THE FINISHING KICK – OCTOBER 25
By Paul Wales
EVERYBODY HATES HOUSTON
Houston is back in the World Series and the rest of MLB couldn’t be more aggravated. For the last 5 years, the Houston Astros have been dominating the American League, winning the AL West 4 times, 3 100-win seasons, making the ALCS 5 years in a row, winning the ALCS 3 times, and winning the World Series once with a chance to win the World Series again this year. Despite the cheating scandals, hate from fans every away game they play in, a coaching change, losing a Cy Young candidate, and having the rest of the league place a target on their backs, the Astros continue to thrive.
Houston’s roster throughout their recent years of success have been loaded with players who can hit. As the game of baseball trends towards players swinging for the fences and a leniency for strikeouts, the Astros have always had players who hit for average and their bats continue to fuel their success. Led by Gurriel and Brantley, who led the American League in batting average, the Astros have been powered by their bats despite not having a hitter in the top 20 for homers this year and finishing the season with the 2nd-least amount of strikeouts this year. Not only did the Astros lead the league in batting average, on base percentage, and runs batted in this year, but they also lead the league in batting average in 3 of the last 5 seasons including their World Series season in 2017. The Stros’ earliest exit over this 5 year span came from the team (the Red Sox) that led the league in batting average that year and won the World Series. The Astros have found their winning formula and haven’t wavered from it, as each year their hitting proves to be their recipe for success.
Consistent hitting may be their key to success, but pitching has also been on their side throughout the last half decade as well. Pitchers such as Gerrit Cole, Zach Greinke, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton, and Justin Verlander have all accumulated stellar career seasons while pitching for the Astros, but that has not been the case in 2021. Despite not having an ace this year, the Astros collectively had the seventh lowest ERA and the third best BAA (batting average against) in the league this year.
The Astros front office has done a fantastic job of transforming their franchise from one of the worst teams in baseball from having six consecutive embarrassing losing seasons to dominating the American League for the last half decade. The Astros have had to rebuild their team from scratch, adjust to star players leaving, deal with the controversy of a cheating scandal, and be the most hated team in the league for the last couple years, and they still find a way to stay on top. Now the Astros are the favorite in yet another World Series appearance and look to win their second Commissioner’s Trophy in their franchise’s history. Love them or hate them, the Houston Astros are pretty damn good at this baseball thing, and they aren’t showing any signs of slowing down.