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Are the Astros Hangover-Proof?

January 5, 2018

 

The 2017 World Series Champion Astros finally reaped the rewards of tanking for half a decade. Jeff Luhnow basically rebuilt the franchise from scratch since becoming the GM prior to the 2011 season. In fact, the only players on the 2017 postseason roster that were a part of the Astros organization in 2011 were Jose Altuve (debut season) and Dallas Keuchel (AAA). Luhnow fulfilled the Sports Illustrated prediction of a ‘17 World Series title, but he did so in a way that would make the Astros a powerhouse dynasty while hovering around a league average payroll. Regardless of how good the Astros were last season, it still took 213 games (if you include spring training ; 180 w/o) to win it all. The Cubs were considered to be at a similar level of dominance after winning in 2016, but even they suffered a bit of a World Series “hangover” the first half of 2017 (43-45 record pre All Star break). The high stress innings at the end of a long season will take its toll on any team, but these Astros might be more immune to these effects than past teams.

 

The first reason is that their roster will look almost identical to their 2017 roster. The starting lineup and rotation will (likely) be exactly the same. This offseason, the Astros have already restocked the bullpen by adding Joe Smith and Hector Rondon, who will replace Luke Gregerson and Francisco Liriano. The only decisions they have to make are for the backup roles. Keeping a World Series roster might seem like an obvious reason to project repeated success, but it shows how cost effective and efficient their players are.

 

Pitcher workload is one of the main causes of concern for teams that go deep into the playoffs. Well, the Astros regular season pitching workload was well distributed as no pitchers exceeded 160 innings, with the exception of Verlander who threw 34 regular season innings with the Astros and 206 total. Bonus points for anyone who can guess who pitched the most innings for the Astros last year (Hint: he is no longer an Astro). They also have 7 starting pitcher options for 2018 (Verlander, Keuchel, McCullers, Morton, Peacock, McHugh, and Musgrove), so their is plenty of depth yet again to spread the workload.

 

The Astros core of young players needs to be acknowledged as one of the best of all time. Altuve, Correa, Springer, Bregman, and McCullers are the 5 players I consider to be part of the Furious Five (yeah, like the hip hop group). The oldest player of the bunch is Springer (age 28) and the first player to hit free agency is Altuve in 2020 (he has a 2019 team option). The energy these young players bring each day during the long grind of the regular season is really valuable. The only position players over 30 on the roster are the catcher duo McCann and Gattis (Reddick is 30 as well). This is not to say the fact that their young means they are not fatigued from the championship run, but it always helps to have young players hungry for another title.

 

Nobody needs any convincing that the Astros are gonna be good next season. The Astros are just a well run organization with a roster that just won the World Series. They are such a perfectly boring team to discuss at this point. Everyone is just watching in anticipation to see how many WS titles this historically great dynasty can win.

 

 

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