If the Astros have one definite advantage over the competition, it’s the pitching staff.
Around this time last year, the Astros’ historic lineup was the main attraction. It was all the rage. Fast forward to the present and the lineup isn’t quite as potent. It’s still capable of incredible feats, but it’s hard for any lineup to replicate those numbers. I also have an inkling that the ball isn’t quite as “juiced” as last year, but I digress.
In lieu of the offense dominating, the Astros’ pitching staff decided to pick up the slack. Let’s take a peak at some numbers that prove a point or three.
- 3.11 ERA (best in MLB)
- 3.23 FIP (best in MLB)
- 534 runs allowed (lowest in MLB)
- 1,687 strikeouts (most in MLB)
- 30.7 fWAR (most in MLB)
So, the Astros allowed the fewest runs and generated the most strikeouts of any team in baseball this season. That’s darn right impressive. Limiting runs, for example, is the goal behind the pitching staff, contrary to the recent history of certain franchises. I won’t name names, but one team has an orange bird and the other was known for a “Red Machine” back in the day.
Basically, there wasn’t another team in 2018 that was all that close to Houston in terms of the pitching staff. And that’s the Astros biggest advantage heading into the ALCS against the Red Sox. The same pitching staff, more or less, held the Indians to only six runs over three games in the ALDS.
That said, a seven-game series in baseball is essentially a glorified small sample. Weird stuff happens in small samples. Look at the Houston Rockets when they missed 20-plus three-pointers during their playoff run. And baseball is the king of strange occurrences. But I like the Astros chances, especially if the pitchers hold in their end of the bargain.
At the time of this writing, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole will start in Game 1 and 2 at Boston. Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton are the likely starters in Game 3 and 4 in Houston. The bullpen shouldn’t be taxed at this point. If the Astros do decide to carry 12 pitchers on the roster, then it’ll be interesting to see who they can include.
Boston’s offense, though, isn’t a pushover. In fact, it was one of the best in the game with a 110 wRC+ and 29.6 fWAR. The Red Sox also have the highest slugging percentage in baseball (.453). At the same time, the Indians’ offense wasn’t a juggernaut, yet still one of the better units in the game. Small samples are weird, right?