With under 25 games left in the MLB season, teams around the majors are battling for postseason positions. With the playoffs just around the corner, this is a great time to analyze how contenders stack up when it comes to a World Series run. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the controversial but highly successful Houston Astros.
At 81-57, the Astros currently sit 6.5 games ahead of the Seattle Mariners in the AL West with just 24 games left on their schedule.
Currently, the Astros have the 10th easiest remaining schedule as their opponents have just a combined .481 winning percentage. Of their remaining games, they have 14 against the Diamondbacks, Rangers, and Angels, all of whom have losing records.
While a cold streak could change things in a hurry, they currently are the favorites to win the division at -1900.
Odd Years Magic
There is something about odd years that resonates well with Houston in terms of postseason success. In 2015, following a year in which they went 70-92, the Astros propelled themselves into the postseason picture and finished just one game away from winning the ALDS against the Kansas City Royals (who went on to win the World Series).
Fast forward a couple of years, after missing the postseason in 2016, the Astros won the World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017. Granted, this championship is mired in controversy thanks to the sign-stealing scandal, but their odd year fortunes remained intact.
After 2018 where they lost in the ALCS to Boston, the Astros returned to the World Series in 2019, ultimately losing to the Nationals in seven games.
Last season, the Astros were just one game away from a World Series as they lost in the ALCS to the Rays.
Once again, in an odd-numbered year, the Astros seem poised to make another run at a World Series this year.
The Astros have arguably one of the best offenses in baseball this season. In fact, they rank second in scoring (5.26 runs per game), first in batting average (.267), first in on-base percentage (.338), third in slugging percentage (.439), and third in run differential (+176).
Houston is extremely deep as their only glaring hole in the lineup is at catcher, where the defensive-minded Martin Maldanado is hitting just .171/.274/.301 with 10 home runs and 32 runs batted in.
Their strongest hitters this season have been Yordan Alvarez (.278/.341/.528, 28 HR, 90 RBI), Jose Altuve (.273/.348/.477, 26 HR, 70 RBI), Kyle Tucker (.288/.345/.538, 24 HR, 78 RBI) and Carlos Correa (.278/.370/.486, 22 HR, 74 RBI).
As good as those players are by themselves, their lineup also includes the likes of Alex Bregman, Michael Brantley, and Yuli Gurriel.
Their offense isn’t the only strong thing about the Astros, as their defense has been solid, too. They currently rank fourth in scoring defense (allowing 3.99 runs per game) and rank fifth in team earned run average (3.70).
The starting pitching is led by Zack Greinke (11-5, 3.66 ERA), Lance McCullers Jr. (11-4, 3.19 ERA), Framber Valdez (9-5, 3.08 ERA), and Luis Garcia (10-6, 3.29 ERA).
While the bullpen was a concern early in the season, this was a major focus at the trade deadline. To go along with Ryan Pressly (5-1, 1.93 ERA, 23 saves) and Ryne Stanek (2-4, 3.79 ERA), general manager James Click brought in Kendall Graveman, Yimi Garcia, and Phil Maton.
Likely First Matchup
If the season were to end today, the Astros would square off with the Chicago White Sox in the ALDS. Given the lead the Tampa Bay Rays have in the American League, this will be the likely opponent assuming all teams hold their division leads.
This season, the two teams have squared off seven times, with the Astros going 5-2 overall against the White Sox.
Area of Concern
The biggest area of concern is the lack of a true frontline ace. While Greinke, McCullers, Valdez, and Garcia have pitched well this season, they no longer have a shutdown ace-like Justin Verlander or Gerrit Cole.
Can They Win The World Series Again?
The simple answer is yes, but it won’t be easy. The American League should be loaded this year with the Rays, White Sox, and possibly two additional AL East teams battling it out for the wild card.
One key for the Astros is they need their offense to consistently show up. While they statistically rank high in most offensive categories, there have been times where they have had lulls.
For instance, on their last nine-game road stand, they only scored a combined 27 runs (three runs per game). That also included being shut out twice over that span.
If the offense can consistently put pressure on opposing teams and their pitching can limit the damage, they certainly could be in for another World Series appearance. In fact, they currently have the second-best odds, behind the Dodgers, of winning it all at +440 and are the favorites to win the American League at +190.
Once again, the Astros championship window is wide open, and Houston fans are hoping for their odd-numbered magic to result in their second World Series title this year.