2018: Record: 103 – 59
2018 Finish: 1st in the AL West, 2nd in the American League
Surprises in 2018
At some point, one would think the Astros would run out of prospects and this season seemed to be the time. Sure enough, Josh James came up for a month and struck out everybody (11.3 K/9) and young righty Framber Valdez had terrible peripherals (4.65 FIP), yet somehow emerged with a 2.19 ERA and 8.3 K/9, which is a big reason the Astros are OK with letting both Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton walk.
Alex Bregman, while not surprised himself, made the leap from a good, young player to a star, winning team MVP on a loaded roster. After a solid 2018, there’s already MVP buzz around Bregman for the upcoming season.
Meanwhile, Justin Verlander proved once again that age is only a number as he dominated hitters and finished the season 2nd in the Cy Young voting.
The biggest offseason acquisition for the ‘Stros was, without a doubt, trading for Gerrit Cole. Sure it took giving up Colin Moran and Joe Musgrove, both of whom had solid seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates. While the price for his services was steep, Cole stepped up and proved the Astros valuation of his talent to be spot on. Cole didn’t just have a bounce-back season after finishing with a 12-12 record, 4.26 ERA and 8.7 K/9 in 2017, but a dominant season with a 15-5 record, 2.88 ERA and 12.4 K/9 in 2018.
The Astros also ended up winning the most games in franchise history topping last years record total.
Disappointments in 2018
Back problems sent Carlos Correa to the DL and impacted his season when he did play. He finished with a .239/.323/.405 slash line, with more strikeouts and
Coming off a season in which they won the most games in franchise history and were the reigning World Series champions, it was a letdown for this group to not become the first team since the ’98-’00 Yankees to win back-to-back titles.
They also lost Lance McCullers in November to Tommy John surgery, so with some impending free agents in the starting rotation, they enter 2019 with a few more question marks than past seasons.
Looking Ahead to 2019
Despite losing some key free agents (Marwin Gonzalez, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton), the Astros should still be the easy favorite to win the AL West and one of the top teams in contention for a World Series title.
The Astros enter this year with more question marks than they have in the past (will their rotation have enough talent and depth to make up for losing two top pitchers? Do they need to upgrade at catcher?), but the sum of their team is still one of the most talented rosters in baseball.
With other key players scheduled to hit free agency after this year (Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole) this may be one of the last years the Astros can count themselves at the front of the pack for winning another World Series title, especially with the surging Athletics creeping up behind them. A lot can change in a few months or years, but this 2019 team should be one of the most exciting teams in baseball.
Expect another battle of juggernauts in the American League. Yeehaw!