Five Reasons the Astros Will Regain Their Championship Form

Gerrit Cole is one of the best pitchers on a staff that is loaded with aces.
Gerrit Cole is one of the best pitchers on a staff that is loaded with aces. Photo by Jack Gorman
In certain respects, the Astros have been disappointing thus far in 2018, which is remarkable considering they sit atop the AL West and have the best starting rotation in baseball. Series losses to teams like the Yankees and Diamondbacks will do that even if they are somewhat soothed by the most recent sweep of the A's.

It's reasonable to expect a fan base that just witnessed their first World Series win in, well, ever, would have high, perhaps unreasonable, expectations. It doesn't help that much of baseball is touting you as an organization with a legitimate chance to repeat. We all want to see the Astros rip through their schedule and dominate much the way they did throughout last season.

But, baseball has a way of humbling you. Not only have the Astros struggled a bit, but other teams around them have improved. The good news is there are still good reasons to believe.

5. They are in a bad division.

After a fast start, the Angels have cooled off and the Mariners don't appear to be a significant threat, living in purgatory between rebuilding and challenging. The A's continue to struggle and the Rangers are a mess. Whatever happens throughout the AL, the Astros are in a division that should be wrapped up well before September.

4. Their bats are beginning to come around.

The Stros bookended a tough stretch against the Yanks and Diamondbacks with series wins over the A's including a sweep on the road. They averaged better than 7 runs in those games. And despite a very tough offensive series against New York where they were shut out twice, the offense seemed to turn around in the last game of that series and into Arizona. In those four games, they put up more than 4 per game. Averages for guys you expect to be higher are creeping up as is their average with runners in scoring position and their strikeout numbers are down among their everyday players. No one expects them to be an average offense for the whole season and there are signs that is already changing.

click to enlarge
Overlooked this season is how good the Astros defense has been.
Photo by Jack Gorman
3. They won't remain mediocre at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros are only 10-9 at home this season. While they were, incredibly, five games better on the road in 2017, they weren't a .500 ball club at Minute Maid and they won't be this year either. More importantly, they have been absolutely stellar on the road at 14-6. That will certainly balance itself out as well, but despite some early season disappointments at home, they remain poised for improvement there and are already one of the best road teams in baseball.

2. Defensively, they are as about as good as it gets.

Often overlooked with the incredible pitching and sluggish bats grabbing headlines is the fact that they are one of the best fielding teams in the majors. They are first in errors per games played and tied for first in fielding percentage. Currently, they are leading the majors (and it's not terribly close) in performance by wins above average. This advanced statistic essentially measures how good each position player is and combines those numbers together for the team. But even without sabermetrics, watching the team for any amount of time, their skills defensively become readily apparent.

1. Their pitching is historically good.

This is perhaps the most important measure of them all. They have the best starting rotation in baseball and at least two Cy Young candidates early in the season. Even during mediocre performances, they routinely pitch into the sixth inning, which takes pressure off the bullpen, which has also been pretty good thus far. But these starters, who have been nearly flawless to start the season, have kept them in ballgames when the offense has faltered. 
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke