The Houston Astros are currently leading the American League in wins and are not too far behind the Los Angeles Dodgers for best overall league record.
The 2022 season has been one that continues to prove to the league that the Astros are the “Gold Standard” when it comes to fielding a contender year in and year out. With a club this plentiful in position players as well pitchers you really have to dig deep to find flaws reasons to be concerned. As far as I see it, the Astros are the favorites to win now that Lance McCullers has returned.
On Saturday night, Minute Maid Park was all the buzz with the return of Lance McCullers Jr. who famously once responded to a fan who asked him, “Are you going to leave us like Correa.” To which he responded, “Bury Me In the H.”
McCullers is Houston Astros baseball. His line for Saturday was 6 IP, 5 K’s, 4 BB, 0 Runs, and only 2 Hits. When you add Lance into the mix and this is what you get, it feels like an extra trade deadline acquisition.
Let me show you why this pitching staff SP and RP alike should be feared by their opponents.
The Astros pitching staff leads the AL in ERA (3.02), opponent average (.212), opponent OPS (.617) and WHIP (1.10). If that doesn’t convince you, the starters have the lowest ERA (3.15) among all AL rotations, while the relievers have the lowest ERA (2.76) among all MLB bullpens.
This may be the best pitching staff the Astros have fielded…ever. The difference between 2022 and 2021 is the Astros will have both Justin Verlander and Lance McCullers Jr. these two horses in your starting rotation is just what James Click and Jim Crane ordered.
While the dominance of the pitching staff has been evident from Opening Day till now, the offense has been putting up numbers that at times have created concerns for Astros fans. Despite being an AL best 75-41 their runs per game have been down all year.
Yuli Gurriel has not been himself most of the season, Martin Maldondo has been a heavy weight on the lineup for most of the season (as of late has caught fire), and others in the lineup at times have gone through rough patches. Before you think I am tanking the narrative and turning into Chicken Little let me reassure you that is not the case.
The Astros offense this season is led by Yordan Alvarez. He is THE most complete hitter in this lineup. One would think with the loss of Michael Brantley this offense would see a dip. Maybe they have at times, but baseball isn’t about what you did last week. It is about what you have been doing for me lately, now, today’s game.
With this being the case, we have a lineup that is heating up. This lineup top to bottom is stellar, they may not all hit every game, but when the time is right, they come through.
With the recent addition of Christian Vazquez who recorded his first three hit game as Astros backstop, a very good hitting catcher. Then add in MLB Veteran and Colon Cancer survivor Trey Slam-Cini (My apologies Mancini) the Astros have bolstered an offense that is beginning to catch fire. In this homestand 18 of their 21 runs have come with 2 outs.
Hitting with runners on base has not been their forte most of the season. This appears to be swinging back in the right direction. I know it’s been versus the lesser teams in the AL West vs. Texas and Oakland but a little less than a month ago the A’s swept Houston in Oakland which was the only time they have been swept in 2022.
If you have watched this past homestand you will see what this offense is capable of, as a team they are hitting near .290 with RISP (Runners in Scoring Position). Alex Bregman, former LSU Tiger has really hit his stride offensively is having a huge homestand, in which he’s hitting .473 (9×19) with three homers, eight RBI, six walks and a 1.486 OPS.
Kyle Tucker has seen similar success Hitting .428 (9/21) with 2 Homers, 9 RBI, 6 Runs Scored and a 1.305 OPS. That doesn’t even tell the entire story. Chas McCormick has taken advantage of his starting days, along with Trey Mancini with his first 3 hit game as an Astros left fielder. We can’t forget about Christian Vazquez who took advantage of his start on Sunday to contribute to a win which gave the Astros the Sweep vs. Oakland.
There are so many reasons to be happy as an Astros fan and very little concern as they hit the road against two tough opponents. They will be on the South Side of Chicago taking on ALDS foe the White Sox for four games, before heading to Atlanta for a World Series rematch. Will Smith may get to face his old club and do to them what he did to the Astros, that isn’t something we want to think about.
As October nears you will start to see lineups become more cemented in where guys will hit, what the Top 4 will look like in the postseason, and who will be added once rosters expand. With that being said, I do not think we will see Hunter Brown this season, and I am ok with that. Patience is key with developing a talent like Hunter Brown. I, like many of you, want to see him, but there is no need to throw the kid into the fire, when he can start fresh in 2023.
Brett Chancey is the co-host of the Locked on Astros Podcast. He can be followed on Twitter/Instagram @htownwheelhosue or @stros411 on Twitter/Instagram/Facebook.