The 2019 Houston Astros
Forget the “Golden Era.” This is hands down talent wise the best Astros team in franchise history and one of the best baseball teams ever assembled.
It still is hard to believe they couldn’t find a way to win one home game in the World Series, especially considering their starters in those four home games were Gerrit Cole, Zack Greinke and the eventual American League Cy Young winner Justin Verlander getting two starts.
Yet somehow they lost in seven games to a red hot 93 win Washington Nationals team and no Astro fan will ever hear a ball ting the foul pole the same way again.
Let’s just go over the history this team made that season on their way to a franchise record 107 wins.
First their starting pitching. Their rotation was headed by the top two in Cy Young voting, the fifth time ever in Major League history that has happened and first time since Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling did it in 2002.
Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander join Johnson and Schilling on an even shorter list of being the only teammates to crack the 300 strikeout mark in a single season. The list is just those two pair of teammates and that’s it. Add in the fact that the Astros grabbed Zack Greinke at the deadline and this is one of the best starting rotations ever assembled.
The bullpen was once again solid with the back end of Roberto Osuna and Ryan Pressly, but toss in the fact that Will Harris was having a career year and postseason (until Games 6 and 7 of the World Series unfortunately), and it made the idea of beating this team that much more difficult with starting pitchers who could go a full nine if needed but if not, a solid six innings was more than enough with this seven-eight-nine combo in the back end.
And of course the offense. The 2019 Astros offense has the second best Weighted Runs Created Plus of all-time at 124. (wRC+ quantifies run creation and normalizes it in order to compare players who play in different ball parks and eras.) They trail only the 1927 New York Yankees (126), arguably the greatest offense of all-time.
The offense featured a career year for Alex Bregman who finished second in MVP voting along with great seasons from the rest of the home grown talent in George Springer, Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve. Add in free agent hitting machine Michael Brantley and the eventual rookie of the year Yordan Alvarez and it still just doesn’t seem real that this team didn’t win the World Series.
Here’s the stat that I think shows their dominance on both sides of the ball. They led the league in strikeouts thrown while striking out the least on offense. They are the only team in Major League history to do that.
The “what if’s” of this season linger on. What if Zack Greinke hadn’t been pulled at 80 pitches in game seven? What if Gerrit Cole had come in rather than Will Harris in that situation? What if Lance McCullers Jr. was healthy that year? Things we can only wonder and speculate about now.
This team fell one home win short of what seemed like an inevitable championship. It was the first time in North American sports history where the road team won every game of a series, an especially heartbreaking way to lose.
Despite not winning it all, this still is the most talented team not just of the Golden Era Astros, but in franchise history and a top 10 team in the history of the game. They came up one game short of putting their ultimate stamp on their place in Major League history, but it doesn’t negate that they are one of most talented group of baseball players ever to share a uniform.