Houston Astros magic number to clinch AL West
The Astros have completely owned their division all season long. Could they be the next team to clinch a playoff spot?
The Astros have been one of the most consistently successful teams all season long. They took the divisional lead back in mid-April and they haven’t surrendered it since. Not even once. While teams like the Cleveland Indians start to surge and teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers start to falter, Houston remains rock solid as we enter the final stretch of the season. With a magic number of seven in the AL West and still 19 games to go, they are in great shape.
Where the Astros stand now
It’s a wonderful time to be an Astros fan, isn’t it? The team that finished with a middling 84-78 record last season and missed the playoffs by a mile and a half currently reigns supreme atop the AL West just a year later. On September 12 last season, Houston was 10.5 behind the Texas Rangers in the division. Today they hold a comfortable 13 game lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. On top of that, they currently hold the second best record in the American League, second only to the Cleveland Indians thanks to their incredible tear as of late.
What does this mean for Houston’s playoff hopes though? Well, there’s a lot to be hopeful about. As previously mentioned, the current magic number for the Astros to win the division is seven. This comes with nearly three full weeks of games left to play in the season. As of this writing, Fangraphs gives Houston not only a 100% chance of making the playoffs but a 100% chance of winning their division and a 100% chance of making it to the ALDS. If my math checks out, you can’t do much better than that, but feel free to fact check me there.
Fangraphs also has Houston projected to finish the season with a 97-65 record. Personally, I think that’s a little conservative. They currently sit at 86-57, so the projections have them finishing out the season with an 11-8 record. Sure, that’s not a bad stretch for a team that is likely looking to rest up its players as they coast into the playoffs but look at Houston’s remaining schedule. They play six games against the Angels, three against the Seattle Mariners, three against the Chicago White Sox, three against the Rangers, and three against the Boston Red Sox.
Of those five teams, Boston is the only one currently considered to be a playoff team. The Angels, Mariners, and Rangers all sit within a few games of .500, whether it be above or below, and the White Sox are literally the worst team in the American League. I’ll concede that those three AL West teams will be sure to put up a fight as they are on the outside looking in at a tight wild card race, but Houston has put up a 40-24 record against divisional rivals in 2017 and that is the third best inter-divisional record in baseball despite dropping four straight to the Oakland A’s over the weekend. If they play well enough in their next two series against Los Angeles and Seattle, they could have the division locked up as early as Sunday afternoon.
Here’s where Astros fans may need to be a little nervous though. Losing four in a row to the last place team in your division doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence, especially when your pitching staff allows an average of more than 10 runs per game during that stretch.
This series seems pretty anomalous though. Prior to last Friday, Astros pitchers had only allowed double digit runs in two games since the All Star Break. Houston also came into that series on a seven game winning streak, during witch their pitchers allowed just over three runs per game.
The most important thing for Houston right now is to make sure everyone stays as healthy as they have been all season. Starting pitcher Collin McHugh got pulled from his last start due to a fingernail injury. The injury isn’t much to worry about, but the team will be skipping his next start on Thursday, which is definitely a smart move by the coaches. He will definitely be ready to go come playoffs. Other than that the Astros look to be in great shape, and the best thing a team can ask for heading into October is a full roster.