As the full squad reports to spring training this week, there appears to be a sometimes not-so quiet confidence with this Astros squad. Justin Verlander believes the road to the title runs through Houston and has tweeted as such. The team has adopted the slogan "Never Settle" for the season, owing to the desire to not just "take a victory lap" as third baseman Alex Bregman said on KBME's Matt Thomas Show on Monday.
But, how realistic are the chances of repeating and winning back-to-back World Series? In fact, it's quite rare. Since 1960, it's happened six times, but three of those were in a row between 1972 and 1978 when the A's ('72-'74), Reds ('75-'76) and Yankees ('77-'78) owned the Series for seven straight seasons.
Outside of that anomalous stretch, the Blue Jays did it in 1992 and 1993 and the Yankees did it twice more in 1961 and 1962, as well as their three-peat between 1998 and 2000. But, you'll note there were long stretches in between each of those repeats. It's not easy to win a single title in baseball let alone multiple in consecutive years.
There are good reasons to think the Astros have a shot, however, and also reasons they probably don't.
4 Reasons Why the Astros Can Repeat
There were no significant departures from the team this season and don't appear to be any that will occur after this season either. With at least two more years that include Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman and more, there is good reason to believe this team could actually be better this season than last. Most of the Astros core is young, some not even in their prime. We still probably haven't seen the best Correa and Bregman have to offer as major leaguers. That is a scary prospect for the rest of the league.
Not only will the Astros have Verlander for an entire season, but they added Garrit Cole to an already ridiculously deep rotation. It could be argued World Series hero Charlie Morton is only the fifth best starting pitcher on the roster and Lance McCullers, who possesses one of the best curve balls in the majors, is likely fourth. Not only does this make them dangerous, but it gives them depth in case of injury.
The core of this team now has the requisite experience in the postseason over several years to feel comfortable in just about any situation. They know the formula for winning because they have won. They understand the chemistry they need to have to be successful and they appear to have the temperament as a whole to stay humble. It's the kind of thing you can't acquire except through time and actually doing it. The Astros now have that key intangible so many others do not.
Plenty of Youth
And yet, the Astros are still a young team. The Astros were the ninth oldest team in the majors in 2017, but none of their core everyday players has reached 30 (their average was taken up a notch by guys like Carlos Beltran, no doubt). Dallas Keuchel just turned 30 and, aside from Verlander, none of their top rotation guys are out of their 20s. Additionally, they have one of the top 12 farm systems in baseball including pitcher Forrest Whitley and outfielder Kyle Tucker, both ranked among baseball's top 20 prospects.
4 Reasons Why the Astros Probably Won't Repeat
There is no greater equalizer in all of sports. The Astros, for the most part, avoided serious injury last season and their depth is outstanding, but any key injuries, particularly for long stretches, could derail their chances. And it isn't like Keuchel and McCullers have been able to make it through full seasons in the last couple years. Like most teams, the Astros will need some luck on the injury front.
Everyone knows what the Yankees did in the offseason, acquiring Giancarlo Stanton for next to nothing and giving them one of the scariest lineups in baseball. But, the Indians will remain a threat, the Red Sox will definitely make some moves to improve and the Angels are solid. More importantly, everyone will be gunning for the Astros now that they won it. Heavy is the head that wears the crown.
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Regression to the Mean
As valuable as guys like Marwin Gonzales and Jake Marisnick are, it is hard to imagine Marisnick hitting 16 home runs again. Gozalez has been the model of improvement, but it is possible he played over his head last season. Of course, the Astros don't need them to be the best guys in the lineup, but it wasn't an insignificant part of their success last season.
Entering spring training, Ken Giles, a guy the team essentially gave up on in the postseason, remains the closer. As great as Chris Devenski was early last year, it was clear overuse hurt him late. And it is difficult to imagine a patchwork bullpen getting them through the postseason again. They picked up a pair of veterans in Joe Smith and Hector Rondon, but they are still missing a quality lefty (no one is throwing parties for waiver acquisition Buddy Boshers) and how (or if) they will address the closer role is up in the air.