For a good chunk of the 2021 season the Houston Astros and Oakland A’s have jockeyed for position at the top of the American League West. I wasn’t all that worried though, as I’m a believer in numbers over the long term and the numbers told me the Astros were a much better team.
As the calendar turned to July, the Astros began separating themselves from Oakland and a surprising group from Seattle. The Astros gained 5 games on the second place A’s during the month by going 16-8, while the A’s struggled to a 11-13 record during the month, meaning the A’s also lost ground to the upstart Mariners (14-10).
The Astros added player to bolster postseason odds, but what does their projected record look like now?
A few weeks back I introduced a projected win totals for the Astros, which you can find the details of here. The short explanation is that it’s a combination of the Pythagorean Win Expectancy and actual on field results. I backed tested it over 5 years, it’s been a closer approximation than the Pythagorean.
The good news for Houston Astros fans as August begins: With 57 games to go the Astros are on pace for a 101-61 regular season, an 11 game cushion over second place Oakland, the best record in the American League and a very real chance at the best record in MLB.
Those numbers equate to a 37-20 and .649 finish for the Astros, which appears optimistic to say the least. However, one look at the schedule offers reason for optimism: Seven games with the gutted Rangers, a couple with the Rockies and three with the horrid Diamondbacks. Seven with Kansas City and four with Minnesota don’t hurt either.Given what we know today, here’s how the formula projects the AL West to finish:
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FanGraphs projects 97 wins for the Astros and 89 for the A’s, while fivethirtyeight.com predicts 98 for Houston and 89 for Oakland. Even better news for Houston: Those very same numbers project 101 Astros wins to be the most in the American League and perhaps the most in the MLB as the Astros and Giants are both currently on pace for 101 victories.
The ball club has shown remarkable resilience, overcoming injuries to stars like Alex Bregman (only played 59 of 105 games), Michael Brantley (82) and Framber Valdez (12 starts) among others, and have positioned themselves well for a strong finish.
The reworked bullpen offers hope that the biggest hole on the team has been mitigated and with Bregman on schedule to return soon the near future is bright. That said, there’s a lot of baseball left, injuries are a given and there was a frenzy of trades at the deadline that could alter what happens over the next two months.
However, if you’re a Houston fan you should feel very good about what the team has accomplished in the first 105 games and what lies ahead in the next 57.