Will Astros Win 97 Games in 2020?
Earlier this week, Major League Baseball came down hard on the Astros after investigating the club for an elaborate sign-stealing system in 2017. With their win total sitting at 97, is the under a good play for bettors?
Back in September of 2017, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred warned all teams about inappropriate use of technology. Two years later in November of 2019, former Astros pitcher Mike Fiers told The Athletic that Houston used a sign-stealing system en route to win the 2017 World Series against the Dodgers. Earlier this month, The Athletic also reported that the Red Sox engaged in sign-stealing in 2018, the same year Boston beat that same Dodgers club to win its World Series championship.
On Monday, Major League Baseball suspended Astros manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow one year following its investigation into the situation. The Astros were also stripped of their first-and-second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 MLB drafts and were fined $5 million. That same day, the team fired Luhnow and Hinch and on Tuesday, the Red Sox fired their manager, Alex Cora, who was the bench coach for Houston in 2017.
According to oddsmakers from online sportsbook Sportsbook.com, the Astros’ over/under for wins in 2020 is 97. Only the Yankees at 101.5 and the Dodgers at 99 have higher win totals according to the sportsbook.
Of the four major sports, a baseball manager might have the smallest impact when it comes to in-game decision making. That’s not to suggest that baseball managers don’t play a role in wins and losses, but compared to football, basketball and hockey coaches, that impact is certainly less significant. Thus, assuming that the Astros won’t be able to win 97-plus games because they lost Hinch would be naïve.
That said, since Hinch took over as the Astros manager in 2015, Houston has the second-best win percentage in the majors over that span at .594, trailing on the Dodgers’ .598. The Astros have also won 100 or more games in each of the last three seasons, tied for the longest 100-win seasons in MLB history. Certainly Hinch had some impact on Houston’s success.
The Astros lineup is once again stacked thanks to George Springer, Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley and Alex Gregman. Yordan Alvarez also came up last season and jacked 27 home runs in 87 games. This club will win plenty of games in 2020 thanks to their offense alone.
That said, what will certainly impact their chances at cashing the over is the fact that Gerrit Cole is now a Yankee. Cole won 20 games last year for the Astros, who won 26 of the 33 games he started during the regular season. That’s a lot of production to lose, even with the Astros acquiring Zack Greinke at the trade deadline last year.
Granted, Houston won over 100 games in each of its last three seasons but how much will fatigue set in when the players are asked about the scandal every day in spring training on? Taking the under 97, especially in what should be an improved division, will be my play.