Building a Championship-caliber team is one of the more difficult task in sports. Finding a way to sustain that level of success is even harder. The Houston Astros have reached the top, winning a World Series in 2017. Despite losing George Springer and Carlos Correa, Houston has found a way to maintain their status as one of the league’s best teams.
The Astros have come in first place in the American League West in five of the last six seasons, with the lone exception coming during the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign. This year, they cruised to the AL West title winning 105 games (with one left to play), pacing their division by 16 games.
Heading into the playoffs, the Astros have the second-best odds to win the World Series. Yet despite the Dodgers 110-win season and their star-studded lineup, the Astros should be the favorites to win the World Series because of two main reasons. They have one of the best rotations in baseball, and more importantly, their path to a title is far easier than their NL counterpart from L.A.
We often hear how certain team’s rotations will fare in a series because of their top three starters. Typically, playoff teams will feel pretty good about having three high level starters as the manager turns to a short-rest rotation. But with less travel days built into the playoff schedule, it is more important than ever to have four viable starters in their rotation.
Luckily for the Astros, they have six trustworthy arms and at least four high level starters.
At 39 years old and coming off a lost season due to injury, questions swirled about just how effective Justin Verlander would be in 2022. Verlander returned putting up a casual 1.75 ERA, 2.49 FIP, and 6.1 fWAR season, silencing any doubters. What Verlander has been able to do at 39 is nothing short of incredible. His excellence and experience makes him one of, if not the best starting pitcher in this postseason.
Houston has the luxury of having blossoming young star Christian Javier and lefty Framber Valdez, both of whom have impressive curveballs, to help strengthen their rotation. Is Javier ready for to start and have a larger role this Postseason? Well, he has not surrendered a run in his last four outings. You tell me.
We know Luis Garcia and Jose Urquidy can be effective and provide value this postseason, but Lance McCullers Jr. has an opportunity to really be a difference-maker. After missing a large chunk of the season to due injury, he picked up where he left off since returning.
In 47.2 innings this season, McCullers has posted a 2.77 ERA and 3.49 FIP. He’s started nine playoff games and appeared in 16 throughout his career, giving him the experience for the big stage. With less than 50 innings under his belt in 2022, McCullers should be fresh and ready to contribute.
I’d put this rotation up with any in baseball.
Finally, a Playoff bracket. What a beautiful sight to see. Houston will get the winner of Toronto versus Seattle, both teams with plenty of questions. The Mariners have been a fantastic story but they are not quite ready to make a playoff run. Houston has the better roster and drastically more playoff experience. Toronto is a better team than Seattle, but the Blue Jays do not have the pitching Houston has. Pitching plus experience gives the Astros the edge.
Let’s just say for this discussion the Astros face the Yankees. Automatic appointment television. A rematch of the controversial trash can series. New York has a fantastic team and the home run king, but I give the edge to the Astros. Injuries have tested the Yankees depth and Houston just has more weapons.
Now let’s move over to the National League. The World Series favorites (Dodgers) could see Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, and the New York Mets. A team with tons of talent that had the division slip away to the Braves. A team that should be angry and playing with a fire under them. San Diego has star power as well. In my opinion, a better team than the five-seed in the American League.
If the Dodgers advance, they likely face either the Cardinals or Braves. The defending Champions or a team that always punches above it’s weight. The devil magic of the Cardinals is nothing to play with. A memorable season for their veterans seems to be checking off boxes on what could become a storybook finish. The Braves outlasted the Mets to take the division and have some of the best young talent in the sport. The Dodgers do not have a comfortable series unless a few upsets happen.
Based on their contrast of schedules, the Houston Astros are the best bet to win the World Series this season, or at least be the one’s that get there out of the American League. Now it is time to watch the games and see how it all unfolds.