If I had to describe the AL West, I would simply say “Houston Astros.”
The Astros have not been able to secure World Series titles recently, losing two in three years, but they’ve at least made it their business to win their division.

Photo: The Coolest Stuff in Texas

They’ve represented their division for four of the past five seasons, and they’re in the position to continue the trend this year. Houston has been pulling their own weight in the regular season, winning an average of 101.5 games, the fewest being 95, in the last four full seasons. The division’s runner-up has performed decently well in the regular season lately, winning an average of 94.7 games in the last three full seasons (Athletics twice and Mariners once).

The Texas Rangers have had a less impressive story as of late, finishing in the middle to the lower end of the divisional standings every year since 2016. They won consecutive divisional titles in 2015 and 2016 but have since then averaged 70.75 wins and have failed to pass even the 80-win mark in the last four full seasons.

The AL West favorite Houston stands alone at -175 on DraftKings. You would then have to take a long road trip to the West Coast in order to find the Los Angeles Angels (+400) and the Seattle Mariners (+450).

Then there’s a considerable gap before reaching the Rangers (+1800) and the Oakland Athletics (+3000).

After a forgettable 60-win season, the Rangers are looking to erase their recent history of irrelevance with a ton of new faces added to the ball club. If Texas has any plans to dethrone the defending AL West champs Houston, they’re probably going to have to win at least 90 games this season. The question remains: “Are the 2022 Rangers 30+ wins better than the 2021 Rangers?” Let’s find out.

As exciting as it would be betting on Texas sports teams, Texas fans are going to have to wait at least a couple more years until then. If the legislation passes all the way through in 2023, then Texas fans bettors will finally be able to ride with their favorite in-state teams on betting sites like Caesars Sportsbook Texas.

Everything’s Bigger In Texas, Especially Their Budget

“Scared money don’t make money,” as the saying goes. And in this past offseason, the Rangers weren’t scared of anything.

Texas displayed one of the league’s worst offenses last season, bringing in the 28th most runs per game at 3.86. Of all the teams in the bottom tier of offense last season, Texas was the only one to make amends, and they did it big time. In the league’s most expensive offseason ever, Texas secured a league-leading $580.7 million in guaranteed free-agent contracts. The next biggest AL West spender was the Angels, who spent just $123.8 million on free agents.

The highlights of the Rangers’ shopping spree are Corey Seager (10-year, $325 million) and Marcus Semien (7-year, $175 million), who will bolster the infield and lineup. Newly acquired pitcher Jon Gray (4-year, $56 million) will act as their new ace.

Texas will also bring up multiple prospects that they acquired from the Joey Gallo trade last July. These up-and-comers will supplement key additions like Seager and Semien.

The upgrades in the infield and the lineup impacted the team’s chance of winning, but not by much, shifting slightly from +2000 to +1600 (BetMGM). The Rangers remain in the longshot category partially because they still face massive weaknesses in the outfield and on the mound, explaining why their win total Over/Under is at a mere 74.5 on DraftKings.

Houston Running Back Similar Crew

The Astros are poised to repeat as division champs, with most of their roster returning. They did not have the best offseason, though, losing MVP candidate Carlos Correa to Minnesota and pitcher Zack Greinke to Kansas City. Their only “addition” is Justin Verlander, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery.

Houston’s lineup remains solid with an elite batting order that goes six deep: Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Yuli Gurriel, and Kyle Tucker. They have a very versatile lineup that consistently gets on base and scores runs. Look for Tucker to have another breakout season after receiving MVP consideration last season.

The top portion of the rotation has some injury-related question marks. Verlander played in one game before missing the rest of the 2020 season and all of the 2021 season. Reports say that the 39-year old is looking like his old self again, giving the Astros a bona fide ace. Lance McCullers will miss the beginning of the season with a flexor tendon injury, but once he returns, he will become a quality number two behind Verlander.

Maybe Next Year, Rangers

In order to be a division winner, you need to possess a high ceiling. But it seems that no matter how well the new-look Rangers perform, their ceiling still won’t reach the Astros’. Houston’s ceiling is decently high, but their yearly consistency and similar roster give them a very high floor.

The Astros’ projected win total of 91.5 is understandable, given how well they normally perform in the regular season and how talented their club is. They might be slightly worse compared to last season, given Correa’s departure, but they still have a team capable of winning at least 90 games. 

Do Seager, Semien, and a few rising prospects improve the Rangers by 30+ wins? Highly unlikely.
There are still unaddressed holes in the outfield and rotation, giving them a very large margin for error. +1600 odds look enticing, but the Rangers simply don’t have the makeup of a division winner right now.

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