The Houston Astros are the most hated organization in baseball, but that hasn’t stopped the club from performing at an extremely high level this season.
At 62-40, the Astros are just half a game back of the Boston Red Sox for the best record in the American League, and neither team is too far behind the San Francisco Giants for the best record in all of baseball.
A few days back a rival AL exec said thought that #Astros were the AL’s best team and that would be sealed if they could fix bullpen. Since then obtained #Mariners closer (Graveman), #Marlins closer (Garcia) to join their closer Pressly.
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) July 28, 2021
Before the year started, the Astros expected to be in a good position this season, but few objective fans thought the team could actually compete for the best record in the league.
There have been multiple key factors regarding how Houston has gotten this far, and today, we’re going to take a look at two of them.
Let’s get started.
2. The Emergence Of Luis Garcia Has Been Key To The Rotation’s Success
Houston has one of the best rotations in baseball, and the emergence of Luis Garcia has been key.
Garcia, who is a rookie this season, is working on a 3.19 ERA. 3.30 FIP, and 1.08 WHIP across 19 outings (17 starts).
The 24-year-old has been a revelation, and there’s no disputing that he deserves a lot of credit for the Astros’ starting pitching success.
It's a night to remember for @JoseAltuve27 but Luis Garcia may have just had his best start in the big leagues.
6 IP, 3 hits, 0 ER & 8 K's
— AT&T SportsNet SW (@ATTSportsNetSW) July 21, 2021
On the whole, the club has a rotation ERA of 3.44.
The Astros will have no trouble whatsoever forming an elite four-man staff in the postseason.
1. There Are No Breaks When Facing Houston’s Loaded Lineup
The Astros have the best lineup in baseball, and truthfully, it should get even more attention than it does.
Houston produces the most runs per game (5.40) in all of baseball, and it’s no surprise when you look at how deep the lineup is.
The Astros have six players who have an OPS+ of 130 or better.
It’s hard to articulate just how ridiculous that is, but let’s try.
Essentially, when you’re facing any given batter in Houston’s lineup, there’s a 67 percent chance that that hitter is 30 percent better than the average MLB hitter (at least according to the OPS+ statistic).
What a nightmare for opposing pitching staffs.
Here are the six players we alluded to: Yuli Gurriel (.847 OPS and 133 OPS+), Jose Altuve (.856 OPS and 134 OPS+), Carlos Correa (.837 OPS and 130 OPS+), Michael Brantley (.856 OPS and 135 OPS+), Kyle Tucker (.848 OPS and 130 OPS+), and Yordan Alvarez (.878 OPS and 139 OPS+).
Virtually no one outside of Houston is going to be rooting for the Astros in the postseason, but that’s not going to stop the club from hunting for its second World Series title in the past five seasons.
Houston may ultimately end up being the betting favorite to win the AL pennant once October comes, and when you consider how well-rounded the team’s roster is, it would be hard to argue.
The Astros are in the middle of a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners right now.
After that series, wraps up, Houston will head to San Francisco for a date with the best-in-baseball Giants.
It will be interesting to see how the two teams measure up in a potential World Series preview.