Keith Allison via Creative Commons
Six months after their historic World Series championship the Houston Astros are ready to defend their title.
The ‘Stros have done good work in the offseason, adding RHP Gerrit Cole to an already stacked pitching lineup and signing AL MVP Jose Altuve to a five-year, $151 million extension. Crush City will keep their star second baseman until at least 2024.
Although they have a lot going for them, Houston still has many obstacles to overcome if they want to become the first team to win consecutive championships since the New York Yankees won it all from 1998 to 2000.
Ironically enough, the Yankees are actually one of the hurdles that the Astros will have to clear on their way to a repeat. New York recently acquired Altuve’s National League MVP counterpart Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins, giving them one of the best homerun hitters in recent history. Stanton, who hit 59 HRs in 2017, will be joining RF Aaron Judge, who last season had 52 HRs of his own. Stanton and Judge will be one of the scariest duos that opposing pitchers could face this season.
But don’t count the Astros out—Houston has the advantage in pitching. With pitchers like Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr. and the newly acquired Cole, they have depth that not many teams in baseball have. Cole had 11 strikeouts in his series-clinching win against the Texas Rangers on April 1. It was also his first regular-season game with the Astros after being traded to Houston from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Verlander and Co. have been shutting down the hitters that they have faced off against so far in the new season. They currently have the most strikeouts in baseball with 72 through their first seven games.
Although they don’t hit as many bombs as the Yankees, they still have one of the best offenses in the game. Their combination of homerun and base hitters shows that they have range. World Series MVP George Springer tied the record for most homeruns hit in a Fall Classic, but he also had eight extra-base hits for a total of 29 bases. After all, that range is how they powered through the Los Angeles Dodgers’ resilient and league-best bullpen last year. It is also how
Altuve and Co. will also have to fend off the dreaded championship hangover that some title-winning teams are encountered with. The Chicago Cubs felt the full force of it just last season after their try at a championship defense. The team that ended their 108-year title drought with a 2016 win were eliminated in the NLCS in a disappointing four-games–to–one series loss to the Dodgers. The youth of players like 23-year-old Carlos Correa and 24-year-old Alex Bregman can help fend off the after-effect.
They want to win more, and their potential can carry them to it. This team’s hitters and pitchers shut down the Dodgers’ arsenal to win it all in early November, and they can do it again if they meet with the Yankees come October.