2024 Houston Astros O/U: How Astros Miss the Mark

The Houston Astros, the benchmark of American League success over the past half-decade, seek to continue their dominance this year. Yet, they may face challenges going over the 93.5 win preseason odds because they have a new first-time manager, enter the season with some pitching injury concerns, and play in a tough division against the defending champion Texas Rangers and the dangerous Seattle Mariners.

Past Success

In 2023, the Astros advanced to their seventh straight American League Championship Series. The preceding season, acclaimed manager Dusty Baker finally won his first World Series as Houston knocked out the New York Yankees in the round before defeating the Philadelphia Phillies for the organization’s second championship over this sustained winning period. However, last year went differently as the Rangers eliminated their state rivals on the way to winning the franchise’s first World Series title.

Astros 2024 Outlook


Following the season, Baker retired, and the organization made the expected decision, promoting longtime bench coach and manager-in-waiting Joe Espada to the position. While he has big shoes to fill, Espada has been coaching in the organization since 2018 and has paid his dues through the coaching ranks. It will help the Puerto Rican boss that his team’s roster remains largely unchanged, aside from a few notable additions and subtractions.

The Astros’ offense should be among the best in Major League Baseball (MLB) again, featuring superstars José Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Àlvarez, and Kyle Tucker in their everyday lineup. Additionally, sophomore player Yainer Diaz brings more offensive potential in his first season as the team’s starting catcher. Diaz backed up new Chicago White Sox catcher Martin Maldonado in his tantalizing rookie campaign last year.

Starting Pitching

Houston enters 2024 with a few lingering questions on the mound as ace Justin Verlander will start the season on the injured list, recovering from a minor shoulder injury. Although he will not miss much time, one wonders how long the 41-year-old future Hall-of-Famer can continue pitching at his customarily elite level.

The Astros won’t have to worry about likely Opening Day starter Framber Valdez, one of the best left-handed starters in Major League Baseball. Still, they will need right-handers Hunter Brown and J.P. France to take another step forward in the wake of up-and-down rookie campaigns. Also, the team does not know how injured pitchers Lance McCullers Jr and Luis Garcìa will perform once they return from extended absences around midseason.


This past offseason, the Astros’ bullpen experienced the most turnover. Experienced, effective relief pitchers Ryne Stanek and Hèctor Neris signed free-agent deals with the Mariners and Chicago Cubs.

In response, the club signed free-agent closer Josh Hader, one of the best in the league, to a five-year, $95 million contract, far and away the team’s most impactful offseason addition. Having previously played in the Astros’ minor-league system from 2013 to 2015, the hard-to-hit left-hander now joins Ryan Pressly and Bryan Abreu to form one of the best late-game relief trios in the league. These three relievers possess immense quality and the potential to shut down other teams for the game’s final three innings.  Nevertheless, one wonders if Hader taking Pressly’s closer role will impact the chemistry or performance of the Astros’ bullpen.

Like every first-time manager, Espada will likely have some growing pains and times when his decision-making comes into question. However, he can take comfort in managing a group of players who know how and are accustomed to winning. As a result, unless this team suffers numerous injuries or bad luck, expect the Astros to come close to the 93-win mark set by preseason oddsmakers, yet not eclipse it as the divisional competition remains tough. The Rangers return almost every contributor from their title-winning squad, which will welcome the injury returns of veteran aces Max Scherzer and Jacob DeGrom sometime during the summer.

Meanwhile, the Mariners are itching to return to the playoffs after falling just short of a wild-card spot this past season. The Pacific Northwest squad has some of the best young pitchers (Logan Gilbert, George Kirby) in Major League Baseball (MLB), and center fielder Julío Rodriguez is one of the most dynamic and fun-to-watch players in the entire league.

Main Image: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

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