The Astros won their sixth-straight AL West division title yesterday, defeating the Diamondbacks 8-1 while the Mariners defeated Texas 1-0. The Astros and Rangers finished the year with identical 90-72 records, but by way of a head-to-head record tiebreaker, the Astros took the division.
There were plenty of ups and downs throughout the year, and plenty of people wrote them off, but when the lights shone brightest, the Astros once again got it done. A lot has to go your way to win one division title, much less six straight. Like any division champ, the Astros had plenty go their way.
Let's look at the five reasons the Astros won the AL West.
#5: The emergence of Chas McCormick and Yainer Diaz
We've written about Chas McCormick and Yainer Diaz at length on this site. McCormick, named one of MLB's top breakout players by The Athletic, finished the season with 22 home runs, 19 stolen bases, a .273 average, an .843 OPS, and a 3.8 fWAR.
Yainer Diaz hit .282 with 23 home runs, 60 RBI, an .846 OPS and 3.2 bWAR. Had Yainer gotten more playing time, he'd have made a very serious push for AL Rookie of the Year.
McCormick helped the offense stay afloat as the Astros battled injury, and when he got his chances behind the plate, Yainer Diaz more than made up for the offensive and defensive regression of Martín Maldonado.
Dusty Baker didn't play either nearly as much as he should have, but the Astros wouldn't have been able to overcome the missed time of Altuve and Alvarez, the repeated rehab pauses of Michael Brantley, and the offensive woes of José Abreu and Maldy had it not been for Chas and Yainer.