2016 AL West Outright Odds And Prediction
Heading into the All-Star break, there is a good chance the Texas Rangers will have a 5+ game lead over their division rivals. The MLB AL West has shaped up to be a three-team race between Texas (-600), Houston (+500), and Seattle (+1700), with the LA Angels (+60000) and Oakland Athletics (+50000) making plans to sell off assets and plan for 2017.
Looking at those odds and the current standings, many would suggest that the AL West is actually a two-team race between Texas and Houston, but the Mariners have all the right pieces in place to make a run and could easily make things interesting come mid-September. Actually seeing the Mariners pass the Astros and Rangers in the standings is another thing, but those MLB bettors that don't have a problem putting a small stake on longshot flyers should view Seattle as a very viable candidate in that regard.
MLB AL West Division Title Odds
The Mariners aren't my selection to win the AL West, but as a big believer in run differential as a strong indicator of a team's true talent, there is no one better in this division than the Mariners. Seattle's got a solid chance at entering the All-Star break with a run differential of +50ish, and that alone suggests they are better than the .500 team they've been for the bulk of the first half. As long as the Mariners can sort out some of their pitching issues and avoid major losing streaks – two things that have plagued them in the first half – they are a prime candidate to make a strong second half push towards the playoffs.
Now making the playoffs and winning the division are two different things, and those first half falters that Seattle experienced all too often might be too much to overcome to claim the AL West title. They would need a huge collapse from Texas and a strong collapse from the Astros and that might be a little too much to ask for. However, I do believe that one of those scenarios is more likely than the other.
MLB AL West Outright Prediction
Houston Astros to win the AL West Division @+500
Although it would be a much bigger fall, seeing the Texas Rangers stumble and collapse in the second half of the season is much more likely in my opinion. Of all the current division leaders in MLB, the Rangers have the second worst team ERA (4.31) from their rotation, and the second worst bullpen ERA (5.07) of all 30 teams in the league. Baltimore is the only other division leader with a worst ERA from their starters (4.39), but the Orioles make up for it with a stellar bullpen that ranks 5th in the league and has racked up the most wins of any bullpen unit in the league. The Rangers don't have that luxury, and when their starters have gotten roughed up – which is more often than not -, things only tend to get worse for the Rangers. Even major moves at the trade deadline won't solve all those inefficiencies for Texas and it's got to be a huge concern for Rangers fans.
Texas has propelled themselves to a 53-34 SU record (as of this writing) because of a stellar offence bailing them out of many situations, and being extremely lucky in many other spots. Neither of those things are likely to continue in the second half, so don't be surprised if we see a huge regression from the Rangers in the second half.
On the other hand, the Houston Astros have been playing some fantastic baseball since a brutal April dug them a large hole they've slowly been working themselves out of. The Astros ranked eighth in starter ERA in MLB and third in bullpen ERA, so pitching shouldn't be a concern for them. They've also got 2B Jose Altuve playing at a MVP-calibre level since a slow start, and the rest of this young team around him look hungry and motivated to get back to the postseason this year. Last year's playoff experience for this young team can't be discounted in the second half of this year because these young guys learned a lot from that run to October, the most important being knowing how to win in high pressure situations. The Astros went through all those really rough losing years to stock pile tremendous talent and that talent is now hitting their stride in the majors.
Offensively, there is room for a lot of improvement in the second half for Houston and that's a tremendous sign for a team that's loaded with quality young bats. Guys like Carlos Correa, George Springer, and Carlos Gomez have all had slower starts to their season, and once all of those guys get going, this Astros lineup will put up a lot of crooked numbers on the opposition.
Finally, bettors have to consider Houston's schedule in the second half and just how many opportunities they've got ahead of them against division rivals to gain ground. The Astros have nine games left against Texas and a strong showing there will narrow the gap to next to nothing. Combine that with nine games left vs. Seattle, nine vs. Oakland, and 10 vs the LA Angels, the Astros have plenty of opportunities in front of them to win this division. 19 games against the A's and Angels are prime win spots for Houston and as long as they can take care of business more often than not vs the other two rivals, we could see Houston in firts place by the beginning of September.
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