In a season full of storylines, the Houston Astros have dominated many of them. After an 84-78 season left them on the outside looking in 2016, they are currently 80-53 and own the best record in the AL. Their young core, headed by one of the best pure hitters of this millennium, Jose Altuve, was joined by veteran leaders Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran this offseason. They were scorching hot in the first half, going 60-29 and outscoring opponents by a total of 162 runs. However, they’ve sputtered recently.
The 2017 Houston Astros are Back
Currently, they have been 20-24 since the All-Star break and despite still being 11.5 games up on the Angels for the lead in the AL West, so much of playoff success relies on being able to catch fire. They’ve suffered injuries to key players, and despite having one of the top offenses in baseball, their pitching staff is at the lower level of the top-15, as far as runs allowed.
However, this skid seems to be coming to an end, in light of recent events. The Houston Astros had an unusually very successful waiver trade deadline. Also, their DL is shrinking at just the right time.
Astros Successful Waiver Trade Deadline
In what could become the biggest waiver deadline deal this season, the Astros acquired Justin Verlander. Though not the man who won both the Cy Young and the MVP in 2011, he is still an incredibly valuable asset for this team. He’s been red-hot since the All-Star break, with a 2.41 ERA and a .186 batting average against. In his career, he’s been a solid postseason pitcher, yet progressively worse in the Championship Series and World Series. He provides depth to a starting rotation that gets a little rough towards the back end. He can eat up innings and do so at a high level that will help the Astros improve.
On a somewhat less significant note of their waiver deadline deals, they also acquired outfielder Cameron Maybin. While Maybin doesn’t add much to their offense, he provides depth and speed for the Astros. Tied with Altuve for the American League lead, he has 29 stolen bases on the season and can definitely make a difference as a late game baserunner.
Injury Bug Nearing Extinction
Another thing going the Astros way is luck with injuries. One of the biggest reasons for the Astros regression was the loss of Carlos Correa due to injury. The Astros second-best player in WAR, and key piece of one of the best infields in baseball, was in the midst of one of the better seasons by a shortstop when a torn ligament in his thumb took a little over a month out of his season. However, he plans to return against the New York Mets and will have a full healthy month before the playoffs.
In addition, Lance McCullers Jr. should be back with the team next week. McCullers coming back, in tandem with the acquisition of Verlander, makes up for the back-end of the rotation and the regression of Dallas Keuchel since coming off of injury. The Astros will be getting back two All-Stars just in time to get hot before the playoffs.
With a now-improved starting rotation and one of the most exciting, young offenses in baseball, all the dominoes seem to be falling in place and the Astros look poised to reach their first pennant since 2005.