Spring is nearly here, and with the season of renewal comes another fresh start: the beginning of baseball season. To the faithful, those familiar scents of freshly cut grass and ballpark hot dogs represent another season of hope.
No team’s fans have more reason to hope than the Astros. Although 2018 didn’t end up being a repeat championship, the 2017 World Series team’s offensive core is still intact, and while there’s been a fair amount of turnover in the starting pitching rotation, the team is set to field a promising lineup of pitchers. The Astros enter 2019 with a bold new battlecry, vowing to avenge last season’s playoff loss to the eventual World Series champion Boston Red Sox and reclaim the glory of the season prior with a fresh slogan: “Take It Back.”
Bookies think the Astros have a good chance of following through on their slogan. According to the odds posted on gambling website Betonline.ag, no team has a better shot of making the playoffs this year than the Astros, with the site projecting an 88.2 percent chance that Houston gets to the postseason for the third consecutive year. That’s better than the World-Series-winning Red Sox (81.1 percent) or the World Series losing Los Angeles Dodgers (86.4 percent).
The confidence in the Astros comes from a few places. The team has a handful of viable MVP candidates on the roster, Justin Verlander shows every sign of continuing to pitch like a future Hall of Famer, and they play in the least competitive division in baseball.
That explains some of the discrepancies you might find in the betting odds. The Astros are more likely to make the playoffs than any other team because who’s going to knock them out of contention—the Oakland A’s? (Narrator: They will not.) Other teams whose rosters are just as stacked have stiffer competition: The Yankees and the Red Sox may be fielding the best rosters in baseball, but they’re also in the same division. Odds are good that whichever one doesn’t win the division still gets a wild card, but you can’t approach it with the same confidence. That means there are two questions to consider: The Astros may be the surest bet in Major League Baseball to play October ball, but what are the odds that they’ll make noise when they get there?
According to another gambling site, Sportsbook.ag, those odds still aren’t bad. While the bookies favor the Yankees to win the World Series (giving the team 6:1 odds to win it all), Houston doesn’t come in far behind, with a 7:1 chance of taking it back. That’s the same odds they give the Sox and better odds than any National League team, where the Dodgers and Cubs trail behind the heavy-hitting trio from the AL East and West.
Unless you plan on heading to Vegas or an offshore gambling site, these odds tell us only what even a casual follower of the Astros knows: The team looks to be in a great spot, and this should be a fun year for their fans. Losing 60 percent of your starting rotation isn’t usually an easy thing to overcome, but the Astros have been building a roster that can pull it off for several seasons. Heading into 2019, the odds are ever in their favor.