Behind a strong offense, Fangraphs projects the Houston Astros to win the AL West.
The Houston Astros were one of the busiest teams early in the offseason. They got so much accomplished before the winter meetings that it has been quiet lately. While they didn’t sign the big slugger in Edwin Encarnacion, they got players they felt would help them win. They supplemented veteran players in with their younger players this offseason.
The biggest reason the Astros struggles in 2016 came not necessarily from the AL West, but the Rangers. Against AL West foes, they went 41-35 in 76 games. When they played AL West teams, not from Arlington, they had a 37-20 record. You are probably doing the math. The Astros went 4-15 versus the Rangers. If the Astros do the same this year, there will be little chance of winning the West.
Part of the reason for adding Josh Reddick, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran was to improve play versus the Rangers. The older players will an experience to beat the Rangers. The Astros finished 11 games behind the Texas Rangers last year. Had the Stros gone 12-7 versus the Rangers, they could have finished above them last year. The Rangers went 80-73 versus teams not from Houston. One could say the Astros made the Rangers year.
This is no longer acceptable. For the Stros to take the next step, they need to get that monkey off their backs. Well, I have good news fans, Fangraphs thinks the Houston Astros will finish above the Rangers. Not only are they predicted to win, but they could also do so with some margin of error.
Here is what Fangraphs projects as the final standings in 2017.
Astros: 90-72 with a run differential of 86.
Angels: 84-78 with a run differential of 25.
Mariners: 83-79 with a run differential of 21.
Rangers: 83-79 with a run differential of 20.
Athletics: 77-85 with a run differential of -36.
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Three things jump out at me when looking at these projections. First of all, the Angels bounce back from 74 wins to 84 wins to finish in second place. How are they doing this, they have a terrible farm system? They do have Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, so maybe they can pace the team in offense.
The second thing that I thought about is the offensive ability this division processes, outside of the Athletics. The other four teams are projected to outscore their opponents by 20 of more runs. Despite winning 95 games last year, the Rangers only outscored their opponents by eight runs. The Rangers were 36-11 in one-run games last year. That type of rate is hard to maintain for an extended period.
Based on the run differential, the Rangers should have gone 82-80 in 2016. This season, the Astros are projected to have a run differential of 86, but only win 90 games. This tells me that the pitching may struggle at times. Based on projected runs scored per game, the Astros could be the second in the MLB with 4.90 runs per game. But they will be in the middle of the pack in pitching by allowing 4.37 runs per game.
The offensive potential in this team is dynamic. You can see why some people would like to add a Jose Quintana type. If the lineup can produce as expected, they can deal with the pitching they have for now. Who knows, Francis Martes could be just as good as Quintana. For now, yet’s prematurely celebrate all the wins versus the Rangers.
***Stats, standings, and projections from Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference***