2018 Astros regular season player awards
In 2018, the Astros were able to have their best regular season in franchise history. This weekend they will begin their journey of attaining the pinnacle achievement of a baseball season, which they were able to win last year, a World Series championship. While we wait to see if Houston will be successful in defending their championship, here's my regular-season awards to honor some players that propelled the Astros to another terrific season:
Best Acquisition of 2018 - Gerrit Cole
The Astros knew they were getting a strong pitcher when they acquired Gerrit Cole in January, but I don't think they or anyone else would've predicted that Cole had the kind of season he had this year in him. Although he finished with a slightly higher ERA in 2018 (2.88) than in 2015 (2.60), Cole had arguably an even better year than 2015 which was his best year on the mound to this point. The biggest way he was able to shine in 2018 was via the strikeout. Cole was able to crush his previous high of 202 strikeouts by getting 276 in 2018. He finishes the year with a strong 15-5 record which combined with his other statistics will have him with teammate Justin Verlander in the AL Cy Young discussion. Honorable Mentions: Ryan Pressly, Hector Rondon.
Best Reliever of 2018 - Collin McHugh
In a year where we saw the meltdown of Ken Giles, the inconsistency of Hector Rondon in a setup role, and a trade for Roberto Osuna, the one relief pitcher that was with the team all year and consistently delivered was Collin McHugh. He appeared in 58 games this season, during which he pitched 72.1 innings while keeping his WHIP under 1 at 0.91. His best contribution was his versatility; he could come in to get eat up some innings after a shorter than expected game from a starter, he could get the team out of a high-leverage jam in the late innings, or he could come in with a big league to close out a game. A big honorable mention in this category is Ryan Pressly, who after coming over to the Astros near the trade deadline has been one of the best relievers on the team.
Underrated Player of 2018 - Tony Kemp
Last year it was Marwin Gonzalez providing some clutch offense and filling in holes defensively just about everywhere on the field when guys needed a rest. This year, though he mainly played in the outfield exclusively, I'd say that guy was Tony Kemp. Kemp probably didn't end up very high on Player of the Week voting on any given week, but it was his consistency that made him valuable in 2018. He made numerous clutch plays in the outfield that saved runs, and also came through at the plate regularly with hits to flip the lineup over or build some offensive momentum.
2018 Astros Cy Young - Justin Verlander
Like when talking about Gerrit Cole earlier, we knew from Verlander's success last year that he still had some good games left in him, but he went above and beyond this year for Houston. Though Verlander didn't finish the year with as good of a record as he deserved (16-9), or with the lowest ERA (2.52), he was able to start 34 games and get career-bests in strikeouts (290) and WHIP (0.902). Other than his final record, Verlander at age 35 was able to put together a season that rivals his Cy Young season of 2011 when he was 28. He'll be deservedly at the top of the Cy Young conversation for 2018, and just might be able to win the voting based on his dominance that goes beyond his numbers. Awards or not, Verlander is one of the best aces in baseball and should be poised to get some more playoff wins to add to his lustrous career.
2018 Astros MVP - Alex Bregman
The 2018 regular season will go down as the year of Alex Bregman. I'm not here to try and tell you that he's passed Jose Altuve as the best player on the team, or that he's going to win MVP of the league (though he should definitely be in the conversation). However, while the typical workhorses of the team like Altuve, Carlos Correa, and George Springer all had some time on the DL this year, it was Alex Bregman putting the team on his shoulders with his 100 RBI, 30 home run, 50 double season keeping Houston's direction on the right path and their momentum strong. On top of that, Bregman came alive as a clutch hitter in 2018, hitting numerous walk-offs, all while continuing to improve his play at third base. To say that Bregman's future is bright is an understatement because if he can keep playing at or above his strong potential, he's on a trajectory that could make him one of the best players of the upcoming generation.
Although they didn't finish with the best record, and will likely not have someone named MVP of the American League like they did last year in Jose Altuve, the Houston Astros of 2018 were still a star-studded lineup of players that delivered a terrific year and have a great shot of winning it all in back-to-back years.