With the postseason just around the corner, the Astros once again find themselves in position to reclaim the World Series. Let’s dive into what will make it possible for the Astros to win in 2019.
How the Astros can win it all
1. They are hot and healthy heading into the playoffs. the Astros have had their share of injuries, most recently having to put Carlos Correa, Aledmys Diaz, and now Aaron Sanchez on the IL. On Sunday in Oakland, Jose Altuve appeared not to run like his usual self while rounding third. No news was reported of any injury, and Jose has looked fine through the first two games of the home stand; so maybe playing 91 games plus spring training after offseason knee surgery could be causing occasional soreness.
This is where Hinch could pull a Popovich and rest his best players, trading wins and potential home field advantage for a full and healthy squad in the playoffs. Having home field, will be a key and is something the Astros should shoot for; but if the Astros are truly going to reach the Fall Classic, they have be at full strength. Late-season injuries were not the main reason the Astros fell short a season ago, but they were a factor.
It is important to go into the playoffs playing your best baseball. The Astros don’t need to win every game the rest of the season; but if they go into October healthy and firing on all cylinders, it’s going to put fear in the hearts of everyone else in the American League playoff bracket.
2. The Astros win home field advantage. This matters more against the Yankees than against the National League. Houston’s best odds of climbing out the American League come with hosting the Yankees, as opposed to opening at Yankee Stadium. New York is cold, the fans are hostile, and the Astros have not been as great on the road this year (36–31) as they have been the previous two seasons. Since everyone on social media likes to compare this year’s team to the 2017 team (and seems to enjoy believing last year never happened), let’s take note that in the 2017 ALCS between the Astros and Yankees, the home team won every game in that series.
I’d go as far to say both teams appeared very discombobulated in the opposing team’s ballpark. Houston had a chance to win in Yankee Stadium, before the bullpen gave up a 4–0 lead in Game 4, but on the whole, both teams appeared very overwhelmed and intimidated on the road. Fast forward to now: both teams are better and more experienced than they were in 2017, but after the Astros’ busy day at the trade deadline, it would be a failure not to have the postseason run through Houston or finish with a title.
New York has had their ups and downs pitching-wise and dealt with a bundle of injuries; yet they have a better record than Houston. If they finish with the better record, it would be totally understandable if the Yankees felt they were the better team, especially if they were able to be at full strength, or even close to full strength before facing Houston.
If the Yankees and the Astros see each other again in the ALCS and both are at full strength, I’d predict that whoever has the home field advantage will have about a 60 percent chance to win the series. We are talking about two juggernauts, so who knows how this series might play out.
3. Astros pitching remains strong. In last year’s ALCS, the Astros were outscored 29-14 in four consecutive losses against Boston after winning Game One in Fenway. Houston’s pitching got battered to the tune of a 5.52 ERA in 44 innings, compared to the great pitching they got in the ALDS, in which Houston destroyed Cleveland 21-6.
If Houston is going to win it all, the postseason pitching has to start strong and permit no lapse until the final out of the World Series is recorded.
4. The Astros beat the Yankees. This one’s obvious, and I mean no disrespect to Cleveland, Oakland, Tampa Bay, and even Minnesota. (Boston’s postseason dreams are over.) But unless the Yankees or the Astros suffer major injuries or just choke, the Yankees and Astros are destined to meet in the ALCS. With Boston out the picture, the Indians and Rays have a puncher’s chance with their pitching strength if they reach the ALDS. I don’t take the Indians seriously, after last year’s banged-up Astros straight waxed them in the ALDS.
Minnesota can score, but my concern for the Twins all season has been their pitching. Even though they’re 8th in the league in pitching, their starters have a 4.02 ERA with a WHIP of 1.25, and their relievers have a 4.39 ERA with a WHIP of 1.36. Do they have enough arms to even compete in a playoff series against the Yankees or the Astros?
Finally, Oakland has a scrappy bunch and would be a tough out in a series. However, talent-wise, they just are not a match for either New York or Houston.
On the National League side, the Dodgers and Braves are really good, but I’ve believed all season the Yankees and the Astros at their best are leaps and bounds stronger than anyone from the National League. A big reason being is because nobody else has the depth in their lineups that the Astros and Yankees have.
Last year’s World Series was won in five games by Boston, maybe this year’s will be more competitive. The American League, however, is very likely to win it again. If Houston can dispatch the Yankees, I like their chances to win their second World Series title in three seasons.
5. The Astros don’t get too big-headed or complacent. As loaded as the Astros are, and as much as they have owned the AL West since the start of the season, if they want to win it all, they will need to be dialed in.
An example of what I am referring to is last year’s complaining about the postseason schedule, when Bregman was not happy Houston was not on prime time. Then Bregman taunted the Red Sox prior to Game 3 of the ALCS.
I love when players show their personalities, and I believe it is good for the game of baseball. However, when competing for another World Series, it is not a very wise decision to give bulletin board material to the team standing between you and a title shot.
If the Astros can learn from last year’s mistakes and remain level-headed regardless of whom they face, and not sweat the little things like scheduling, they will be fine.
If those five factors come together, the Astros will win the World Series. Yes, the Astros are great and are poised for another title run, but they have to remember that the five factors listed here are key. If any of them misfire, the Astros might not hoist the World Series trophy in 2019.