Astros: Five things the team did well in 2018

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CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 08: Alex Bregman #2 of the Houston Astros celebrates with teammates in the dugout after scoring a run in the eighth inning against the Cleveland Indians during Game Three of the American League Division Series at Progressive Field on October 8, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 08: Alex Bregman #2 of the Houston Astros celebrates with teammates in the dugout after scoring a run in the eighth inning against the Cleveland Indians during Game Three of the American League Division Series at Progressive Field on October 8, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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BALTIMORE, MD – SEPTEMBER 29: Starting pitcher Justin Verlander #35 of the Houston Astros pitches in the third inning against the Baltimore Orioles during Game One of a doubleheader at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 29, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) /

Superb starting pitching

In 2018, there wasn’t a better starting rotation in the regular season than the one employed by the Astros. If you disagree, well, I’m not sorry. If your starting rotation can boast the best ERA (3.16), FIP (3.28), and strikeout rate (28.2%) while finishing second in innings pitched (955 1/3 IP), then you’ve earned bragging rights.

The Astros’ 2018 starting rotation may go down as the best in club history. Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, and Lance McCullers were absolutely terrific as a group most of the season. Three of these pitchers, Verlander, Cole, and Morton, finished with 200-plus strikeouts. Even when McCullers and Morton missed some starts from August onwards, Framber Valdez and Josh James filled in admirably.

As a staff, the Astros led baseball with 1,101 strikeouts while limiting opposing lineups to 335 earned runs, the third-lowest total in the majors. In addition to the earned runs, Houston also limited hitters to only 100 home runs. Incidentally, the staff finished 15th in walks allowed at 298.

In terms of win probability, it should come as no surprise that the Astros finished second in RE24 (123.58) and first in Win Probability Added (13.40). This staff stepped up time and time again, especially when the offense wasn’t performing how they ought to throughout the season. If it wasn’t for the starting rotation, I am not sure if the Astros could’ve topped the A’s this year in the AL West.

The staff will be in a state of flux, though, as both Keuchel and Morton are free-agents this winter. While Keuchel’s demands could eventually lead him to another franchise, it isn’t a guarantee that Morton will continue to play. McCullers could find himself on the mend if surgery is required on his right elbow. Right now, I recommend that you’d bask in the memory of this starting rotation. We may not see another like this one any time soon.

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