Houston Astros Specialize in the September Surge

Chris NorrisContributor ISeptember 10, 2008

Any fan that has watched the Astros over the last five years has noticed one remarkable trend: The Astros play their best baseball in August and September.

When they went to the World Series in 2005, they were 10 games under .500 in the middle of May before rallying and sneaking into the playoffs as the wild card.

Perhaps the most fascinating thing about this trend is that the Houston Astros have been one of the older teams in baseball for several years now. Typically, we think of older teams breaking down towards the end of the year, and yet the Astros continually get stronger after Labor Day.

I would never accuse a professional sports team of not giving their full effort or taking games off, but it seems like the Astros “conserve” their energy for the stretch run every season.

I suppose it is possible that other teams get fatigued as the season wears on, but it’s hard to imagine this happening to almost every team in the league. This year, the Milwaukee Brewers, currently four games up on the Astros in the wild card race, have been struggling of late, but the Astros have still won four straight, nine of their last 10, and 22 of their last 30 baseball games.

The National League seems to be much better this year than in 2005, when the Astros made a similar run that led them to the World Series, and they are probably going to run out of games.

However, the Brewers have lost seven of their last 10 and still have two more series with the Cubs, while Houston only has three more games against a team with a winning record (Cubs).

In July, the Astros “big splash” in the trade market was the acquisitions of Randy Wolf and LaTroy Hawkins, and everyone, including me, bemoaned the fact that we gave up prospects for aging veterans that were clearly on the decline.

Wolf has had a 3.68 ERA the past month and a 1.69 in September, while Hawkins has played a key role in getting the ball to Jose Valverde.

I am an Astros fan, but I am also a realist, and for those of you that are gamblers, the Astros are currently 50:1 to win the wild card. They still have three teams in front of them (Brewers, Phillies, and Cardinals) and only 17 team games left, but if history has taught us anything, it is that this is the perfect team to accomplish such a remarkable feat.