Why the Astros will win the World Series

Sporting News

Editor's note: As the NLCS and ALCS get underway, SN will present a case for why each of the remaining four teams will win the 2019 World Series.

Their opponent may attract more national attention, but make no mistake: The Astros are still the World Series favorites. Pitted against the Yankees for a trip to the Fall Classic, Houston has absolutely no reason to be intimidated by New York, having been to the ALCS three straight years and winning a championship in 2017.

Manager A.J. Hinch's squad possesses a mix of balance and star power. It has experience on this stage. It has two MVPs and two Cy Young winners, with a third in Gerrit Cole potentially set to win the latter award this year.

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WHY THEY'LL WIN IT ALL: Yankees | Nationals | Cardinals

Here's a breakdown of why the Astros are so dangerous entering the ALCS and in good shape to win the World Series:

1. Verlander, Cole, Greinke

The heart of this Astros team is the outstanding starting pitching trio of Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke. Greinke, of course, was acquired from the Diamondbacks at the July 31 trade deadline to complete the Big 3. Against the Rays in the ALDS, Verlander and Greinke struggled at times while Cole pitched lights-out, winning Game 2 and Game 5.

The Yankees are an offensive juggarnaut built to overwhelm opponents with brute force. That's what happened when they swept the Twins, who surrendered 23 runs across the three contests. But if even two of Verlander, Cole and Greinke are locked in, slowing down that potent New York order, the whole balance of the series will be shifted in Houston's favor. There are few things more demoralizing in baseball than having your greatest strength sapped. The Astros are capable of doing that.

Part of what makes the rotation so powerful for Houston is the late-inning relievers behind the starters. Will Harris, Ryan Pressly and Roberto Osuna are able to shut the door more times than not when the starters fail to surpass six innings. In tandem, that will give fits to the Yankees and a World Series opponent.

2. Been there, crushed that

Unlike the Yankees, Cardinals and Nationals, this Astros team is brimming with batters who have ALCS and World Series experience. Houston's roster carries six position players who have played in a winning World Series effort — more than the other remaining teams combined. George Springer, Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve have proven they can come through under pretty much any circumstance. They can perhaps handle under-pressure at-bats better than anyone else in the game.

Beyond that, though, the Astros' lineup also has a longer regular season track record of being great than at least the Nationals and Cardinals, and perhaps the Yankees as well. Springer, Correa, Altuve, Alex Bregman and Michael Brantley have been among the most consistent offensive threats of the decade — they have 498 home runs among them and have been worth a combined value of 132.2 wins over replacement. When healthy, as they all are now, they have almost always been excellent.

The Astros carry other bats that have been around the game a long time and have had success, such as Robinson Chirinos and Josh Reddick. Plus, Rookie of the Year candidate Yordan Alvarez gives the group a fresh, exciting wild card who could deliver even more damage on opponents if he gets hot in the ALCS.

Experience obviously isn't everything, but it would seem to be an important deterrent to becoming rattled over the course of a seven-game series. Houston's offense should continue to play up in the coming weeks.

3. Smarts behind the curtain

An underrated aspect of the Astros is their cohesive management structure. A.J. Hinch is a rare modern manager with almost universal faith behind him — he's 481-329 in his time at the helm in Houston with 21 postseason victories. He has also seemed to jibe well with his assistants and a front office intent on maximizing this window of contention.

Many pitchers in recent years, most notably Verlander and Cole, have boosted their play upon arriving in Houston. Those improvements have been widely attributed to an innovative MLB pitching development program that piggybacks on strong minor league pitching development and scouting infrastructures.

While New York, Washington and St. Louis have solid staffs, it seems Houston is by far the best in the big leagues right now from top to bottom. With perhaps the most talented overall roster of the teams remaining in the postseason, that backroom talent could give the Astros the extra lift to secure their second title in three seasons.

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