In 2017, the Houston Astros were, inarguably, the best offensive team in baseball. They were a relentless hitting machine that dominated virtually every pitching staff in the majors. But, they were only a so-so pitching staff moderately stabilized with the acquisition of Justin Verlander, with a very shaky bullpen particularly late in the season.
In 2018, the Astros had, arguably, the best pitching staff in baseball, a staff that boasted two front-line aces in Verlander and Gerrit Cole to go with former Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel. By the end of the season, they also had one of the best bullpens in the majors. But, their offense faltered often leaving their ace, Verlander, without adequate run support.
Now, in 2019, there is a chance the team could put together maybe the best of both worlds.
In this nine-game win streak, the team is averaging just under six runs per game while only allowing three. Jose Altuve went on a five-game home run hitting streak. The offense has exploded much the way it did in 2017.
Then there is the pitching. These are astonishing numbers:
Justin Verlander: 4 runs allowed, 17 strikeouts, 2 walks, 12 innings
Gerrit Cole: 5 runs allowed, 17 strikeouts, 3 walks, 13 innings
Colin McHugh: 3 runs allowed, 13 strikeouts, 4 walks, 12 innings
Wade Miley: 3 runs allowed, 6 strikeouts, 3 walks, 9.2 innings
That's a collective 2.89 ERA for the starters. Then, there's the bullpen.
Hector Rondon: 1 run allowed, 4 hits allowed, 4 strikeouts, 0 walks, 4.2 innings
Ryan Pressly: 0 runs allowed, 2 hits allowed, 3 strikeouts, 0 walks, 4.2 innings
Chris Devenski: 1 run allowed, 5 hits allowed, 4 strikeouts, 1 walk, 3.1 innings
Roberto Osuna: 1 run allowed, 2 hits allowed, 7 strikeouts, 0 walks, 6.1 innings
That's a tiny 1.42. ERA with only 1 walk compared to 18 strikeouts. Osuna is now 18 for 18 in save opportunities since joining the Astros and Pressly is the best setup man in baseball.
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Put all together, it's no shock the Astros are winning right now. The question is can it continue?
Health is the obvious key to everything. If the team remains relatively healthy throughout the season as they did for much of 2017, it is difficult to imagine a much better squad hitting the field every day in the majors — maybe Tampa Bay, who appear to be legit for now, but we'll see.
Beyond that, it isn't like these guys are doing things they've never done before. The starters are who they are. McHugh was one of the best relievers in the game last year and has maybe been the best starter on the club this season. The relievers have picked up where they left off and shouldn't have to work a ton of innings with this rotation. The bats have been a little up and down, but one through five this is a good a lineup as any team out there.
If this team stays healthy, and that's a HUGE if as it is every year, they appear to be a juggernaut similar to a combination of the best of the last two seasons, which should be scary if you are any other team in the majors.