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FanGraphs projects Houston to win AL West crown after recent surge

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It appears the 2015 and 2016 baseball scripts have been flipped.

Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

We won't see the 2015 Houston Astros season turned into a movie. The script wasn't perfect.  There was a major flaw the Texas Rangers were the real comeback story of 2015. The Rangers were 13-6 against the Astros and overtook the Astros the division lead after starting the season 7-14 in April.

The Astros came into this season as the hot pick to win the AL West. It's understandable because the Astros had brought back the entire team (including the 2015 Cy Young and Rookie of the Year award winners) that took the eventual World Series Champions Kansas City Royals to the brink in the divisional round. But the Rangers still had a veteran club, young exciting talent, and a two-headed monster of Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish.

But Fangraphs clearly favored the Astros at the start of the season. Here is the website's projection before the start of the season:

Then April and May happened. The Astros fell flat on their face to start the season with a 7-17 record to start the year -- even worse than the Rangers in 2015. While the Rangers had everything fall into place. Texas 31-21 in the first two months of the season then added a 20-8 mark in June. On top of that, the Rangers are 9-1 against the Astros. Here is what the projections showed at the Astros' lowest point of season after dropping their third series with the Rangers:

FanGraphs only projected a 15 percent chance for the Astros to make the playoffs -- SMH. How did the Astros get to that point? Plain and simple, the offense wasn't hitting and the starting pitching wasn't keeping the team in games. When one or both succeeded, Luke Gregerson or Ken Giles came and gave away game.

How did the Rangers get to that point? Beyond the Boxscore broke down that the Rangers were good but a tad bit lucky. Every stat said they would be over .500 but not 20-plus games over .500.

Evan J. Davis wrote:

Texas should jump out at you. The Rangers are the biggest overperformers in all of baseball by BaseRuns, third-order record, one-run game record, and cluster luck. In other words, once you factor in their run differential, their underlying player stats, their strength of schedule, their propensity for squeaking out close wins, and the fact that they're scattering tons of opposition hits while clustering their own, the Rangers should be due for a massive fall in the second half of the year. Teams almost never sustain a run of tight victories, nor can they continue to hit the jackpot on clustering their hits.

Things started to level out for the Astros at that point. The pitching was more consistent, the Astros had the second best team ERA in June (3.11). The trend has only moved in the Astros' favor -- Houston has the ninth best team ERA in baseball (3.77) this season while Texas' ERA is 4.48 -- 24th best. The Astros have a +44 run differential and the Rangers are at an even zero.

The injury bug has hit the Rangers hard on top of Texas' stumbles. Tanner Scheppers, Colby Lewis, and Derek Holand are on the 60-day DL. Drew Stubbs, Bryan Holaday and Shin-Soo Choo on the 15-day DL. On top of that, Prince Fielder may be out for the season with a back injury.

Here we are now, the current standings:

The Astros are now at 51.2 percent chance to win the division and have a 65.8 percent chance of making the playoffs. Of course, this doesn't mean it's set in stone as was the case at the start of the season. But the Astros are trending in the right direction -- only 2.5 games behind the Rangers.