Network Notebook: Are the Houston Astros for Real
HOUSTON ASTROS OFF TO GREAT START AS DEFENDING AL CHAMP CLEVELAND COMES TO VISIT
So far, it's been a fantastic 2017 season for the Houston Astros. They were a sharp choice to win the AL West before the campaign even began. They've become the sharp choice to represent the American League in the World Series based on their 29-12 record about a fourth of the way through the season.
Are the Astros for real? Or, an illusion waiting to be exposed?
JIM HURLEY'S most trusted indicator stats suggest the Astros are the real deal.
*They haven't been lucky in one-run games. Their 6-4 record is in line with what you'd expect from a great team (maybe a little lower!). Houston is 23-8 in games NOT decided by one-run, which is terrific. That's almost 75% in games decided by two or more!
*They haven't played a home-heavy schedule that's about to boomerang back on them. Those 41 games actually have one more on the road than at home. It's been a fair test and Houston's been dominating. No illusions at all in the home/road split.
*They have a stellar 15-6 record on the road! This isn't a team that's crushing people at home because of a unique ballpark, but just going through the motions in other stadiums. This roster is built to thrive anywhere. Years of patience by management and fans are about to pay off big. You longtime readers know how much we respect road performance. Houston has truly played like champions.
*They just won three of four on the road against the New York Yankees, who had been the hottest team in baseball at the time. Talk about passing a litmus test! Houston isn't one of those teams that bullies cupcakes but then falls apart when tested. Houston just bullied the Yankees in the Bronx.
Sure, the team has enjoyed good health relatively speaking. And, that weird home stadium causes adjustments for first time visitors because of the way sunlight careens through the windows. But, that's a minor boost for a team that's running roughshod over the league (and a few NL teams) wherever they play. Houston is not a pretender.
And, when you have TWO starting pitchers putting up ace caliber stats, that helps you avoid losing streaks.
Dallas Keuchel: 1.84 ERA, 7.1 innings per start, 54 strikeouts-14 walks
Lance McCullers: 2.65 ERA, 6.0 innings per start, 60 strikeouts-15 walks
Keuchel is the Charlie Kershaw of the American League, where it's even tougher to post a low ERA because of the DH. McCullers doesn't last as long per game as Keuchel, partly because he gets more strikeouts in fewer innings. Quite a one-two punch.
The bullpen ranks a respectable #8 in the majors, which doesn't make the Astros a late-inning lock...but allows them to win most of the games they're supposed to win.
Jose Altuve leads a balanced offense with a .386 on-base percentage and a .510 slugging mark. Balanced? Ten different players have double digit counts in RBI's. That helps protect the team against injuries. A loss of anyone but Altuve can be absorbed.
This weekend's series against the visiting Cleveland Indians will be particularly challenging though. Both Keuchel and McCullers are missed in the rotation (lucky Tribe!). And, Cleveland is overdue to get things rolling. They've played better than their 20-19 won-lost record would suggest. And, they are the defending league champs after all! This could really be a great series.
Frankly, if Houston dominates the weekend without their two aces, you can virtually pencil them in for 100 wins and home field through the playoffs. This is the spot where they're vulnerable. Who knows, maybe a lost home series will cause a crisis in confidence that cools things down a bit.
JIM HURLEY will be watching this three-game set very closely. He just might have a selection or two on tap as well. You can always purchase BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card in both basketball and baseball. If you have any questions about extended service, please call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 to take care of business.
Don't forget that the PREAKNESS goes Saturday! Enjoy A DAY AT THE RACES and A DAY WITH THE BASES with the most dominant handicapping force in the industry. Ask for full details when you call the office. Almost Dreaming is currently the betting favorite to win the second jewel in horse racing's Triple Crown. But, challenger Classic Empire is likely to have a cleaner ride this time...and a few closers are capable of sneaking into the mix down the stretch.
Back with you Monday to update what's happening in the NBA Playoffs. In the meantime, go out and GET THE MONEY with PROVEN WINNER JIM HURLEY and his time-tested TEAM HANDICAPPING APPROACH!
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