Let's discuss how the 2022 Houston Astros are giving off familiar vibes

Justin Verlander is a sight for sore eyes. Composite image by Jack Brame.

2005 was almost a lifetime ago. Things were very different back then. Minute Maid had been "The Juice Box" for almost six years. The iPhone hadn't been invented/debuted yet. My son was a toddler, my daughter hadn't been born yet, and I was about 20 to 30lbs lighter. The Astros were thought to be a contender with the team they had assembled. That team had what should be four Hall of Famers on it, but that's another story for another article.

The strong point on that '05 team was the pitching staff. They had starters that could go five to seven or more innings, then a bullpen that could come in and close it out. The lineup couldn't hit its way out of a wet paper bag. Sure, they had a few guys with 20-plus homers, but batting .256 as a team didn't scare anyone. They started 15-30, the Chronicle published the tombstone, and they went on a run to a World Series appearance. They were swept by the White Sox, but only outscored by six runs total. I always wonder what would've happened had they been able to score a few more runs?

The 2022 Astros are giving me similar vibes. The biggest difference is this team is much more balanced than the '05 team. This team has a little bit of everything: pitching (starters and bullpen) and hitting (power and average). With Justin Verlander coming off Tommy John surgery, Carlos Correa gone, and a universal designated hitter, things are a lot different from previous years for the Astros.

Other than Verlander and Lance McCullers, everyone else is relatively healthy. The pitching staff isn't as dominant, but they're pretty damn good. The lineup is light years ahead of the '05 team. They also have better chemistry and a more experienced/battle-tested manager. This team can still contend for a World Series title beyond the '22 season, whereas the '05 team was on its last legs of relevancy. Guys like Alex Bregman, Lance McCullers Jr, Yordan Alvarez, and Kyle Tucker should be the faces of the franchise for years to come. In '05, their average age was over 30 and most of their careers were over not too long thereafter.

I could see this version of the Astros being counted out early on as their roster gets into shape and gets its bearings because of the shortened Spring Training, then coming on like an out-of-control freight train. After going 15-30, the '05 team went 74-43 the rest of the way. I'm visualizing Verlander getting fully healthy and starting to get into a groove coinciding with the team taking off and running away from the rest of their division to secure a playoff spot. From there, their experience should take over in crunch time to lead them on another deep run.

This team is capable of winning a World Series, but it also has deficiencies that could lead to disappointment. They haven't missed the playoffs since 2016, and I highly doubt they start now. What I would like to see is the pitching staff being able to carry the lineup more consistently. The '05 team was completely carried by their staff. If the '22 staff can at least hold teams under three or four runs on days when the lineup can't score more than four or five, this team will be really good. Bottom line: I see a World Series run in this team's immediate future. How they get there is up for debate. What isn't is my belief in this team.

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With so much on the line for the Astros this past weekend, they couldn't possibly get swept by the Royals, could they?

That's exactly what they did thanks to some poor pitching, and an inability to get timely hits with runners in scoring position.

The Astros are currently clinging to the last wild card position as they head to Seattle to face the Mariners, with Justin Verlander on the mound for the 'Stros.

Starting pitching has been the biggest issue for the club as of late, with Hunter Brown looking unusable moving forward. Brown has given up, wait for this, 6 earned runs or more in 3 of his last 4 starts. His ERA for the season is now over 5.

So how will the rotation look over the final stretch of games? We know for the Mariners series the team is rolling out Verlander, Cristian Javier, and Framber Valdez.

The club is off on Thursday, and they head to Arizona for a 3-game series with the Diamondbacks that starts Friday. We predict JP France will pitch Friday, with Justin Verlander likely taking the ball Saturday.

Then all bets are off for Sunday. It could be Framber on 3-days rest, or all hands on deck for a bullpen game.

Of course, with the division race being so close, things could change on a daily basis. There's even a scenario where Arizona secures their wild card, and the final two games of the season don't matter for them.

The other big factor will be the outcome of the 4-game Rangers-Mariners series that finishes off the season.

Be sure to watch the video above as we examine all the scenarios leading up to the end of the regular season for Houston, and much more!

Watch Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) every Thursday on SportsMap Houston's YouTube channel.

And listen to ESPN 97.5 and 92.5 FM for Houston's best sports talk.

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