What else can baseball fans do in January but dream of October? In You May Say I'm a Dreamer, the Outside Corner staff will imagine the route to a World Series in 2013 title for all 30 teams.
2013 was supposed to be part of a full-scale rebuilding project for the Houston Astros. The team was supposed to lose 105 games (at least) and seemed to be a lock to clinch the first overall pick in the MLB Draft for the third straight year. But then, something funny happened. Houston kept their heads above water in April, playing a schedule loaded with new AL West rivals. In May and June, they survived against 2012 contenders, and fared surprisingly well against their former rivals in the NL Central. Going into the All-Star Break, the Astros were playing some inspired baseball.
As the midsummer classic passed the league by, Houston caught fire, and the rest of the division couldn't kick their games into a second gear. The Angels struggled as Mike Trout experienced a sophomore slump, Albert Pujols' injured elbow caused him to miss substantial time, and their revamped starting rotation couldn't keep the ball in the park. The A's young pitching regressed all at once, and their surprising 2012 offense couldn't recapture that magic. The Rangers looked like an uninspired team after Josh Hamilton's departure, and their rotation was disappointing past Yu Darvish. Finally, the Mariners couldn't get any offense going despite moving the fences in at Safeco Field, and their pitching staff collapsed when Felix Hernandez got injured for the first time in his career. Houston played the best, most consistent baseball out of any team in the division, and their 84 wins were enough to take the crown.
The Astros pitching staff held up surprisingly well in 2013, and their shocking amount of depth helped fill in gaps when Philip Humber and Erik Bedard missed time with injury. When each of those players went down, Brad Peacock and Alex White performed admirably well in the interim and didn't let the staff collapse. The no-name bullpen performed extremely well, and Rule 5 pick Josh Fields put a deathgrip on the closer's role early in the season that he refused to release as he tired late in the season.
Offensively, Houston performed better than anyone could have expected. Chris Carter blossomed in the middle of Houston's order, and turned into a power hitting superstar in Minute Maid Park. Carlos Pena was reborn in the hitter's park as well, and looked like the breakout star he was during his prime with the Rays instead of the player who struggled to clear the Mendoza line over the last few seasons. Finally given opportunities to play every day in the majors, former touted prospects Fernando Martinez and Matt Dominguez tapped their potential and looked like franchise building blocks.
Once reaching the playoffs, the Astros were given 30:1 odds to win the World Series, an outrageous line given the randomness of the MLB playoffs. In the ALDS, the Astros stunned the 96 win defending AL champion Tigers in six games in a series that saw Bud Norris outduel Justin Verlander not once, but twice. In the ALCS, Houston overwhelmed the 99 win Blue Jays in five games in a series that saw Carter smash six homers, including four in two games at Rogers Centre. Finally in the World Series, the Astros won a thrilling seven game series against their former division rivals, the Cincinnati Reds, scoring six runs in the first two innings of game seven against Aroldis Chapman.
The 2013 Houston Astros season was the most unexpected championship run of any team in sports. Coming into the year, Houston was a 200:1 underdog to win the World Series. Anyone who put money on them is a very happy person right now, because the Astros are the 2013 champions of baseball...something that even the most optimistic of Houston fans would tell you was a pipe dream going into Spring Training.
Astros on TOC
End of Season Post-Mortem
Hope for the Hopeless
2013 Season Preview
You May Say I'm A Dreamer
2013 Burning Question (12:45 PM)
Nightmare Scenario (2:00 PM)
X-Factor (3:15 PM)
Top Ten Prospects (4:30 PM)