If you’re feeling Astros déjà vu, here’s why
No, MLB has not given the Astros permission to print World Series tickets just yet, and nobody's counting down their "magic number," but this way-too-early season sure feels like 2017 and 2019, the Astros last two trips to the Fall Classic.
Despite Monday night's late score, a 7-6 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, the Astros are sitting at 4-1 on the year, including a dominating sweep of the defending American League West champs A's. That was a hell of a start on the road in Oakland. Only three other teams in history scored 8 or more runs in their first four games like the Astros did.
I remember that familiar feeling from 2017. I'd get home, turn on the TV and just assume the Astros would be up by a few runs heading into the sixth or seventh inning. That's one of the best things about baseball's crazy long 162-game season, there's rarely "nothing on TV" – there's almost always an Astros game.
Look at the top of the Astros batting order: Jose Altuve is back to being Jose Altuve slashing .381, Michael Brantley is crushing a ridiculous .667, Alex Bregman is at .471, Yuli Gurriel is at .500, supersub Aledmys Diaz is .375, Carlos Correa is back up to .273 and Yordan Alvarez is healthy and driving in runs at .273.
How have the Astros lost even one game?
The Astros are a mashing machine, racking up 42 runs in their five games. That's all-time record stratosphere.
The Astros swagger is back. It may (maybe not) have been unintentional, but recently tatted Correa was badass knocking A's All-Star Matt Chapman on his butt with a tag on a double play ball.
Like most fans, Alex Bregman put on the "COVID 15" pounds, except his is muscle. The Astros aren't trembling over fans' jeers. If fans in other stadiums want to bang trash cans, bang away. Scoreboard.
The Astros are doing this despite losing Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, George Springer and Josh Reddick over the past couple of seasons. Manager A.J. Hinch and g.m. Jeff Luhnow, too. They've reloaded.
Sure, not all is joy in Mudville. The Astros starting pitching has been concerning, only one quality start (six innings or more with fewer than three earned runs) – Zack Greinke on Opening Day. And he did it just barely, going six innings in an 8-1 Astros win.
While the top of the Astros lineup has been historic, the bottom of the order is a little like Little League with semi-automatic outs. Kyle Tucker is scuffling at .182, Myles Straw is struggling at .176, and Martin Maldonado is laying low at .063.
Still there's no getting around it (you can look it up), the Astros are scoring runs at a ridiculous rate. After five games, a small but significant sampling because they've been on the road against their two main AL West rivals, the Astros are averaging 8.4 runs a game. The Astros are a swinging team all right.
To place the Astros' run production in perspective, no team ever has averaged as many as seven runs a game over a season. The all-time bashing team was the 1931 Yankees, with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig both swatting 48 homers to lead the American League. That year, the Yankees averaged 6.97 runs per game. They also led the league in batting average, homers, on base percentage, slugging and stolen bases. Gehrig set the American League record with 184 RBI.
Now before we get too giddy over the Astros' fritzing out the scoreboard on a daily basis …
The 1931 Yankees finished in second place, a distant 13-1/2 games behind the Philadelphia A's.