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Can the 2023 Astros Win the World Series?

Updated: May 21, 2023

There were two moments on a great Twitter Space last night that led directly to this article. I asked:

  • "Do you all think THIS team is winning the World Series THIS year?" My tone and inflection made it clear I did not.

  • "What three things do you think the Astros need to do to REALLY have a chance to win the World Series?"

The group answered question one with some version of:

  • It is still early

  • IF the pitching is dominant, they COULD

  • If things break their way, maybe

  • I don't see it

  • IF they fix certain things and IF they make the right trades at the trade deadline, yes, I can see it. That is a lot of IFs and led to question two.

I know. The Astros won their seventh game in a row just now. If you aren't concerned with how the A's series just finished, then just bookmark this and come back to it in a couple of weeks. Listen to me now or hear me later.

Let's dig into question one before we try to answer question two. How one answers question one probably defines how they feel about this Astros season.

Let's start by asking what we know as Astros fans about winning the World Series. We have several dynasty teams to compare. Every one of these teams made it to the ALCS. Four of them made it to the World Series. Two of them WON the World Series.

The win totals for these teams generally followed their WARs. In 2022, it was an epically bad season for offense league wide. I added the wRC+ column (which normalizes for yearly or era differences). Perhaps it is most rigorous to compare the WAR rankings of each season (on the right).

In the Astros best seasons the team has had an average WAR ranking of 2-4. In the relative mediocre short season, the 2020 Astros ranked 15th in average WAR. In the good but not as great 2021 season, the Astros had an average WAR ranking of 5.5, This illustrates to actually get to or even WIN the World Series, the Astros have been at the top of the MLB in WAR.

You could fairly point to the 2022 Phillies or the 2021 Braves and say those teams were not dominant teams. Yes, that is true. They and the 2020 Rays were the exception and not the rule of the last 12 teams to make the World Series. The Phillies and the Braves both made four significant trades to set those otherwise faltering teams to a position they COULD compete in the postseason.

What does this mean? If you plan to win the World Series you really should have a dominant team as reflected in WAR.

How do the 2023 Astros compare to the MLB by WAR?

To answer this fairly I have taken the actual WAR to date and added the WAR projected to the end of the season.

Therefore, I am not really asking can TODAY's team win the World Series. I am asking can the team as it is today plus with the players we think will be back (Brantley, Urquidy, McCullers) win the World Series.

Again, the relative WAR ranking is what is most important to me here.

The data above shows you the ranking by position and the hitters overall and pitchers overall.

I then averaged these by 1/3 (YTD) + 2/3 (ROS Projection). We will talk about the position numbers later.

By these numbers:

  • Hitters project to be the 12th best WAR

  • Pitchers project to be the 4th best WAR.

To compare to the recent Astros teams"

By this comparison, the 2023 Astros would be worse than the 2021 Astros and better than the 2020 Astros. I said I thought this team would win 92 games. This relative WAR ranking would model right to that.

As we sit with Altuve back and even projecting McCullers and Urquidy to be back, the 2023 Astros are falling well short of a team that can stand pat and expect better results. They look most like the Phillies and the Braves teams that made moves that led to their postseason success.

We just answered question one from last night thoroughly. No, THIS team as it exists right now and EVEN projecting the two critical arms (McCullers and Urquidy) are in the mix IS NOT ready to win the World Series.

So, what do the Astros do about it? Check out Part 2.

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