The Houston Astros don’t seem too concerned about their starters suffering from a World Series hangover. After pitching deeper into the season than nearly every other team in 2017, the Astros’ rotation is even more dominant in 2018.
Perhaps you always expected that to be the case following the Gerrit Cole trade. But the team’s improvements aren’t just related to Cole. Every one of their starters have been un-hittable to start the season.
If you need prove of that, take a look at this unreal stat:
The Astros’ rotation has now produced nine double-digit strikeout performances, which matches its total from last season. It is not yet May.
— Jake Kaplan (@jakemkaplan) May 1, 2018
The Astros rotation has already turned in as many double-digit strikeout starts than it did all last season. It’s April 30.
Cole has undoubtedly played a role in that. He seems to have ascended to a new level with the Astros. Through six starts, he’s struck out double-digit batters four times.
His rotation-mates haven’t been too shabby either. Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton have each recorded two double-digit strikeout games thus far. Morton was the one who pushed the team to last year’s limit, striking out 10 New York Yankees over 7 2/3 innings in a 2-1 win Monday.
Their No. 1 starter, Justin Verlander, has only produced one game with double-digit strikeouts thus far. But he’s left three other games with nine strikeouts. If one extra call goes his way in those starts, the team would have already blown past last year’s figure.
The only member of the rotation to not hit double-digit strikeouts in a start this year is Dallas Keuchel. You know, the former Cy Young winner.
All of this is to say: The Astros are really dominant. That’s not exactly mind-boggling. We all knew they would be a fantastic club this season.
Still, it’s tough to take major steps forward immediately after winning a World Series. The Astros deserve credit for being aggressive this offseason and acquiring Cole, and for finding ways to unlock more potential out of their other pitchers.
Major League Baseball hasn’t seen back-to-back World Series champions since the tail-end of the Yankees’ three-peat in 2000. We won’t predict three straight, but the Astros are starting to look like a legitimate contender to break that back-to-back streak.
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