1986: Mike Scott, Nolan Ryan, Jim Deshaies, Bob Knepper
This was Scott’s Cy Young season after having an 18-win breakout the year before at age 30. He led the majors in ERA (2.22), innings pitched (275.1), strikeouts (306), WHIP (0.923) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.25), among others. He also cracked the Top 10 of the MVP voting and threw a no-hitter to clinch the division title.
Ryan had some better seasons in Houston than this, but he still pitched to a 3.34 ERA in 30 starts at age 39. He was effective, and let’s be honest here — any season from Ryan is one that’ll boost a pitching staff.
1986 was Deshaies’ breakout year at age 26 as he finished seventh in the Rookie of the Year voting (one spot behind some guy named Barry Bonds). He posted 26 starts of 3.25 ERA ball, winning 12 games and beginning a nice stretch of reliable pitching from the southpaw.
The left-handed Knepper had some nice years for the Astros in the 1980s, and this was one of them. He won a career-best 17 games with a 3.14 ERA, tossing 258 innings despite striking out only five batters per nine.
These four were the only players to make double-digit starts for the Astros that year. Putting them against the 2019 team’s top four, it’s an interesting comparison. Scott and Ryan were both bona fide aces, while Deshaies and Knepper were effective mid-rotation guys. The current team has three aces plus one effective mid-rotation guy. 2019 wins again.