After making the playoffs for the first time in a decade, the Houston Astros are out to prove last year wasn't a fluke. The MLB odds are already in their corner.
By just about any measure, 2015 was a great year for the Houston Astros. They went 86-76 for their first winning season since 2008, and they earned a Wild Card spot to reach the MLB postseason for the first time since 2005. But you can forgive Houston fans if they feel a bit disappointed. The Astros were 18-7 on May 3; the rest of the season was a rollercoaster ride that almost left them out of the playoffs. Then they coughed up a 2-1 series lead over the Kansas City Royals in the ALDS.
Baby steps. The Astros are still a work in progress, and there's every reason to believe they'll take that next step forward. Houston might even be a World Series bargain this year at up to +1800 on our MLB odds board at online sportsbooks like Bovada. Let's dig deep, peel back the layers, and get to know the real story behind the 2016 Houston Astros.
Dallas Does Houston
There was plenty to like about the 2015 model. The Astros finished eighth in the majors in batting (23.3 WAR) and fifth in pitching (21.3 WAR). They had two of last year's most profitable pitchers in Dallas Keuchel (23-10 team record, +9.73 betting units) and Collin McHugh (21-11, +8.84 units). Houston also had the No. 2-ranked bullpen in the bigs (5.3 WAR).
Despite all that talent, the Astros underperformed last year. They finished seven wins below their Pythagorean record of 93-69, and they ended up slightly in the red at –2.78 betting units after getting off to that hot start. Combine those results with the heartbreaking end to their playoff run, and you can see where Houston might have some value as an overlooked MLB pick in 2016.
That's Cray Cray
That's if they continue to build on last year's success, of course. And they should. Houston is bringing back all its core players from 2015, including a potential superstar in SS Carlos Correa (3.3 WAR), who won AL Rookie of the Year honors with 22 home runs and a .857 OPS. A healthy season from third-year OF George Springer (3.7 WAR) would also be welcome after he played just 102 games.
Meanwhile, Houston wisely added to its pitching depth by snapping up veteran Doug Fister (1.3 WAR) on a one-year deal, and cutting a deal with the Philadelphia Phillies for reliever Ken Giles (2.0 WAR). These are two of the more underrated pitchers in baseball, and they're joining a pitching staff that was already among the elite.
If you're not convinced yet, let's take a moment to point out Houston's commitment to analytics. The Astros are baseball's No. 1 team in this regard; they allegedly bought a Cray supercomputer to help them crunch the numbers, they were one of the leading clubs behind the now-infamous defensive shift, and Director of Pro Scouting Kevin Goldstein was an analyst at Baseball Prospectus. As it says in the book, build your house upon the rock.