Baseball Prospectus posted its annual Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm (PECOTA) results for the 2016 MLB season earlier this week. You don't have to start at the bottom of the standings to find the Houston Astros, actually you can stop at the number one spot in the American League West.
PECOTA Projects the Astros to win the AL West with a record 88-74, a two game provement over 2015 in which the Astros were a Wild Card representative. That isn't the only surprise in the standings in the west:
That's right, the rotation anchored by Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish only brings the Texas Rangers in third place with a below .500 record. That said these are the same projects that say the Cleveland Indians will have the best record in the American League with a mark of 92-70. I'm taking everything with a grain of salt.
The algorithm also projects the Astros to score 20 more runs than last year with 749, and give up 65 more runs than last year with 683. The Astros are also projected to tie for the worst batting average (.250) in the AL with the A's and tie for third in slugging percentage (.426) with the Boston Red Sox.
This is now the third projection that has the Astros winning the AL West. Fangraphs projected the Astros to have a record of 86-76, and have the only winning record in the division. USA Today projected the Astros to win the AL West with a record of 90-72.