closer. It just feels like the perfect time for a postseason run to retain the crown. With only 16 games left, the Astros seem to have everything in place.
The baseball season is a long, excruciating 162 game gauntlet. Its riddled with slumps, streaks, and injuries. Last season, if you remember, it was the pitching staff that endured injuries and slumps. It wasn’t until last September when the Astros signed Justin Verlander. He won all five of his starts leading up to the postseason, and the rest is history. Earned history.
This season, however, the batters faced injuries, slumps, streaks, and droughts. Well, all the bats are back and healthy just in time to wrap up the regular season.
Last season, it was the pitching that wasn’t sturdy. The starting rotation consisted of Dallas Keuchel, a newly acquired Justin Verlander, Charlie Morton, and Lance McCullers. The bullpen wasn’t anything to fear with a reeling Ken Giles, Chris Devenski and Will Harris, just to name a few. The 2017 team ERA was a combined 4.12 which was 11th in the league, and they allowed the 9th most earned runs last season.
The postseason yielded a 4.76 ERA and an 11-7 record combined by all 12 pitchers who played. Verlander, obviously went (4-1) with a 2.21 ERA and Keuchel and Morton both notched two wins and posted a 3.58 and 4.24 ERA, respectively. The bullpen combined was 2-3 allowing 33 total runs. We all remembered that roller coaster they put us through. Despite all that, the Astros claimed their first ever World Series Championship.
2018 has been “lights out.”
This season is a completely different story. The Astros had a full season of Justin Verlander (15-9, 3.59 ERA), Gerrit Cole (13-5, 2.86 ERA), a fresh Morton (14-3, 3.15 ERA) and a second-half revival of Keuchel (11-10, 3.59 ERA). McCullers (10-6, 3.93 ERA) is still on the DL and unsure if he will return before the season ends. But overall, this staff is the best in the bigs.
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The bullpen has turned things around considerably. With acquisitions of Roberto Osuna (2-2, 2.00 ERA, eight saves) and Ryan Pressly (1-0, 1.02 ERA) the bullpen as a whole has some stability. In their last 30 games combined, the bullpen posted a 2.35 averaged ERA and a 4-4 record notching ten total saves.
Hector Rondon has settled in as of late. He’s allowed some hits but gotten himself out of those jams. After a very sub-par summer, Will Harris has bounced back posting a combined 9.2 innings allowing just one earned run on five hits.
These 2018 arms are hands down the best in the majors. Their 3.10 combined ERA is the lowest by far. They’ve allowed the least amount of earned runs with 449. They are so stingy with earned runs; the LA Dodgers are 2nd allowing 507. The competition is struggling to hit also as they have the lowest opponent batting average at just .218. My favorite stat of all, the Astros struck out the most batters this season, 1517, fanning 62 more than the 2nd place Yankees on this list.
Some food for thought
Last season they didn’t lead in any of those categories I mentioned so just let your imagination run wild on how scary this pitching staff will when the postseason arrives. Also, the offense is 4th in runs (719) 8th in hits (1253) 8th in homers (188) 7th in batting average (.256) and 3rd to last in strikeouts (1090). Their run differential is +270, the highest in the league. Let that simmer in for a little bit.
*** Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference and MLB.com ***