by DS Williamson

The defenders of the World Series Championship now offer +450 odds to pull off the repeat this fall. The Houston Astros began the MLB Season as a +800 favorite, and have been consistently at the top of the contenders crop, but recent concerns should have Astros backers worried.

Houston’s no lock to repeat. Heck, the Astros might not win the AL West. They might not even make it to the AL Wildcard Game. Not only are they struggling, the teams behind them are starting to show some spicy mustard late in the season.

Oakland A’s are Hot
Oakland beat Houston in a 3-game series over the weekend. Before taking down the Astros, Oakland went 4-1 SU with two wins against the L.A. Angels and two wins against the Seattle Mariners. As of today, the Astros are tied with Oakland at the top of the division, but they’re going to be difficult to ward off.

In the second half of the season, no team has been as hot as the Oakland Athletics. They’ve gone 19-8 SU. There are two reasons for the turnaround: a strong offense and the best bullpen in baseball.

We’re not in September and left-fielder Khris Davis has hit 36 home runs and batted in 98 runs. Third baseman Matt Chapman has a .363 on-base percentage. Short-stop Marcus Semien has 130 hits. Seven players on the Athletics have hit double-digits in home runs.

The bullpen’s been ridiculous. Closer Blake Treinen has a .89 ERA. His WHIP is .98. He has 32 saves. The A’s traded for Jeurys Familia. He’s another closer. Oakland has used Familia to set up Treinen.

The Oakland Athletics aren’t just a feel-good story either. They’re a legitimate threat for the 2018 World Series Championship, boasting +1600 odds that are starting to gain some traction in the book.

Houston Astros Cold
While the Athletics have been scorching in the second half, the Astros have been shivering cold in the second half. Houston has suffered two separate 5-game losing streaks in the second half. From July 25 through July 30, they lost to Colorado once, they lost 3 games in a row to Texas, and then they dropped a game to Seattle. From August 9 to August 14, they lost 4 straight to Seattle and they dropped a game to Colorado. Houston is also mired in a 3-7 SU streak over their last 10 games.

In other words, Houston’s not playing well. Often, managers can pinpoint why their team loses. But, for the Astros, there’s not much reason why they’re losing. Houston’s starters have a collective 3.10 ERA. The top-3 starters – Justin Verlander, Gerritt Cole, and Charlie Morton – all have sub-3.00 ERAs. The bullpen remains the top statistically in MLB. Most MLB teams would kill for a BP with a 3.07 ERA.

Hitting might be the issue. Houston ranks 9thin hitting, though, with a 2.54 team batting average.  The Astros have hit 161 home runs. They’ve struck out 951 times. Neither stat points to a problem. The Astros continue to lose for no apparent reason.

Maybe, there isn’t a reason. No team has repeated as World Series Champions since the New York Yankees won three straight from 1998 to 2000. The reason Houston continues to lose could be because the Baseball Gods don’t believe they’re worthy enough to repeat.

The Astros are in real danger of not even making the MLB Playoffs. What Houston must do is work on winning games. Only then can they even consider how to repeat as World Series Champions.

2018 World Series Champion Odds at BetAmerica
Boston Red Sox +300
Houston Astros +450
NY Yankees +650
LA Dodgers +750
Cleveland Indians +800
Chicago Cubs +900
Oakland Athletics +1600
Milwaukee Brewers +2000
Colorado Rockies +2000
Atlanta Braves +2000
Philadelphia Phillies +2000
Seattle Mariners +4000