2021 Houston Astros: 95-67 (.586 Winning percentage)
AL West Division Champions. Second best record in American League, fourth best in all of baseball. 863 Runs Scored. 658 runs allowed. End of Season: Lost World Series in six games to the Atlanta Braves.
This team was better than its overall record. Their Pythagorean Expected Win-Loss based on run differential put them at a 101-61 record, right with the 2017 World Series championship team.
Their record is deceiving because in the first half of 2021 the bullpen was absolutely atrocious. Last year’s contributors such as Enoli Paredes and Andre Scrubb could not replicate their previous season’s success. The team was blowing leads both big and small and losing very winnable games.
James Click and Dusty Baker were calling up and sending down relievers so much they must have felt like they were in an elevator shaft. The team addressed those needs trading for Kendall Graveman to fill the eighth inning role as well as Phil Maton and Yimi Garcia to reinforce for the troubled bullpen.
Not to be forgotten is the fact that the Astros also received Rafael Montero from Seattle in the Kendall Graveman trade who has been lights out stepping into the eighth inning role left vacated by Graveman.
The offense put up the third best runs scored total of the six Golden Era teams though they were right there with the 2017 team in terms of offensive production. Lance McCullers Jr. carried the weight of the rotation with Verlander missing another full season due to Tommy John surgery.
However Lance McCullers Jr.’s forearm injury exposed how thin the rest of the rotation was as they got blown out by Boston’s offense relying primarily on their bullpen to gut out an ALCS series win.
This year the progress of Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier alongside the resurgence of Justin Verlander makes it clear there’s no doubt the 2022 team is better.
Despite the loss of Carlos Correa, Jeremy Pena has done a serviceable job filling in, though his strikeout to walk rate needs to vastly improve. It will also be seen if Pena can fill the clutch factor that Correa left in his legacy as the Astros shortstop.
This 2022 team would beat 2021 just because the pitching is that much more superior even if the 2021 team hit better. Oddly the pitching is better partially due to the fact that the same pitchers from 2021 have just made leaps and bounds of progress. It doesn’t hurt getting vintage Justin Verlander back either.