The MLB season starts next month and the Houston Astros have been grabbing headlines throughout the offseason with strong reactions from pundits and players to their cheating scandal from 2017-2019. While MLB commissioner Rob Manfred apparently won’t punish the Astros beyond suspending manager AJ Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow, fans and opponents will be merciless in their denigration of the Astros.
Hatred of the Astros has become so prevalent that many sportsbooks are offering odds on how they will be targeted. Aside from novelty propositions on which Astros player will be the first to get hit by a pitch this season, there are traditional futures bets on the Astros win totals and home run totals at home, chances to win the American League, and more.
Odds may vary depending on your sportsbook. In this article, we will not only identify odds on FanDuel Sportsbook and DraftKings Sportsbook, but also consider the overall market and offer strategy on betting against or perhaps backing the cheating Astros with bets this season.
Astros futures bets
The Astros (-280 at FanDuel Sportsbook) are still heavily favored to win the AL West. Don’t think they’ll win their division for the fourth straight year? The Oakland Athletics (+340) are the next option to challenge them, and the LA Angels (+800) have longshot appeal after signing Anthony Rendon and bringing on Joe Maddon as manager.
Alex Bregman (+1800 DK, +1200 FD) is still one of the top candidates in the AL MVP odds, but bettors can forget about a subjective award going to one of the central figures of a cheating scandal considering Pete Rose and Barry Bonds still aren’t in the Hall of Fame. Alternative options in Bregman’s price range include Oakland’s Matt Chapman (+2000) and Minnesota’s Josh Donaldson (+2500).
Justin Verlander (+700, +800) is third in line to win another CY Young, but former teammate Gerrit Cole (+275, +280) is the prohibitive favorite and has already cleaned his name by claiming he “knew nothing” about the cheating scandal.
Similarly, the New York Yankees (+150, +160) are the primary candidate to unseat the Astros as American League champions. You can also find other ways to fade the Astros in World Series betting markets, where Houston is around +600 to win the Fall Classic this year. They sit behind the Yankees (+350) and LA Dodgers (+400) and ahead of the Atlanta Braves (+1200) and defending champion Washington Nationals (+1600)
Astros home field props
At DraftKings Sportsbook, bettors can take specific props on Bregman and Jose Altuve, two of the most central figures in the cheating scandal. Altuve has been accused of wearing a buzzer under his uniform during the clinching game of the 2019 ALCS at Minute Maid Park. The proposition on DK is for Altuve to hit Over or Under 24.5 total home runs (excluding playoffs) or to hit Over or Under 12.5 home runs at home (excluding playoffs).
Altuve hit a career-high 31 homers last year after tallying just 13 in 2018. If that doesn’t smell fishy, note that he hit 18 bombs with a .608 slugging percentage at Minute Maid after tallying 7 homers with a .408 slugging percentage at home in 2018. Regression is likely coming regardless of how much of an advantage he gained from allegedly using a buzzer.
Similarly, there is a prop for Bregman to hit 33.5 total home runs or 17.5 homers at Minute Maid Park. Bregman hit 25 of his team-high 41 homers on the road last season, and has a career slugging percentage of .558 in away games versus .495 at Minute Maid. These are tough numbers to take in either direction given the promise of an AL MVP candidate who is 25 years old. A 30-year-old with questionable power-hitting tools, Altuve is much easier to target for regression.
Since the Astros reportedly cheated to gain even more of a home field advantage, the fact that they posted a 60-21 home record last year is certainly cast in a dubious light. Their prop for home wins this season is set at 49.5 (-112 odds) at DK Sportsbook. That certainly seems like a low number, but it makes sense considering Gerrit Cole (now with the Yankees) won 12 of his 17 home starts with a ridiculous 0.788 WHIP in that span. Combine the loss of Cole with a potential dip in offensive production and it’s possible the Astros dip below the total. They won 46 home games in 2018 and 48 home games in 2017, so stealing signs hasn’t necessarily led to a 50-plus home win guarantee.
Astros hit by pitch props
Books are also having some fun with the villain Astros. At the Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas, Bregman (+350), Carlos Correa (+400) and Altuve (+400) are given the highest odds of being the first Astros player to be hit by a pitch this season. Manfred has explicitly warned teams that repercussions will be strong if pitchers throw at the Astros, so there is a longshot market for a less central figure (Michael Brantley or Yordan Alvarez at +1600) getting hit by a pitch to make it look more accidental.
The Astros and betting market strategy
Right now, the public is wary of backing the Astros. Data from FanDuel Sportsbook indicates that just 0.25% of the total betting handle on the World Series Champion market has come in on the Astros. FanDuel reports that the largest bet on the Astros as outright champions is just $200, whereas the largest bet on a competitor is $9,000 on the Yankees.
Houston’s season win total prop opened at 98.5 on FanDuel but is now down to 94.5 due to action on the Under. More than 90% of handle is coming in on the Under thus far. The Astros have won 107, 103, and 101 games the past three seasons, so even some regression could still have them finishing Over this total. The Astros total is at a more neutral 96 at DraftKings Sportsbook (+100).
While opponents will come into every matchup with the Astros with sharpened intensity, Houston’s players should rise to that challenge, especially on the road. We’re seeing some market inefficiencies due to the expectation that other teams will find increased motivation, but a lack of consideration that the Astros will be even more motivated to prove that their success was not solely the product of cheating.
Taking Houston to win the World Series is still a longshot, but here’s the thing: with the public hammering other options and driving the market, there could be value in futures bets on the Astros if they keep dropping. We’d advise steering clear of subjective awards like the MVP and CY Young. However, if teams want to knock off the A.L. champs and exact their revenge, they’ll still have to score more runs than what should still be one of the best offenses in baseball.