The Houston Astros are still a hot baseball pick, but they lost Game 1 of their three-game set against the Baltimore Orioles. The O's are favored in Tuesday's second game.
Jason's 2015 record as of May 25: 23-15, plus-7.66 units ML; 0-2, minus-2.05 units Total
Maybe the Houston Astros will regress to the mean this year. They were 50-1 long shots to in betting odds to win the World Series going into the 2015 campaign, after all. But here were are past the three-quarter pole of the season (not the quarter pole, that comes later), and the Astros are still on top of the AL West at 29-17, raking in 12.36 units against the baseball odds. They've won nine of their last 13 games, too.
Monday wasn't one of those nine victories. Houston went to Camden Yards for the first of a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles, and it was the O's coming out on top 4-3 to cash in at +102. Baltimore is still below .500 at 20-22 (minus-2.70 units), but that's five wins out of eight for the plucky Orioles. They're –114 favorites on the MLB odds board for Tuesday's Game 2 (7:05 p.m. ET) as we go to press.
Honey Bunches of O's
Baltimore wasn't supposed to do much better than the Astros this year, checking in at 33-1 on the World Series futures market back in spring training. Indeed, the Orioles have bounced around .500 thus far despite putting up some decent advanced stats. We've given them some love with our early-season grades and our recent update; maybe this 5-3 run is a further sign of better things to come for Baltimore.
We're a bit nervous, though. The O's have slipped to plus-0.1 on the Simple Rating System at Baseball Reference, which puts them No. 14 overall in the majors – down from ninth when we last ran the numbers. We've seen some mediocre performances from both the pitchers and hitters over the past seven days. And Baltimore did just drop two of three to the Miami Marlins. Hmmm.
We're not enthusiastic about Tuesday's starter, either. Chris Tillman (5.37 FIP) is not having a very good year, and he's 2.18 units in the hole on a team record of 3-5. Tillman's only “win” over the past five games was last Thursday against the Seattle Mariners (+100 away), when he pitched just the first three innings before a rain delay set in.
The Astros are fourth overall at press time with a plus-0.8 SRS, and that was after a rather slow start to the year, at least according to this metric – we gave Houston a “D” in our early grades. It's been mostly the pitching that's got the Astros where they are: They're fifth in the majors at 5.9 WAR, with the bullpen climbing all the way to second overall at plus-2.2 WAR.
Scott Feldman (4.15 FIP) could use some of that help. The veteran northpaw has been snakebitten somewhat this year, posting a deficit of 1.40 units on a team record of 4-5 despite providing six quality starts for Houston. Feldman could also use more than the 3.3 runs of support per game that he's been getting. The Astros are usually good for 4.5 runs per game, and Tillman's been struggling, so this looks like a good spot to place MLB picks with Feldman. His .328 BABIP is another source of confidence for regression nerds.
Houston OF Colby Rasmus (.794 OPS) is one of those hidden gems who can make you look like a genius or a fool on any given day. Rasmus strikes out a ton: 35.7 percent of the time this year, which would be a career-high. He also has eight home runs and a .500 slugging percentage, so there you go. Against Tillman, Rasmus is 6-for-20 lifetime with a pair of dingers and a 1.000 OPS. He's only 10% owned in Yahoo leagues. You could do worse.
Free MLB Pick: Take the Astros +102 at Pinnacle