- MLB suspended Astros manager AJ Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow for 2020 following the sign-stealing controversy
- Following the announcement, the Astros fired both men
- Sportsbooks still have Houston’s World Series odds at +600. Will the changes impact their chances?
Major League Baseball officially punished the Houston Astros on Monday for the sign-stealing controversy that dates back to their 2017 World Series-winning season.
The league fined the team $5-million, took away four total draft picks (first and second-rounders in 2020 and 2021), and suspended GM Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch for the entire 2020 season. The Astros fired both Luhnow and Hinch shortly after the announcement.
Now their legacies are tarnished and there are significant questions surrounding Houston’s 2020 World Series aspirations. But oddsmakers have not dinged the Astros in the MLB futures. Houston remains +600 at Bovada and in the 2020 World Series odds, second only to the Yankees,
2020 World Series Odds
|Team||2019 Record||Odds at Bovada|
|New York Yankees||103-59||+325|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||106-56||+600|
|Boston Red Sox||84-78||+1800|
|St. Louis Cardinals||91-71||+1800|
Odds taken Jan. 13th.
Jim Crane just fired Jeff Luhnow and AJ Hinch.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 13, 2020
As we discussed last week, this scandal and the ensuing punishments could have long-term implications. While there shouldn’t be too much movement among the National League teams, the AL market should re-adjust with this news.
Is There a Silver Lining for Houston Astros?
The best news possible for the Astros is that this won’t impact the players.
This from the New York Times:
While many players across the club benefited from the scheme, the punishment focused on the team’s leadership, with lengthy suspensions for Hinch and Luhnow.
Position players that avoided punishment include George Springer, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, and Yuli Gurriel. Those five accounted for 163 of the Astros 288 home runs in 2019, and 445 of their 891 RBI.
The Houston Astros will not vacate their 2017 World Series championship but that title will forever be tainted and saddled with an asterisk larger than the one tied to any player connected with steroids.
— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) January 13, 2020
Houston was an elite-level offensive team in 2019. They were top-three in most categories and were tops in OBP, OPS, and Slugging Percentage.
So while the Astros’ front office is starting over, at least the offense, defense, and pitching are intact.
What Do Houston Astros Lose in AJ Hinch?
Trying to figure out the impact of a manager is difficult. With such a deep and talented team like the Astros, and the ever-growing role of analytics, it’s easy to pin success on the players, ignoring the manager.
But in their power rankings last year, the Sporting News shone the light on the button pushers.
The Astros are a deep team, but Hinch has pushed all the right buttons […] and is just gutsy enough to not be afraid to experiment with the lineup and roster.His ability to manage by feel and stats is impeccable, and likely not able to be replicated by many around the sport.
The Big Lead also had Hinch atop its list in its early-season rankings last year, pointing to his ability as a strategist as what set him apart from the others.
Joe Espada to Take Over Houston Astros
While Hinch leaves big shoes to fill, the Astros, fortunately, have a prime candidate to take over: Joe Espada.
Source: Joe Espada expected to be named interim manager of the Astros during Hinch’s suspension. Espada has been Houston’s bench coach since the start of 2018.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) January 13, 2020
Don’t know who Espada is? Well he’s been the Astros’ bench coach since joining the team in 2018. That information is key, removing him from any residual punishment to do with 2017.
He was also a hot name on the managerial market this winter, but (luckily for Houston) went un-hired.
Where Houston Astros Fall in 2020 World Series Odds
With the roster largely intact (and motivated), there shouldn’t be too much fall off in production in 2020.
While Espada is untested as a manager, he’s been with Houston for two seasons and even coached a bit with the Yankees. He should be fine and is likely more than capable of leading Houston back to the postseason.
The odds become a wait-and-see, however. There’s no reason to expect a massive fall-off from the Astros on the field, but at this point it’s worth it to see if you can get them at a better price as the season gets closer.
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