Whether they buzzed and banged their way to a few of them, four straight trips to the ALCS looks impressive. I don’t like the Astros or what they did, but you have to give them credit for what they were able to accomplish last summer under first-year manager Dusty Baker.
They finished with a 29-31 record, but earned a playoff birth thanks to the expanded postseason rule. Once they were in, the Astros took full advantage and were one game shy of a World Series appearance.
Angels: They have some questions, but the Astros will still be a team to beat.
Houston is going to look a bit different this season after they lost arguably their best player from 2020 in George Springer. The Astros offense is still loaded with big-name talent. Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, and Alex Bregman all underperformed from what we are accustomed to. I think it would be a mistake to assume the three players cannot get back to their usual All-Star production.
The big questions for Houston in 2021 will be with their pitching.
Justin Verlander isn’t expected to pitch this season, and the Astros will miss top-prospect Forrest Whitley and Framber Valdez as well.
Houston still has one of the league’s best arms in Zack Greinke leading their rotation. Following him will be the recently acquired Jake Odorizzi and Lance McCullers Jr. The backend of their rotation could be experimented with young starters Jose Urquidy and Christian Javier.
The Astros bullpen is another area that could make them vulnerable this season as their young core struggled at times in 2020. Veterans Jose Baez and Ryan Stanek were brought in to add some veteran experience.
It will be an uphill battle for Houston in their push for the playoffs, but I believe they still have enough experience and talent to compete for a division title.
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The best way for the Angels to win the AL West is simple–beat the teams in the division. This is something the Halos have failed to do, finishing below .500 against division opponents for three straight seasons.
Considering two teams (Rangers and Mariners) are rebuilding, and the top two contenders (A’s and Astros) have some weaknesses, now is the time for the Angels to take advantage. Otherwise it will be another middle-of-the-pack finish and another year of wasted opportunity in Anaheim.