ASTROS ENTER PLAYOFFS WITH BEST CREDENTIALS
Last updated 10/1/2019 at Noon
Oldtimers have claimed since the first day they picked up a baseball that pitching comprises 75 per cent of the game’s success.
The Houston Astros are a perfect modern example of this graybeard saying as they sit near the top of the heap for nearly every pitching statistic accomplished during the 2019 major league baseball season.
No other team has a 20-game winner this season—the Houston Astros have two in Justin Verlander (21-6) and Gerrit Cole (20-5).
No other MLB team has a pitcher with 300 strikeouts—the Houston Astros have two in Gerrit Cole (326) and Justin Verlander (300).
No other American League team has a starting pitcher with a sub-3.00 earned run average—the Houston Astros have two in Gerrit Cole (2.50) and Justin Verlander (2.58).
Verlander is always referred to as the Astros’ ace, but statistics prove that Cole is as good or even better.
Verlander has one more win than Cole, but Verlander has won 78 per cent of his games while Cole’s record shows 80 percent wins.
According to Monday’s edition of the Houston Chronicle, “from May 27 to Sunday, Cole collected 216 strikeouts in 141 2/3 innings and has won his last 16 decisions.” Cole also set a major league single-season record of 13.8 strikeouts per nine innings and set another MLB record with 10 strikeouts in nine consecutive games.
Only four pitchers have seasons with 21 double-digit strikeout games—Nolan Ryan, Sandy Koufax, Randy Johnson and Cole, whose 326 strikeouts are the most by a righthanded pitcher since Ryan fanned 341 in 1977.
I haven’t mentioned the third pitcher in this talented triumvirate—Zack Greinke—who finished the season with a 2.93 ERA over 208 2/3 innings.
On paper, the trio of Verlander, Cole and Greinke at least belongs in the discussion for the greatest postseason rotation in MLB history.
Verlander and Cole are going to finish in the top two spots of AL Cy Young Award voting.
If need be, the Astros could possibly get by using only three starting pitchers, but rookie Jose Urquidy rounds out the starting pitchers on the playoff roster.
Brad Peacock will be the long reliever with Chris Devenski, Hector Rondon and Joe Smith the middle relievers, Will Harris and Ryan Pressly the short relievers and Roberto Osuna the closer.
Offensively, Houston is right near the top in that category, too.
George Springer finished the season at .292, Jose Altuve (.298), Michael Brantley (.311), rookie Yordan Alvarez (.313), Alex Bregman (.296) and Yuli Gurriel (.298) sounds like the 1927 New York Yankees’ Murderers Row.
The American League playoffs begin today (Wed.) with the two wild cards playing at 7 p.m.
on ESPN. The Tampa Bay Rays travel to meet the Oakland A’s in a winner-take-all contest.
The winner will play the Astros at Minute Maid Park Friday on FS1 or MLB networks for a best-of-five playoff.
The two remaining division winners also play Friday with the Minnesota Twins meeting New York in Yankee Stadium.
The two National League wild cards—the Milwaukee Brewers and Washington Nationals--played Tuesday night with the winner meeting the Dodgers, the top division winner, at Los Angeles tomorrow (Thursday) while the St. Louis Cardinals play the Braves in Atlanta, also tomorrow. If I were to make a long-range prognostication, I’d say that the Houston Astros will meet the LA Dodgers in the 2019 World Series. But I won’t do that!!!
KWICKIES…After leading the Chicago Cubs to four straight post-season appearances but missing this season, manager Joe Maddon and president of baseball operations Theo Epstein agreed the Cubs should seek a new skipper for the 2020 season. Maddon is still the hero of the ardent Cubbies fans for managing the Cubs to the 2016 championship for their first title in 108 years. The Pittsburgh Pirates also fired manager Clint Hurdle, who had a 735-720 record in nine seasons at Pittsburgh.
Under my “It’s about time department”, I’m happy to see that my long time friend West Orange Stark Mustang Head Football Coach and Athletic Director Dan Hooks has finally been selected to the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame. He guided the Mustangs from 1981 - 2010, chalking up an almost unbelievable 277-71-2 record. He will be inducted May 2, 2020 in Waco.
If Spectrum and AT&T ever allowed us to view regular-season Houston Astros games, we’d be entertained by Todd Kalas and former Astro Geoff Blum, who will continue as the Astros play-by-play analyst tandem through 2021, the team announced Sunday.
Clemson’s narrow one-point victory over North Carolina Saturday cost the Tigers the top spot in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 College Football rankings.
Alabama received 29 of 61 first-place votes and moved into the prestigious No. 1 position.
Georgia remained No. 3, Ohio State moved up one notch to No. 4 over idle LSU who slipped one place to No. 5.
Oklahoma, Auburn and Wisconsin remained in the next three spots while Notre Dame and Florida swapped the No. 9 and No. 10 positions.
Texas remained at No. 11 while the Texas Aggies dropped two places to No. 25 because of their “ugly” 31-27 win over Arkansas Saturday.
SMU won their fifth straight game and finally made this week’s AP poll at No. 23.
The Mustangs are 5-0 for the first time since 1983, when they finished the season at 10-2.
JUST BETWEEN US…NFL fans in the Lone Star State got a double-dose of lousy football Sunday after the Houston Texans ran out of time outs early, thanks to Head Coach Bill O’Brien who lost one on a stupid challenge that his compadres in the press box should have seen and another when his defensive players were confused about who should be on the field.
He also called a dumb DeAndre Hopkins option pass that was an easy interception inside the red zone.
Poor play highlighted Houston’s 16-10 loss to Carolina.
The Cowboys’ defense didn’t allow a touchdown at New Orleans Sunday night, but the Saints played better defense and used four field goals to beat the Pokes 12-10.
The Cowboys gained only 45 yards rushing on 20 carries with Ezekiel Elliott managing only 35 yards on 20 rushes.
It was their first loss in four games.