Athletics vs. Astros Odds
|Time||10:07 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Wednesday morning and via FanDuel.|
Opening Day will see the two favorites in the American League West square off in a battle of aces. Oddsmakers are having a tough time separating the Astros and A’s, so this could be a fun battle to cap off an exciting day of baseball.
FanGraphs projects the Houston Astros at 89.1 wins versus 83.8 for Oakland, but the two align relatively well for the West crown. Chris Bassitt put together a strong 2020 with a 2.29 ERA, while Zack Greinke was underwhelming, given his track record, but both of these soft-tossers tend to give batters plenty of issues. Both pitchers rely on their accuracy as they each sported a walk percentage below 7% in 2020, so expect to see the ball in play, even if it is not hit very hard.
Houston’s core anchors this lineup with seven solid hitters, but its outfield has depth issues, especially with Myles Straw, Garrett Stubbs and Abraham Toro sidelined. It’s likely that we’ll see either Michael Brantley or Yordan Alvarez start the year in left field and in that case, Houston does have an advantage with the bats.
Expect José Altuve and Alex Bregman to bounce back to provide the Houston lineup with a spark early, and if they can do so, this team is far better than most expect. Do not forget, the Astros beat both the Minnesota Twins and the A’s in the playoffs last year and took the Tampa Bay Rays to seven games before falling to them in the Championship Series. This team can hit, especially with strong performances from its top hitters.
Houston’s biggest flaw is its bullpen, and newly acquired Pedro Báez remains sidelined with COVID-19. Houston finished the 2020 season in the bottom-10 with a bullpen xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching) of 4.82, and its 5.03 BB/9 is a big reason why.
Yes, the Astros have plenty of young arms with good velocity, but given this unpredictable variable, it could cause issues early in the season. Missing Josh James and Framber Valdez adds to a list of notable injured players for the ‘Stros heading into the season.
The Oakland Athletics had one of the best bullpens in the league in 2020 (combined 2.72 ERA) and even with Liam Hendriks signing with the White Sox, the A’s were able to sign Trevor Rosenthal and Sergio Romo to piece together similar back-end production, while maintaining Jake Diekman and Yusmeiro Petit to fortify a strong closing group.
J.B. Wendelken is yet another name who put together a spectacular 2020 with the second-most innings pitched out of the bullpen behind Hendriks, so Oakland definitely carries the advantage with their hurlers, even if the starters struggle.
Replacing Marcus Semien with Elvis Andrus is a severe drop-off, but the rest of the Oakland lineup is still in tact. Mark Canha or Tony Kemp will start in left to make up the ground lost from Robbie Grossman heading to Detroit. Mitch Moreland is a welcomed addition to the squad after a 2020 slash-line of .266/.342/.551 to go along with 10 home runs in 42 games played. An improved outfield would mean the A’s have very few glaring weaknesses.
The starters for this contest are basically a wash with Greinke getting the slight veteran advantage. The same can be said of these rosters as a whole, as the Astros are a formidable bunch but the A’s are not far behind.
The addition of Moreland and Andrus with the loss of Semien, Grossman and Khris Davis is definitely a step back from the 2020 lineup, but if the A’s outfield can outperform relatively low expectations, they are in great shape to compete with Houston.
With the starting pitchers and lineups being pretty close to even I’m looking at Oakland’s bullpen to provide the edge on Thursday night. With that being the case, I like the A’s at close to even money and would play to -123.
Pick: Athletics -114 (play up to -123)