“How ‘Bout Houston?” Five Keys to The Houston Astros Bringing Home Another World Series Trophy
By Alec Brown
3) Minimize Traffic on the Basepaths
The objective of baseball is straightforward: score more runs than the other team. With that being the case, it seems a little apropos to call limiting base runners for the other team a key to winning it all. Simple math says the more runners on base you have, the more opportunities you have to score, so of course the team that concedes fewer base runners is more likely to win.
Not so fast; the Astros won’t win the World Series by preventing opposing baserunners entirely. Baserunners don’t need to be prevented entirely, but they must be forced to earn their way on. Hits are part of the game. There is a reason in today’s age batting average is no longer the go-to metric for a great hitter, but stats like OPS and WRC+ are taken more heavily into account.
Stringing together multiple hits in a row off of today’s pitchers, especially when seemingly every bullpen arm touches 99 with a 90 mph breaking ball, is about as easy as flying a Prius to the moon. Metrics that take plate discipline and a propensity to walk into account are all the rage as a batter today is more likely to get on base by never taking the bat off their shoulder and taking a walk than they are getting a base knock.
Opposing teams will pick up hits, and at times, they may even hit a big home run or two. Runs earned the hard way won’t determine who takes home the 2022 World Series. The Astros will win the World Series by minimizing walks and getting the routine outs they need from their platoon of Left Fielders.
While the Crawford Boxes can be conducive to wonky bounces and caroms, any fly ball that lands short of the warning track must be caught. Nobody would expect Yordan’s defense to rival Jeremy Peña’s 15 defensive runs saved or Kyle Tucker’s gold glove caliber work in right, but those couple of fly balls that beat him in the ALDS could prove far more costly against a team like Philadelphia. Don’t make the routine play for the final out in front of a big bat like Harper or Hoskins and trouble may ensue.
Bobble a pitch behind the dish as Martin Maldonado so uncharacteristically did with Bader on first in Game 4 and now you’ve got runners in scoring position.
As for free passes, one can’t forget that JV’s Game 1 implosion all started with a leadoff walk to Julio Rodriguez. Yordan’s eventual walk-off was setup by David Hensley’s eight-pitch walk. Many old baseball adages have gone to the wayside with modern analytics, but leadoff walks are still killers, and it feels like walks inevitably come around to score every time in a tight October contest.
Part of what has made the Astros so tough to hold down over their reign over the American League has been their extraordinary plate disciple. They can’t afford to take a dose of their own medicine. Pitchers must pound the zone, trust their defense to make plays behind them, and on the rare instance Martin Maldonado (and Christian Vasquez when he is behind the dish) must earn his “Machete” nickname by cutting down would be base stealers.
As walks stay down, pitch counts tend to stay down. With this being the case, the Astros tried and true recipe from their regular season success can carry over: starters go deep into games, turn it over to their leverage arms, and close the game out with relatively low stress. The combination of an Astros rotation that goes deep into games and a rested bullpen will likely lead to Jim Crane, James Click and the rest of the organization hosting the Commissioner’s Trophy on an early November evening.