The 2005 Astros won the National League and reached the franchise’s first and only World Series. The 1998 Astros won 102 games behind the Killer B’s. The 1986 Astros clinched their division on a Mike Scott no-hitter.
But the 2017 Houston Astros are something else entirely.
Maybe it’s the social media age that puts anything and everything a team does in front of its fans with the press of a button. Maybe technological advances have made athletes as accessible as ever. Or maybe it’s the fact that I was born in 1991 and my shriveled millennial brain only thinks in Buzzfeed-esque absolutes. Whatever you may believe, believe this: the 2017 Astros are the most fun Astros team ever. And here’s why.
1. They’re blowing the rest of the AL West out of the water.
Not only are the Astros 13 games ahead of their closest AL West rival, they’re systematically beating the entire division into submission. Houston is 28-11 against divisional foes, easily the best record in the majors by a team within its division. Of Astros teams that won their division, only the ’98 Killer B’s held a lead of 13 games, and they did it for the first time on Sept. 11. The ‘Stros have been in first place for 81 days (out of 84 possible) and have outscored AL West teams 210-152 in head-to-head matchups. And those cross-state rival Texas Rangers? Barely over .500, with a 3-7 record and -24 run differential against the Good Guys. How sweet it is to #BTSOOTR.
2. They’re beating good teams outside the AL West as well.
The Astros are 7-3 against current AL division leaders, the Twins in the AL Central and the Yankees and Red Sox tied atop the AL East. Alex Bregman ruined Derek Jeter Day at Yankee Stadium in May, and in the highlight of the season to date, the Astros traveled to Minnesota and turned an excellent start by Ervin Santana into a laugher, the first of a three-game series sweep in which Houston racked up 40 runs.
3. They’re 27 games above .500 with an entire rotation on the DL.
Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Collin McHugh, Charlie Morton, Joe Musgrove and Brad Peacock have all seen time on the inactive lists, and presently, only McCullers is currently on the 25-man active roster. McHugh, who has won 43 games with a 3.71 ERA since joining the Astros in 2014, hasn’t even thrown a pitch this season and most likely won’t until after the All-Star break. When healthy though, the starting rotation has excelled, as Keuchel and McCullers are first and third, respectively, in ERA in the American League, and Morton’s 10.1 K/9 rate would be fifth in the AL if he had pitched since May 24. As a unit, the Astros’ pitching staff has the best ERA in the AL despite these injuries and the resultant stress on the bullpen. The 2017 pitching staff has the highest K/9 rate in franchise history through 77 games, and it really isn’t even that close.
4. George Springer has come into his own as a superstar.
22 #SpringerDingers, including eight leadoff bombs, into 2017 and Springer is making a name for himself league-wide. While Springer has been far from a disappointment since his Major League debut, this is exactly what Astros fans have hoped for since Springer was drafted in the first round in 2011. He is currently hitting a career-high .280 with a career-high .912 OPS and has consistently flashed his leather in the outfield, with five total runs above average defensively. Springer’s 2017 campaign to date has him on the cusp of the All-Star team, and his playful attitude and demeanor is clearly infectious.
5. This team’s core is young, and the future is bright.
Of the Astros top 10 players in Wins Above Replacement, eight are 29 or younger. Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, the team’s co-leaders in WAR with 3.4, are 27 and 22, respectively, and could be the best middle infield combination in baseball for years to come. Altuve is already 13 on the Astros’ all-time WAR list and could realistically move as high as 11 by the end of this season. In addition, Chris Devenski, the player-to-be-named-later in the 2012 Brett Myers trade to the White Sox, has been a lethal weapon out of the bullpen for A.J. Hinch in the Andrew Miller/firefighter role and is just 26. And McCullers and his 10.7 K/9 rate? Only 23.
Josh Reddick is seventh on the team with 1.7 WAR, batting .298, and even robbed Jason Kipnis of a home run.
But his greatest contribution to the 2017 Astros has been his walkup music. Ric Flair’s “WOO” roars across Minute Maid Park as Reddick approaches the plate, and the hometown fans are keen to rain “WOO”‘s from the rafters, much to the chagrin of visiting teams. Good luck getting that to catch on, Rangers fans. Even Flair himself is all-aboard the Astros bandwagon.
7. Yuli Gurriel’s hair.
It defies gravity. I’m just going to leave this here.