Dude. You wanna make enemies? You have made enemies.
“We’re not the Cubs,” Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel told the Washington Post when asked about the possibility of a Cubs-like World Series hangover in 2018. “I firmly believe,” he went on, “we have better players.”
Setting aside for the moment the question of whether the Astros do now have a better roster than the Cubs did before 2017, I feel like we’ve seen enough now to know – or at least feel strongly – that the quality of your players doesn’t really have a lot to do with the hangover effect. The same buzz isn’t there. The same offseason preparation isn’t there. The same rest isn’t there. The same good fortune with health is not always there. And so on. None of that is saying the players aren’t really, really good. But things are very different for them heading into the season after a World Series win.
Now, as for Keuchel’s ultimate point, well … actually, he’s probably right. The Cubs were fantastic on paper heading into 2017, but these Astros are projected to be even better, especially after the addition of Gerrit Cole. (Who, by the way, said the Cubs weren’t the best team in baseball … in mid-May 2016. Oops.)
The Astros are currently projected by FanGraphs to win an absurd 101 games in 2018. For a projection, that’s just a silly high number, reflecting the extreme talent density on the roster. The Cubs, again, were very good heading into 2017, but they were projected to win just 94 games.
That talent comparison, in my mind, isn’t everything when it comes to suffering or avoiding the World Series hangover, but Keuchel is probably right on paper.
Maybe the Cubs will get the chance to top them on the field in the end.