The Houston Astros have been the best team in baseball through the first fourth of the regular season.
No, this isn't a fluke. The Astros are for real.
As of May 16th, manager A.J. Hinch's club has a league-leading 27 wins. Houston also has an eight-game lead in the division -- something which could prove to already be insurmountable for the likes of Seattle, Texas, and Anaheim.
A ton of credit must be paid to the front office. Houston's drafted exceptionally well in recent years, and has worked hard in developing their talent. It's a roster chock-full of precocious youngsters, gritty veterans, and big personalities.
This past offseason, Houston acquired veterans Josh Reddick and Brian McCann. Reddick -- the everyday right fielder -- leads the team with a .295 batting average. McCann has stabilized the pitching staff as an experienced stalwart behind the plate. The 7-time All-Star has an OPS of .828, and has already slugged six home runs.
The pitching staff has seen a big improvement -- which could be directly tied to the addition of McCann. Currently, Houston's staff has the second-best ERA (3.53) in the league. Dallas Keuchel has reverted back to his Cy Young form in a big way. Currently 6-0, he's sporting a 1.69 ERA. Keuchel has also allowed only 37 hits in 58.2 innings pitched.
Duly, Houston's gotten good production out of fellow starting pitchers Lance McCullers and flamethrower Charlie Morton. Each have ERA's below 4.00, and are averaging over 10 strikeouts-per-nine innings.
Houston ranks No. 4 in team batting, and are amongst the league leaders in home runs. The additions of McCann, Reddick, and Carlos Beltran have helped the Astros cut down on strikeouts considerably. This had been a bugaboo within the roster for the past few seasons. Now, the contact-happy squad is putting the ball in play at a much higher rate.
In terms of the starting lineup, there isn't a team in baseball possessing a more talented core than the one Houston has. Alex Bregman, Marwin Gonzalez, and George Springer all have All-Star ceilings. One would be hard-pressed to find a better double-play combination than 2B Jose Altuve and SS Carlos Correa.
The diminutive second baseman has established himself as the league's premier player at the position. At only 22 years of age, Correa is primed to make All-Star appearances for years to come.
While this team is exceptionally good in its present state, it's one set up to be very competitive for a long time. The Astros haven't been to the World Series since 2005. Based upon the upside and talent of this club, an impending appearance in the Series doesn't seem too farfetched.
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