The defending champion Houston Astros obviously had a very successful 2022 campaign. Winning an American League-best 106 games, the team cruised into the playoffs and won their second World Series title in franchise history. With a season as successful as this one and a team as vaunted as this one, will they repeat their 2022 success? According to FanDuel, the Astros O/U is set at 97.5 wins for the 2023 season.
Here are three comprehensive reasons why you have to take the OVER on the Astros win total for this year.
2023 Houston Astros O/U: How the Champs Will Hit the OVER
The Defensive Shift is not as Exaggerated
With the new rules implemented in the 2023 season, the Astros slew of left-handed hitters should see their production increase with more open room on the right side of the infield. Teams can no longer put infielders in shallow right field to neutralize pull hitters and hinder their chances of picking up a hit. They are forced to revert back to the traditional style of defensive positioning.
Namely Kyle Tucker, Yordan Alvarez, and Michael Brantley. These are three important pieces in this lineup. According to Baseball Savant, Tucker pulled the ball 41.9% of the time in 2022. Alvarez’s mark was 39.8, and in Brantley’s last healthy season of 2021, he was at 33.3. Simply put, these guys should absolutely RAKE this upcoming season. Even with the shift still intact last season, Alvarez sported a .1019 OPS, good for second in the entire league. After a horrid April, Tucker managed to post a solid OPS of .808.
Fellow phenom teammates Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve sported OPS marks of .820 and .921 respectively. 2022 World Series MVP, Jeremy Pena should also see an uptick in his offensive production. For a shortstop, if he can post an OPS in the mid-.800s, that’s a win for the club. These six players, along with rules favoring offense, should spell for an increase in production in a lineup with a track record. That Astros O/U win total is looking rather light.
Even after the Departure of Verlander, this Rotation is Elite
Justin Verlander missed the entire 2021 season due to injury. He returned to peak form in 2022, taking home his third CY Young award and second in an Astros uniform. 1.75 ERA, 0.829 WHIP, 185 strikeouts, and a league-leading 220 ERA+.
Verlander is now in Queens pitching for the New York Mets. Steve Cohen signed the veteran right to a two-year/$86.7-million-dollar contract. It would be realistic for one to assume that with the loss of a CY Young winner, the Astros pitching should decline. Well, one of the reasons they weren’t eager to re-sign him, was the productive arms they have in their 2023 rotation.
Left-hander Framber Valdez is both the ace and the workhorse. The 29-year-old pitched a league-leading 201.1 innings last season posting a 2.82 ERA and 194 strikeouts. The Astros 2022 win total was 106, and Valdez picked up 17 wins of the 106. Not only was Valdez dominant, but he was dependable. His ability to go deep in the games gave manager Dusty Baker a lot of flexibility. He didn’t have to get 12-15 outs out of the bullpen.
The emergence of right-hander Christian Javier has given this rotation a potentially elite number-two starter behind Valdez. Javier was unhittable in his World Series Game 4 start against the Phillies. Six no-hit innings with nine strikeouts against a Phillies lineup that had scored 15 runs combined in the previous three games.
What makes Javier so special is his four-seam fastball. Despite it only averaging 93.8 MPH, he throws the pitch 60% of the time. How is it so effective? The pitch has only 12.2 inches of vertical drop; this gives hitters the illusion that it’s rising. Assuming his usage of this weapon continues, Javier is poised to put together an elite 2023 season and cement himself as another ace in the Astros rotation.
While the third and fourth spots in the rotation are filled up by solid pitchers like Lance McCullers Jr. and Jose Urquidy, the big-time question is whether or not young pitching prospect, Hunter Brown, can mold into potentially the third-best arm on this roster.
Brown, 24, can bring the heat when it comes to his four-seam fastball. Averaging out at 96.6 mph, this pitch also bodes well when looking at the drop numbers. 11.9 inches of vertical drop is right up there with his teammate Javier. With McCullers sidelined for the start of the season, expect Dusty Baker and the Astros brass to rely heavily on this guy for some more juice early on.
They Aren’t Playing the AL West as Much
The Texas Rangers drastically improved their talent-filled roster by adding a top-three pitcher, Jacob deGrom, to their rotation. A full season of Julio Rodriguez, along with the young arms in Seattle should render them a threat. And, despite always being a disappointment, the Angels still possess the two greatest players in the sport, Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.
The Astros won’t have to worry about this nearly much as years prior. With the league spreading out the schedule, teams will now be playing every team a minimum of one series per year. This cuts down an average of one series per AL West team. Since the AL West has some tough opponents, the Astros will spend more time playing some rebuilding teams like the Pirates, Royals, or Marlins.
Some of these teams have owners who are unwilling to spend which makes them a punching bag for the top teams. The Astros will presumably feast on a lot of mediocre teams in both the AL and NL Central.
Those 106 wins in 2022 should tell bettors that the Astros O/U of 97.5 for the 2023 season is very conservative. Offensively, pitching, and the ease in the schedule will elevate this team to the 100-105 win range.
It doesn’t matter what they do in the offseason or who they have on the roster, this is the best-run organization in baseball and arguably all of sports. Kick back, relax, and hit that over because the Astros WILL win over 97.5 games!
Main Image: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY