We’ll start this with a caveat: The baseball season is long, and where things stand after 20 games is no indication of where they will be after 162. But still, if you’re an Astros fan, you have to be feeling pretty good about the team for the first time in a good while.

Right now, the Houston Astros sit alone atop the American League West, 3 games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels, and 5 games above .500, with a 12–7 record. They’ve won 8 of their last 10 and possess Major League Baseball’s longest winning streak at press time. Rather than just being the leader in a bad division, the Astros actually have the league’s fifth-best record at the moment. We may be only an eighth of the way through the season, but it’s an unexpectedly hot start for the ‘Stros. 

The bar is low for a team who lost over one hundred games in three of the last four seasons, but with the West up for grabs, now might be a decent time to start buying low on the Astros. As Bleacher Report notes, the bullpen appears to be legit, and most of the things that would send the team back to earth are already happening: the team is only hitting .229 right now, and they’re winning games with a boom/bust strategy right now. In other words, if you’re waiting for the Astros to expose themselves, you’ve already seen what that might look like, and they’re still in a commanding lead in their division. 

But “buying low” remains an option—right now, the oddsmakers have mostly ignored the Astros’ promising start. If you wanted to bet on the team to win the World Series, you could still get forty to one odds—worse than any team in the division except the pathetic Rangers (six hundred to one). And even if you’re not interested in that sort of longshot (hot start or no, it’s hard to imagine the Astros topping the Tigers or Royals for the penant in October), taking the Astros as a six-to-one underdog to win the AL West is one of the better value propositions you’ll find right now, in baseball or any other sport. 

There are plenty of hot April teams who fail to make the playoffs—ask a Brewers fan who lived through the eighties and saw a 13–0 start end with futility—so we won’t read too much into this. After all, Texas Monthly had big predictions for Vince Young, David Carr, Colt McCoy, the 2004 remake of The Alamo, and the Texas Democrats’ electoral hopes in 2014 too. But there’s no denying that a team that’s five games over .500 after dropping ninety-plus games the last four seasons is exceeding expectations, and any sign of life for Houston baseball deserves some attention.

(AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi))