This time, the Astros are doing something different from what they did last year. Something different when you compare it to 2020, but something they’ve been doing for a while now, except for, well, last season.
They’re just BEATING division rivals.
In fact, 16 of the team’s 21 wins have come against AL West clubs. That is 76.2 percent! This is even more important when you realize this division is one of the strongest in baseball and it’s even better this year. The A’s are on the top, the Mariners have a very improved team while the Rangers and the Angels have pretty dangerous lineups.
AL West clubs against division rivals:
· Astros: 16-8
· Angels: 7-11
· Mariners: 6-7
· Rangers: 5-5
· Athletics: 2-5
This was an exception last year and —remember— they finished second. In 2020, they lost 21 games and won 19, just an uncommon thing for the Astros in their recent history:
· 2015: 38-38 (Finished 2nd)
· 2016: 41-35 (3rd)
· 2017: 56-20 (1st)
· 2018: 46-30 (1st)
· 2019: 56-20 (1st)
Pitching has been the best aspect of the Astros when facing division opposition. Across 216 innings, Houston hurlers have surrendered only 157 hits and 73 earned runs, with 65 bases on balls and 213 strikeouts. Their ERA is an outstanding 3.04. The Angels have been their favorite victim so far, as they register a 2.89 ERA along with 74 punchouts in 81 frames against the Halos.
When it comes to offense, hitters have compiled 222 hits across 828 at-bats off the AL West rivals, including 52 doubles, 28 home runs, and 122 RBIs. Their batting average is at .268, while their OPS is a strong .773 in 926 total plate appearances.
As incredible as it sounds, the toughest rival for the Astros has been Seattle. There have been seven matchups and the Astros have lost three of them, thanks in part to poor offensive showings (.219 BA, .537 OPS during the whole particular series).
Enjoy my own research (updated through Thursday):
If the Astros keep dominating direct opposition, there’s no reason to believe they won’t win the division. But time will do its thing.