It's time to stop disrespecting the Houston Astros
Fresh off of a 106 win season, fourth pennant in six years and a second World Series title, you'd think the naysayers would be silenced by now. Sure, there will always be doubters and fans of opposing teams that shout "2017!" any chance they get, but by and large, we should all be well past that. Time to respect Houston, yeah? Not hardly...
Whether it be Keith Law of the Athletic blasting the Astros signing an older veteran while praising the Mets for doing the same, or seeing the Astros given a "B" for their offseason grade when they improved their offense immensely while the Yankees get an "A" simply because they brought back two bats that got swept by these Astros in the ALCS, nothing Houston does gets the deserved adoration.
In the latest display of Houston being looked down upon, MLB.com released their top 10 starting pitching duos for 2023. 10th on the list are Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier.
Let's briefly recount what they accomplished in 2022. Valdez set a league record with 25 consecutive quality starts. He finished the year fifth in Cy Young voting after going 17-6 with a 2.82 ERA and a league-leading three complete games and 201.1 innings.
Javier started the year in relief, but after being established as a full-time starter, was arguably Houston's best arm. He finished the season 11-9 with a 2.54 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 11.7 K/9, third best in the game. His Statcast metrics have more red than a Christmas tree this time of year: 98th percentile in xBA, 96th in xERA and xwOBA, 95th in xSLG and 94th in K rate. An oh yeah, he started a combined no-hitter in Yankee Stadium and a combined no-hitter in Game Four of the World Series.
Yes, JV won the Cy Young, but a strong case can be made Javier was Houston's best arm this season.
Javier and Valdez finished the season with a combined 2.70 ERA. A 2.70 ERA would have been 11th best in the game for any one starter, so can there really be nine duos better than them? Let's check the tape for the combined ERA of the nine duos ranked higher.
9) Gerrit Cole & Nestor Cortes: 3.03 ERA
8) Clayton Kershaw & Julio Urias: 2.21
7) Yu Darvish/Blake Snell: 3.21
6) Alek Manoah/Kevin Gausman: 2.76
5) Aaron Nola/Zack Wheeler: 3.07
4) Max Fried/Spencer Strider: 2.56
3) Corbin Burnes/Brandon Woodruff: 2.99
2) Shane McClanahan/Tyler Glasnow: incomplete--Glasnow, he of a 4.00 career ERA, made only two starts in 2022
1) Justin Verlander/Max Scherzer: 1.99
Of the nine duos listed ahead of them, only three were more successful at completing the name of the game: keep the other team from scoring.
But in October, nobody was better. Javier and Valdez combined for 37.2 innings in the playoffs, yielding only five earned runs. That's a 1.19 ERA.
Verlander had two separate starts where he allowed five runs. His playoff ERA was 5.85. Scherzer gave up seven runs in his lone start for the Mets. The Mets co-aces carried a resounding 7.30 ERA through the postseason.
Javier and Valdez also don't carry the injury concerns of duos listed ahead of them. JV, Scherzer, McClanahan, Glasnow and Kershaw all missed time on the IL in 2022, some more extensive than others.
With Javier and Valdez, you know they are getting the ball every fifth day, delivering excellence and going deep into ball games. The same simply can't be said of the other duos ahead.
Am I saying they are the best duo in the game? No. They should likely be slotted in the 3-5 range. But it's laughable to insinuate they are barely a top 10 duo in the game. No arms were better in the playoffs, none were as consistent as Valdez, and only deGrom rivals Javier's Statcast metrics amongst starters. He's only, you know, the best pitcher of the last five years.
Did the scandal of 2017 happen? Yes. But Houston is five seasons, three pennants and another World Series title removed from it. With Yuli Gurriel still a free agent, only three Astros are under contract from that team.
Hate them for their ruthless efficiency, hate them for not handing out long-term mega deals, hate them for winning, even hate them for what happened in 2017 (though you're crazy if you think they were the lone participants in such a thing), but you must respect them. It's time to start respecting Houston.
Respect their shrewd signings, respect their winning ways, but most of all, respect that they are an unbelievable team on the diamond.
They don't need your respect though. They'll just keep winning. Javier and Valdez will just keep dominating. After all, it really is H'Town vs. Everyone.