George Springer just won World Series MVP honors with one of the best individual performances in history. Jose Altuve will probably edge out Aaron Judge as the American League MVP. If you were going to pick an MVP favorite for 2018, Carlos Correa may very well top that list.
Those three combined for nine home runs, 15 runs and 18 RBIs in Houston’s World Series victory. At crunch time, the Houston Astros’ stars stepped up.
“If you watch us play, you know guys like George, Jose, Carlos bring it every night,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said after Game 7. “When the stage got big and the anxiousness started, you just rely on your guys.”
The Astros will have this trio together for at least two more seasons. Altuve is signed through 2019, at which time he’ll hit free agency, looking for big money after signing a team-friendly deal back in 2013 that will pay him just $6 million in 2018 and $6.5 million in 2019.
For now, Astros fans get to enjoy three of the game’s best players at the peak of their abilities. Springer and Altuve will be 28 next season, and Correa just turned 23 in September. The Astros were one of just two teams with at least three position players to accumulate 4.5 WAR in 2017:
Astros: Altuve (8.3), Correa (6.3), Springer (5.0)
Dodgers: Justin Turner (5.7), Corey Seager (5.6), Chris Taylor (4.8)
Note that Correa did that in just 109 games after missing more than a month with a torn ligament in his thumb. That’s why he could challenge for MVP honors next year. Remember, he also got off to a slow start, hitting just .233 with two home runs in April. Given 150 games and a better start, he could be a nine-win player next year.
Let’s have a little fun here. It’s hard to argue that the Astros don’t have the best trio of position players right now. What about recent seasons? It’s not all that rare to have three five-win players in one season. Ten teams have done it since 2010:
2011 Red Sox: 22.9 (Jacoby Ellsbury 8.1, Dustin Pedroia 7.9, Adrian Gonzalez 6.9)
2015 Diamondbacks: 21.5 (Paul Goldschmidt 8.8, A.J. Pollock 7.4, Ender Inciarte 5.3)
2016 Red Sox: 20.5 (Mookie Betts 9.5, Pedroia 5.7, Jackie Bradley Jr. 5.3)
2017 Astros: 19.6 (Altuve 8.3, Correa 6.3, Springer 5.0)
2015 Blue Jays: 19.1 (Josh Donaldson 8.8, Kevin Pillar 5.2, Jose Bautista 5.1)
2016 Astros: 18.6 (Altuve 7.6, Correa 6.0, Springer 5.0)
2011 Rangers: 18.3 (Ian Kinsler 7.1, Adrian Beltre 5.8, Mike Napoli 5.4)
2013 Red Sox: 18.1 (Pedroia 6.3, Shane Victorino 6.1, Ellsbury 5.7)
2012 Braves: 17.4 (Michael Bourn 6.1, Jason Heyward 5.8, Martin Prado 5.5)
2014 Pirates 17.1 (Andrew McCutchen 6.3, Russell Martin 5.5, Josh Harrison 5.3)
2014 Tigers: 16.2 (Ian Kinsler 5.7, Victor Martinez 5.5, Miguel Cabrera 5.0)
Houston’s trio wasn’t the best since 2010, but you may have noticed they also showed up in 2016, the only group to appear twice. An impressive aspect of their value is that none of them benefited from freakish one-year defensive ratings, which is how some of the players listed above cracked the 5-WAR barrier. Altuve, Correa and Springer are all solid defensive players, and while Altuve won a Gold Glove in 2015, none of them are probably Gold Glovers right now. Altuve rated at plus-3 defensive runs saved (DRS), Correa at plus-4 and Springer at minus-2. (Oddly, he rated better in center field than right field.)
The three Astros are, instead, terrific all-around players: power hitters with high OBPs who play solid defense at premium positions. That’s why they’ve each reached 5.0 WAR two seasons in a row and are good bets to do it for a third.
Does that make them a historic trio? I went back to 1960. Here are the previous instances of the same threesome cracking 5.0 WAR in consecutive seasons:
1996-98 Mariners: Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Edgar Martinez
1969-70 Reds: Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Bobby Tolan
That’s it! There have been just two other trios to go back-to-back. The Mariners’ threesome did it three years in a row and the Reds just missed having four players do it two years in a row, as Pete Rose was worth 6.6 WAR in 1969 and 4.8 in 1970.
There were a couple of other trios who did it, just not in consecutive seasons:
1967, 1969 Orioles – Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Paul Blair
1972, 1974 Reds – Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, Pete Rose
This puts the Astros’ trio in pretty exclusive company. One more way to examine their historical uniqueness is by considering their positions. Springer played right field in 2016 but started more than half his games in center field in 2017. Here are teams with their second baseman, shortstop and center fielder each reaching 5.0 WAR besides the 2017 Astros:
2007 Phillies: Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Aaron Rowand
1999 Indians: Roberto Alomar, Omar Vizquel, Kenny Lofton
1985 Cardinals: Tom Herr, Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee
1983 Tigers: Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell, Chet Lemon
1952 Cardinals: Red Schoendienst, Solly Hemus, Stan Musial
1949 Dodgers: Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Duke Snider
1942 Red Sox: Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky, Dom DiMaggio
1942 Yankees: Joe Gordon, Phil Rizzuto, Joe DiMaggio
1906 Naps: Nap Lajoie, Terry Turner, Elmer Flick
Obviously, this isn’t necessarily the only way to study best trios. This method misses somebody who would have fallen just under 5.0 WAR. Still, no matter how you slice it, this is one of the most impressive trio of young stars we’ve seen in a long time.
Oh, one more thing: Don’t forget Alex Bregman. He just finished his first full season in the majors and was worth 4.1 WAR. After hitting .256 in the first half, he hit .315/.367/.536 in the second half. Next year we may be talking about the best foursomes of all time.