What can we expect from the World Series champion Astros in 2018?
· Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information
The Houston Astros captured their first World Series title in franchise history by defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 in Game 7 on Wednesday night. It took 56 years, but they finally accomplished the ultimate goal.
They will now focus on the future and prepare for another run in 2018.
So, what's next for the champs?
Who will be returning?
This year's team, which won 101 games during the regular season, will likely look very similar. The Astros have a young roster, led by sluggers Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer and Alex Bregman, all of whom are under contract through at least next season.
Among those on the roster who will be free agents this offseason are pitcher Luke Gregerson, who had a 4.57 ERA in 65 regular-season appearances, and Carlos Beltran, who brought veteran leadership to the team but hit only .231 in 129 games during the season.
Outfielder Cameron Maybin and pitchers Francisco Liriano and Tyler Clippard, all acquired during the season, will also hit free agency. None of them figured prominently into the team's late-season or postseason run.
How can they improve?
The bullpen could be a little better in 2018. The Astros had a 4.27 bullpen ERA during the regular season this year, which ranked 10th in the American League.
During the postseason, that number jumped to 5.40. Of the teams that played at least one full series, only the Chicago Cubs' 6.21 ERA was worse.
What's looking pretty solid
Verlander, Keuchel and McCullers compiled a 2.75 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings pitched during 85 combined innings during the postseason.
The Astros also scored the most runs in the majors in 2017 and had what was the best offense by most metrics. Key among those was avoiding strikeouts, which was a sharp turnaround from last season. They ranked 27th in the majors in strikeout rate in 2016 and first this season.
Repeating could be tough
It has been 17 years since a major league team repeated as World Series champion. The last team to do so was the New York Yankees, when they won three straight titles 1998-2000.
Per the Elias Sports Bureau, that's the longest stretch without a repeat winner in MLB history.
The Astros were able to end their drought. Now, they'll aim to end an MLB-wide drought in 2018 by capturing back-to-back championships.