Thomas B. Shea-USA Today Sports

Houston Astros Look to Continue Dominance of the AL West

The Astros are dominating the American League West so far this season, but how have they done it?

Last week, the Rangers came to town hoping to swing momentum in the American League West. Recent history would say that the Astros have an uphill battle, and that is due to the Rangers having owned them the past two seasons. This year things are different as the Astros are firing on all cylinders, and the Rangers…well they are not firing at all.

The Astros are 15-5 against the AL West and 8.5 games up on the Rangers. They are on pace to get over 92 wins, and even with it being early all signs point to the post season. So how have they done it?

Pitching, Hitting, more pitching and 3 comebacks when down by 5+ runs. Which I might add had not occurred since 2008.

Pitching:

Dallas Keuchel is back to his Cy Young form, and earned the American League Pitcher of the Month. He tied a club record held by Roger Clemens for most wins in April. He’s not the only one

The starting pitchers have 12 of the 22 wins, splitting the other 10 to the bullpen who has been tops in the Majors thus far.

They are 1st in wins with 22, 3rd with a 3.46 ERA, 4th in saves (9), 3rd in K’s (266), and 1st in WHIP (1.18).

They have outscored their West division opponents to: 99-57, the Astros have relied on great pitching.

There are some early season question marks with Fiers, Gregerson, and Feliz who haven’t performed with the rest of the bunch. Musgrove can get roughed up, but he is young and Brent Strom is hoping he works out the kinks. We did see Sipp come in and get key strikeouts against the Rangers this past week, which is a great sign being that he is the Astros, only left-hander.

Hitting:

Coming into the Rangers series many fans were writing Carlos Correa off, and worried about Beltran starting a little slow. Well these guys have hit in key situations, Correa is heating up, Springer may not be leading off with HR’s as of late but he is hitting.

The Astros batting average with RISP is .304, which is 3rd overall. This team is doing great things, but they have not even begun to play to their full potential. They also rank in the top 10 in most major hitting categories, and top three in hits, batting average, and doubles.

A big part of the Astros offense has come from the new additions of Aoki, Reddick, and Gurriel. Although Yuli reported at the end of last season he has made a huge impact on this offense. Batting almost .500 on the road, and hitting .311 overall, he is adapting well to his new position at 1B.

The Clubhouse:

It started with Club Astro going on the last two seasons, we saw the Astros almost return to an LCS, then last year they fell short of the playoffs. What this team needed was not personality, but veteran presence. It’s not hard to notice with the arrival of McCann and Beltran the now senior statesman of the ball club that they have helped this team.

Also with the arrival of Reddick who has fit in and brought “Flair” to this team, literally “Woooooooooo”. We now see a team that is ready to dominate and stay on top for a while.

https://twitter.com/RicFlairNatrBoy/status/862121176168108033

Perhaps the biggest contributor in the dugout is A.J. Hinch, often criticized for his managerial moves, shifts, etc. Hinch has a great handle on this team, the personalities and which players compliment each other on the diamond.

The Front office:

The architect of the entire team is Jeff Luhnow. He comprised a stellar club in St. Louis and saw success and now we see the fruits of his labor in Houston. Maybe going to the American League isn’t so bad, and maybe there’s a little bit of Karma due to the hacking by the Cardinals in the last couple years?

No matter where you look the Astros are rolling through the AL West, and they need to do the same the rest of the way.

There will be ups and downs, we may even see players have to sit out, the hitters may not hit or the pitchers hold down the runs. Regardless of what happens this is a complete club with one exception.

How they get it done:

The Astros will make a push for the World Series this season and in doing so they need to get another frontline or middle of the rotation starter. They have the Minor leaguers to do it, and they don’t want to lose them in the Rule 5 draft. So trading them for another quality starter would get them something in return.

Look for a more in depth look at their dominance of the west in Vol. 3.


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