First, their starting pitching was nothing short of phenomenal. Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel were all outstanding throughout the majority of the season. Verlander probably should have had 20 wins, but he got woeful run support from the offense. In eight no decisions, he had a 1.01 ERA with 78 strikeouts and only five walks.
Still, he was their ace and racked up more than 200 innings again this season. He, Cole and Keuchel all went over the 200-innings-pitched mark and Morton probably would have gotten there if not for an injury. The fact that Morton appeared in 30 games and wound up with 201 strikeouts to join Verlander (290) and Cole (276) was critical to the team's success. Verlander and Cole had sub-three ERAs, Morton went 3.13 and Keuchel 3.74.
And let's not ignore the bullpen. Collin McHugh excelled with a 1.99 ERA with 94 strikeouts in 74-and-a-third innings. Tony Sipp, a guy many thought wouldn't make the team, finished the year with a 1.86 ERA in 38-and-two-third innings. But, perhaps the most impressive was midseason acquisition Ryan Pressly. In just over 23 innings, he had 32 strikeouts and only three walks with a microscopic .77 ERA.
Both the starters and relievers were in sharp contrast to their 2017 predecessors, who were not close to the top of the league in almost anything.
At the plate, despite some well-documented struggles, the Astros led baseball in run differential at +263. Much of that was thanks to the stellar pitching, but when the team did produced, they tended to explode. Once again, they went over 200 home runs for the season while ranking seventh in average and on-base percentage, eighth in slugging and sixth in OPS.
Their best player, by far, was Alex Bregman. with more hits (170), doubles (51), RBI (103), total bases (316) and home runs (31). He led the league in doubles and got his name, if only slightly, into the MVP discussion. Add that to his simply phenomenal defensive play at third and a now iconic dugout stare, and he became this team's emotional leader.
Now, they rest and wait for the Cleveland Indians in the ALDS, which begins Friday at Minute Maid Park. There will be plenty to analyze in the coming days, but whatever happens in the playoffs, this now becomes the best regular season team in Astros history.