Dusty Baker’s Astros didn’t need an asterisk

Dusty Baker’s Astros didn’t need an asterisk

Among the many memorable moments after the Houston Astros won the World Series over the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday night, perhaps most indelible of all was seeing all the team’s players spontaneously pile on beloved manager Dusty Baker in the dugout, chanting his name:

On Saturday morning, Baker woke up as the winningest manager in MLB history no title; by nightfall he was in a completely different club.

“This is the best group of guys,” Baker said after the game. “They told me in spring training that they were going to win.”

And his team certainly lived up to it. At 11-2 in the postseason, the 2022 Astros tied the game 1998 New York Yankees — probably the best team in MLB history — for the third-best playoff winning percentage by any champion in the division series era (since 1995), while compiling the third games over .500 (plus-9) of any team in the playoffs ever:

The Astros had one of the most successful postseasons ever

World Series champions with most games over .500 during the postseason, 1903-2022

Year The team Wins Losses WPct Games over .500
in 2005 White Sox 11 1 .917 +10
1999 Yankees 11 1 .917 10
in 2022 Astros 11 2 .846 9
in 1998 Yankees 11 2 .846 9
2018 Red socks 11 3 .786 8
in 2008 Phillies 11 3 .786 8
in 2007 Red socks 11 3 .786 8
in 2004 Red socks 11 3 .786 8
in 1995 Braves 11 3 .786 8
2020 Dodgers 13 5 .722 8

Before the division series was added permanently in 1995, a champion could not win more than eight games in the postseason – in all but one postseason (1981).

Source: Retrosheet

National League champion Baker’s Astros defeated Phillies, were an interesting opponent with a unique construction ia Cinderella’s background. But despite being a postseason underdog winthe ultimate winner was the best and most deserving team – the one that simply had too many weapons for Philly to match.

Front and center in that effort was Houston’s pitching staff. Early in the Fall Classic, the Phillies’ offense held its own dangerous pre-series charging — roaring back from 5-0 to victory in extra innings first game and after game 2 lossputting a 7-0 offensive clinic at home in Game 3. Through that contest, Philly averaged 5.14 runs per game in the postseason, while Houston pitchers had a 4.67 ERA in the World Series (compared to 3.00 for the Phillies’ staff). Philadelphia had a 57 percent chance winning the championship and its composition bats he led the way.

And then everything changed. Starting with Game 4 — which featured a quartet of Houston hurlers throws just the second no-hitter in World Series history — The Astros’ ERA fell to 1.00 the rest of the series, as Philly’s once-powerful pitchers saw their OPS drop from .738 to .403. Other than Kyle Schwarber, no Phillie has amassed an OPS over .667 after Game 3, and a team that averaged two home runs per game early in the series has only scored two total over the last three contests (both coming off Schwarber’s bat). Starters Cristian Javier, Justin Verlander and Framber Valdez combined with a shutout bullpen (which allowed just two earned runs in the entire series) to completely end what had been Philly’s winning formula.

The Astros showed off their deep pool of big hitters in other ways, too. Rookie shortstop Jeremy Peña capped off one of his best performances since his breakout season (he had a 1.005 OPS in the playoffs) with the win. World Series MVP honors. Outfielder Chas McCormick made one of the all-time great catches in the World Series to preserve the victory in Game 5, jumping on the wall to deny JT Realmut in a spectacular way. And of course, powerful lefty Yordan Álvarez provided the punch Houston needed to get the win, smothering a 450-foot blast to a seemingly inaccessible area high above the center field fence, setting up the Astros for good. (For the game’s most versatile sluggerit was poetic that the homer came from the Phillies, lefty Jose Alvarado — Álvarez scored 22 more points against lefties than righties this season, maintaining an incredible .998 OPS against pitchers on the same side.)

The Astros are so good from top to bottom that the Phillies co-ace is Zack Wheeler he could be engaged most of the nightbreaking up Mariano Rivera-esque number of at-bats – but the tiniest mistake still undoes them: A hit against bottom-of-the-order catcher Martín Maldonado eventually led to Wheeler’s walk and Álvarez eventually getting his heroics. The rest was history.

For Houston, there will be a lot of meaning to unpack in this win. Like it or not, as far as the referendum is concerned the post-scandal version of this franchise, it’s hard to do better than rebutting “they only won because they cheated” crowd that dominates the championship. Maybe it wasn’t necessary — only five of the 45 players who appeared with Houston this regular season joined the club in 2017 or earlier — but it can’t hurt the legacy of Alex Bregman, José Altuve and company, either.

And of course, it will have an impact on Baker’s legacy as one of the game’s greatest managers. He came in and helped stabilize the Astros at the height of the fraud, and offered credibility when the franchise desperately needed it. As much as anything else, this championship was about adding to what was missing from Baker’s already impressive resume.

As for the next one? The Astros aren’t a particularly young team – they’re ranked 24th in average age according to win above replacement — but they have a core of stars who are either in their prime or not there yet (as led by Álvarez and Peña). Houston will continue to be a force in the American League for some time to come. And that’s especially true if Baker — whose 2023 contract status is sort of it’s not completely nailed down yet — returns to the front.

And as Baker told the FOX crew after the game, “I’ve always said if I get one, I want two.”

For a team that recently made so many deep playoff runs and just won another championship, don’t bet against it.

Check out our latest MLB Predictions.

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