The Astros will have a reason to celebrate this year, according to Ben Reiter. Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Ben Reiter, senior writer with Sports Illustrated, made a bold prediction when he said the Houston Astros, who were in the midst of a 100-loss season in 2014, predicted the club would win the World Series.
What's more, he predicted the exact year of 2017 for Houston's crowning.
This season, he correctly predicted a 2019 World Series of the Astros and Washington Nationals. He believes the 'Stros are taking it again.
Reiter spoke with ABC13 hours before Game 1, explaining that the Astros are a growing dynasty.
He believed strongly in the Astros organization and its plan to rebuild using analytics, patient decision-making, cutting edge training, and a dash of gut intuition. That grew into his book Astroball: The New Way to Win It All.
In the book, he dives into the team's strategy for continued success.
Aside from correctly predicting the championship matchup, he offered more predictions.
For more on this story, including video, visit our content partner ABC13.
The Houston Astros had a very successful season in 2023 which led them back to the ALCS for the seventh-straight season, but despite another deep playoff run, their pitching did regress from the prior year.
While many would point to their historic bullpen in 2022 and say they had nowhere to go but down, that doesn't paint the full picture. It was the starting rotation that really fell off in 2023. Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, Hunter Brown, and Jose Urquidy all saw a spike in their ERAs from the previous season.
According to a recent report from The Athletic's Chandler Rome, we might have an explanation for Jose Urquidy's down year.
The Astros and Urquidy believe he was tipping his pitches. Which would explain why the slugging percentage against his fastball jumped from .482 in 2022 to .632 in 2023.
José Urquidy said he discovered this offseason that he was tipping some of his pitches by how he moved/squeezed his glove in his delivery. He worked this winter to solve that in addition to strengthening his lat/shoulder area where he got hurt last season.
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 27, 2024
When hitters know a pitcher is tipping, they often start hunting fastballs. Also, his strikeout percentage went down last year and his walks went way up. He had 2 more walks per nine innings in 2023 than he had in 2021.
Part of that could be him aiming for corners and refusing to give in to hitters because his fastball wasn't performing up to expectations.
His WHIP in 2023 really jumped off the page as well. He finished with a WHIP over 1.4. While his career WHIP is 1.143. That's a huge difference.
Back to the big picture
Until last season, Urquidy never finished with an ERA over 3.95. He recorded a 5.29 ERA last year. So when we factor in his shoulder injury that cost him three months of the season, and the fact he was tipping pitches, we believe he's in store for a bounce-back season.
And the Astros are going to need him, especially with Justin Verlander and JP France possibly not being available for the start of the season.
What will the rotation look like early on?
The Astros haven't ruled Verlander out yet, so he could be ready to go. But if not, and we base this off what we saw last season. The rotation will likely include Valdez, Javier, Brown, Urquidy, Ronel Blanco, and Brandon Bielak.
Don't miss the video above for the full discussion!
Catch Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) with Charlie Pallilo, Brandon Strange, and Josh Jordan every Monday on SportsMapHouston's YouTube channel.
We'll continue to drop videos throughout the week!