Houston, We Don’t Have A Problem: Astros Running Away With AL West As Second Half Kicks Off

There’s no doubt that the Houston Astros are baseball’s breakout team of 2017 after one half. With a 60-29

There’s no doubt that the Houston Astros are baseball’s breakout team of 2017 after one half.

With a 60-29 record, only the Los Angeles Dodgers (61-29) have a higher winning percentage in MLB than the Astros entering tonight as play resumes for all 30 teams.

Houston leads the second place Los Angeles Angels by 16.5 games in the AL West—should be safe to say they’ll have no problem wrapping that up.

The last time the Astros won a division title was 2001 when they were in the NL Central (have been in AL West since 2013). They went 93-69 that year, winning the tiebreaker over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Good for the Astros. They’re a club that just endured three straight 100+ loss campaigns (2011-13), and look where they are now a few years later. One of the best teams in baseball, completely running away with their division. Getting it done with a great mix of youth and veterans—and mainly at the plate.

Through the first “half” of the season, Houston leads the majors in runs (527), hits (898), doubles (197), home runs (148), total bases (1,553), individual RBIs (499), batting average (.289), on-base percentage (.355), slugging percentage (.500), and OPS (.855). Minus triples, that’s every major offensive category. They even have 33 sacrifice flies, second most in baseball. I know that’s gotta excite Tim Kurkjian!

Just take a look at the top four slash lines on this Astros team. George Springer- .310/.380/.613. Carlos Correa- .325/.402/.577. Marwin Gonzalez- .308/.391/.576. And Jose Altuve- .347/.417/.551. All hitting .308 or higher with high on-base and slugging percentages. An average of 19 homers and 57 RBIs each. And an average age of 26 years—this is the prime youth of the club getting it done.

Then there’s the veterans. Outfielder Josh Reddick has been a nice addition hitting .313 with 41 RBIs. Evan Gattis and Brian McCann have carried the load nicely behind the plate with solid offensive numbers. And despite hitting just .229, 40-year-old DH Carlos Beltran has 29 XBH and 35 RBIs. Being in his 20th major league season, you have to believe his long-time veteran presence has and continues to make a positive impact on the team.

Concluding the offense are youngsters Alex Bregman and Jake Marisnick who’ve made nice contributions, 33-year-old rookie Yuli Gurriel who’s been on fire since June, and utility outfielder Nori Aoki who’s on his fifth team in as many years.

As for Houston’s pitching, it hasn’t been too shabby either—their 3.93 team ERA is fifth best in baseball. Mike Fiers and Lance McCullers have been solid in the rotation all year, and Brad Peacock has stepped up nicely in ace Dallas Keuchel’s absence, who hasn’t pitched since June 2 (still leads team with nine wins).

Rounding out the current rotation is veteran Charlie Morton (6-3, 3.82 ERA, missed all of June) and Jake Musgrove who’s struggled so far (4-7, 6.04 ERA in 14 starts).

Out in the bullpen, the team’s top-five relievers in appearances (Gregerson, Feliz, Devenski, Giles, Harris; average age of 28), have combined for 15 wins, all 25 team saves, a 3.31 ERA, and 11.54 strikeouts-per-nine.

Talk about getting it done! An insanely good lineup and solid pitching staff—this Astros team led by third-year manager A.J. Hinch have exploded in 2017 and show no signs of slowing down.

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Seth MacDonald