Houston Astros pitcher Dallas Keuchel believes his team is talented enough to defend its World Series crown in the 2018 season and suggested as much in a way that is sure to turn some heads in Chicago.
"We're not the Cubs," Keuchel said when discussing a potential World Series hangover and the 2016 champions' failure to win back-to-back titles, per Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post. "I firmly believe we have better players."
Chicago may not have won the championship in 2017, but there are worse ways to go out than reaching the National League Championship Series for the third straight season. While the Cubs did just that before losing to the Los Angeles Dodgers, they did start slowly out of the gates and found themselves looking up at the Milwaukee Brewers in the National League Central at the All-Star break.
Sheinin noted the last team to repeat as World Series champions was the New York Yankees in 1998, 1999 and 2000, underscoring just how difficult it is to win two straight crowns.
Despite taking a swipe at a Cubs team that added Yu Darvish and Brandon Morrow this offseason and appears primed to compete again, Keuchel is not wrong about Houston's roster being loaded.
The Astros will have Justin Verlander the entire season after acquiring him via trade in 2017, and Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr. provide talented depth in the rotation. They also traded for Gerrit Cole this offseason, who was the ace for the Pittsburgh Pirates and sports a 3.94 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in three postseason appearances in his career.
An offense that led the league in runs scored last season brings back the same core featuring Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer, who are all 28 years old or younger.
Houston looks the part of contender again, and a potential World Series matchup with Chicago would surely bring Keuchel's comments back into the limelight come October.