World Series X-factors for the Houston Astros

Profile Picture: Robert Criscola

October 24th, 2021

The stage has been set for the 117th World Series, as the Houston Astros – winners of their third AL pennant in five years – will take on the Atlanta Braves, who are in their first Fall Classic since 1999.

Let’s start looking at the “X-factors” that could determine the 2021 World Series winner, starting with three from the Astros. We’ll discuss the Braves’ three “X-factors” on Monday.

World Series 2021

Tue, November 2 2021, 11:00 PM

Houston Astros


Atlanta Braves


Starting pitching

Will the real Astros rotation please stand up? The night-and-day difference in starting pitching performance in the ALCS against the Boston Red Sox was incredible.

Framber Valdez – 11-6 with a 3.14 ERA in the regular season – was on the ropes throughout his brief Game 1 outing at home, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits and three walks before being pulled in the third inning. But then he bounced back with an eight-inning masterpiece on the road in Game 5, surrendering just one run on three hits and a walk.

Luis Garcia – 11-8 with a 3.30 ERA in his rookie season – did a similar “Jekyll and Hyde” routine, getting blitzed for five runs in just one inning in Game 2 before blanking the Red Sox over 5 2/3 innings in Game 6.

Astros manager Dusty Baker has little choice but to rely on these two hurlers in the World Series with Houston’s rotation depth at a premium. But which version of Valdez and Garcia will show up? And will staff ace Lance McCullers Jr. (13-5, 3.16 ERA) be able to return at all after leaving in the ALDS due to injury?

Jose Altuve

Jose Altuve has been a fixture atop the Astros lineup in these playoffs, though there appears to be something amiss with the seven-time All-Star.

Altuve is swinging at the first pitch like it’s going out of style, making him much easier to plan against. He also has just two hits in his last 21 at-bats.

It’s unusual to see a former hit king evolve into a Dave Kingman-type, but that’s what we’re looking at with Altuve, unless he quickly corrects something at the dish.

Yordan Alvarez

ALCS MVP Yordan Alvarez hit at an unfathomable clip for Houston over the six-game series, batting .522 with three doubles, a triple, a homer, and six RBI. There’s no denying the talent is there, but this pace is clearly unsustainable. So how much will Alvarez fall off?

The Astros DH was a much more modest 3-for-11 in the ALDS. He was also more of a power hitter in the regular season, batting .277 with 33 longballs. However, he went 7-for-17 (.411) with a homer in the 2019 World Series, so he’s no shrinking violet.