The Astros are the best-run franchise in baseball. Since 2017 only the Dodgers have won more games, and no one has been their league champion more often than the Astros. And that is despite a payroll $70-80 million less than the Yankees or Dodgers in 2022.
The Yankees all screamed, “We Want Houston.”
No one can believe that the Astros are this good. And at the same time, they resent Astros dominance.
Well, the Astros are back in the World Series for the fourth time since 2017, and we at TCB all believe it is time for the Astros to even their record.
In 2019 and 2021, inferior NL East teams who came in red-hot beat the Astros. The Phillies look like that kind of team, too, with Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper swatting home runs like they were flies.
But they haven’t faced the likes of Astros pitching in the playoffs. The Astros staff held the Mariners and league-leading Yankees lineup to 18 runs in seven games. (if you count the 18-inning shutout of the Mariners as one game)
So here we go again. The most dominant team in baseball, the 106-win Astros who swept the playoffs, taking on a Wild Card team that managed only 87 wins in the regular season but has the “momentum.”
Here are The Crawfish Boxes Picks for who will win the World Series.
Astros in 7.
The Phillies underperformed in the season but are packed with star power and are built for the playoffs. But I think Astros pitching depth and experience will prevail in a game seven winner-take-all gladiator fight-to-the-death contest. (Full disclosure: my son is taking me to Game 7)
Astros in 5.
I agree that the Phillies underperformed during the season to finish third in the NL East, the only team from the division to make the postseason without having notched 100 wins. That being said, they’re ringers. The team boasts the fourth-highest payroll in baseball, and they’re loaded with names that everyone knows. J.T. Realmuto, Bryce Harper, Aaron Nola, Zach Wheeler, Kyle Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins...I could go on.
All that to say this: as much as the Phillies played exactly up to what they’re capable of during their first three playoff rounds, it won’t be anywhere near what they would need to take the Astros in four games out of seven. I predict Houston in five, and that’s me being charitable.
Astros in 6.
For the third time in four seasons, the Astros are facing a hot NL East team in the World Series. Unfortunately, we’ve seen this movie twice before, with Houston being the favorite entering the series only to watch the opposition celebrate on the field at Minute Maid Park. Is the third time the charm against an NL East team?
On paper, the Astros are the better team, anchored by the deepest pitching staff in baseball and a good enough lineup to drive in some runs. But Philadelphia has played quality baseball since the dismissal of Joe Girardi (65-49 under Rob Thomson) earlier in the summer and has the top-end talent to make it a competitive series under the right circumstances. Anything can happen in a small sample, such as a best-of-seven series.
That said, I still think Houston’s depth, in addition to their run-prevention abilities on the mound and the field, may make the final difference in this series, considering the overall struggles in the offensive environment at the moment. Of course, this thought is contingent on Major League Baseball not changing the ball again without anyone knowing beforehand.
Astros in 6.
The Astros have been the best team in the playoffs and are undeniably the most well-rounded as well. But it doesn’t guarantee a title, as evidenced by what happened in 2019, when what was by far the most talented roster in franchise history — a historically great team — fell one win shy of earning a ring.
That said, the Astros have as good of a chance to win the World Series this time around as any of their prior three trips. It could be argued this should be their best chance. It’s no disrespect to the Phillies, who possess serious firepower in the form of Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber and Rhys Hoskins, but it’s difficult to envision them besting the Astros pitching staff, which looks to be the most prodigious collection of arms in recent memory.
As the old adage goes, good pitching beats good hitting. And if that doesn’t happen, the Astros have a high-quality offense to fall back on, one that could fare well against a top-heavy Phillies pitching staff.
Phillies in 7.
The problem is that as a long time Houston fan, you tend to get conditioned to expect some form of defeat that will be heart-breaking, and likely snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Take this iteration of the Astros. 106 wins. Perhaps the best overall pitching staff in team history. Running through the AL in the regular season and sweeping through the ALDS and ALCS. All while relying on a rookie SS and a rotating cast of outfielders. Yet, it is 6 straight ALCS appearances and a 4th AL pennant in 6 years.
BUT…they find themselves facing another NL East team that was under .500 for a significant part of the season, but got stupid hot at the end of the year and blitzed through the NL playoffs. The first two releases in this movie franchise did not end well. Until proven otherwise (i.e the Astros can improve on their all-time 3-9 WS home record, Verlander can improve on his 0-6 WS record, Valdez and the Astros’ bat can completely forget about last year’s debacle), I’ll steel myself for the worst.
That being said, the Astros have actually exceeded expectations this year. The notorious Philly fans, unless they throw actual car batteries at the Astros, will not rattle the players (being the #1 heel for nearly 3 years and facing the New York and LA crowds is an asset here). IF the pitching is not upended by another long layoff between games, Philly cools off some and the Astros can produce at the plate, I will be happy to see this prediction go dead wrong.
Astros in 6.
Low scoring games in Houston, followed by some higher scoring games in Philadelphia that send the series back to MMP. Yordan Alvarez’s bat will come back to life in a big way. Phillies will adjust by walking Alveraz, putting the pressure on Bregman and Tucker to come through. I expect Jose Altuve to get back on track after a couple of games, and then get hot for the remainder of the series. Verlander is the WS MVP.
Astros in 5.
Predicting baseball in short spurts is kind of a fool’s errand. Any good team can have a bad week, any bad team can have a good week, and the difference between two pennant winners (like the Astros and Phillies) is guaranteed to be smaller than the gap between any hypothetical “good” and “bad” team. There’s a reason most of the smart sites are still putting things closer to a toss-up than a lopsided win (Fangraphs puts the Astros at a 55% chance of winning, while 538 goes up to 67%, which still isn’t overwhelming).
Of course, I’m also sure I don’t really need to tell anyone here that, after 2019 and 2021. The Astros enter 2021 looking hotter and healthier than they did in 2021, which is reassuring but still no guarantee of anything. So if there’s no real scientific way to approach this beyond saying “anyone’s game”, why not just go from the gut? It can’t go much worse than my actually-thought-out predictions from the last two years. So... Astros in 5. The three games involving Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola are tough, and I bet that’s where Philly gets their one win. The other two will include a tight pitchers’ duel where the Astros eke one out, and one that looks like it’ll be a close pitchers’ duel until Houston gets to the Phillies’ bullpen. The fourth-starter/bullpen game doesn’t go as badly for Philadelphia as it did in the NLCS, but the Astros give them much less space to come back than the Padres did. Conversely, Astros’ pitchers never fully solve Bryce Harper or Kyle Schwarber, but do a much better job at limiting them and shutting down everyone around them than San Diego. Meanwhile, the top of the Houston lineup hits continues to trend upwards after their slow start to the ALCS.
Look, if I’m going to be wrong no matter how much I plan this out, I might as well swing big.
Exile in St. Louis
Astros in 4.
Look, someone had to predict this. It’s been all sweeps this postseason. Formula is the same: win the home games, and then sweat out the road games. Okay, probably sweat the home games too. I like the Phillies, I think they’re good, and they have that 2019 Nationals vibe. But I think Altuve gets going, and the rotation just keeps shutting down the other team’s offense.
Astros in 6.
The problem with a winning streak is that you start to forget that losing a game is actually something that can happen. It has literally been three and a half weeks since the Astros have lost a game (a shutout against Aaron Nola and the Phillies, where for awhile it looked like Nola was flirting with a perfect game.) It has been more than five weeks since the Astros have lost a game that actually mattered.
But it can happen, and in multiple games this postseason, it almost has. Make no mistake, through both series, the Astros have been the better team, but a bounce here, a few inches this way or that, has led them to advance in sweeps.
I think that unbeaten streak stops with Game 1 of the World Series. The Astros have never won Game 1 of the World Series and Justin Verlander has never won a World Series game, and I don’t see that trend stopping against Nola.
So, it won’t be a sweep, Exile. But it will be the Astros, l4blitzer. The Astros and their pitching staff and their pitching coaches are just too good to get the better of over a seven game series. And Jose Altuve doesn’t stay in the dark this long, without shining three times as brightly after.
I remember another Astros leadoff hitter who was beyond terrible in the ALCS. He went on to win the 2017 World Series MVP. In 2022, Jose Altuve, the man unfairly touted as the face of cheating, will hoist the World Series MVP as the face of victory.
Go Stros. Go Houston.
Astros in 4.
Those who are familiar with my sports watching habits, such as my long-suffering wife and child, are aware that I am a creature of ritual when it comes to postseason baseball. I have a specific time that I get ready for the game, a specific jersey that I wear, and a sweatshirt and cap that are only trotted out on game days.
Another part of that ritual is that I always find a poll, usually written by myself here on TCB, and select an Astros sweep, so that’s exactly what I’m doing here. While I understand how incredibly difficult it is for the Astros to win four games against a hot team, indeed, my fellow authors here have laid out reasons it will not be a cakewalk, I cannot change what has worked. What has been perfect this entire October.
Is this ritual silly? Perhaps. Perhaps the game is decided by the talent on the field and the preparation of the athletes who go out there and give their all to bring home glory. Perhaps it’s Dusty Baker’s expert management or the execution of pitches by the pitching staff. Or, perhaps, just maybe, the game is decided by the fact that ten minutes prior to the start I am sitting in the same spot, wearing the same clothes, and doing the exact same things I did for all the other series this October.
We may never truly know.