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The Houston Astros have had the American League West on lockdown for a bit. Sure, they didn't win the division in 2020, but that was only a 60-game season and for many other obvious reasons could be written off as an anomaly. They won the division in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022 and 2023. Yep, every full season since 2016. 

Last year, however, went down to the final day and they won the crown via tiebreaker. The Rangers and Astros both ended 90-72 while the Mariners were only two games back at 88-74. 

Will the Astros' reign at the top end this season? They head to Memorial Day weekend 22-28, 4.5 games out. The are actually closer to last place than first, as the A's are 21-31 and the Angels are 20-30. At the top, the Mariners have the worst record among the six division leaders in baseball, sitting only three games over .500 while the Rangers are in a huge funk right now, having lost 10 of their last 12 games. 

Who will win this thing? Our Mike Axisa looked at the division just days ago, so for the gamblers out there looking at the future's market, what team is the best play here? Let's break it down with a lot more attention given to the three teams that could actually win it. 

Seattle Mariners, 27-24 (-115)

The starting rotation has overall been among the best in baseball and it's probably sustainable. George Kirby and Luis Castillo are actually capable of better while Logan Gilbert isn't really doing anything that should lead us to believe he's about to get crushed with regression. Bryce Miller is good and Bryan Woo has been great in his three starts. The bullpen is fully capable of operating at a high level all year, too. 

The offense is concerning, of course. Fresh off the shutout loss Thursday, the Mariners have scored two runs in a game eight times, one run eight times and zero runs now twice. That's 18 out of 51 or 35% of the time they don't even get to three runs. They sit in the bottom third of the AL in runs, doubles, average, on-base percentage, slugging and OPS. They also lead the league in strikeouts and rank poorly in stolen bases. They do hit home runs, but you'd like to see offense generated in other ways. The best way to avoid slumps is to have a diverse offense, or the ability to score in many different ways. The Mariners seem to just wait for bombs. 

There's hope for a lift if Julio Rodríguez starts to hit for power while players like J.P. Crawford, Ty France and Jorge Polanco have been better in the recent past with batting average and OBP. 

There's also a trade deadline, so we'll see how aggressive Jerry Dipoto wants to be. The answer should be very, given that the window with this starting rotation won't be open forever. 

Texas Rangers, 24-27 (+375)

The 2023 Texas Rangers led the AL in hits, runs, walks, average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and obviously OPS. They slugged .452 as a team and clubbed 233 home runs. They had 10 players in double digits in home runs. 

The 2024 Rangers are not a juggernaut on offense. They still have plenty of great hitters and feel pretty scary, but the collective production just hasn't been where one would expect. Corey Seager certainly hasn't been bad, but he hasn't been the killer he was last year. Josh Jung was injured after just four games. Rookie Wyatt Langford wasn't hitting well and is now also hurt. Evan Carter has largely disappointed. 

As a team, the Rangers are slugging below. 400. 

The rotation wasn't too bad for a bit, but the injuries have caught up to them. Cody Bradford was hurt after three starts of excellent work. Nathan Eovaldi was throwing the ball well and he's on the injured list, joining Max Scherzer, Tyler Mahle and Jacob deGrom. Jon Gray has been amazing, but he was just placed on the injured list. 

Basically, it's a bit of a mess right now between injuries and underperformance. And yet, the Rangers are only three games under .500.  

We know the Rangers can get extremely hot and cold. Last August, they won 12 of 14, then lost eight in a row. After winning three of four, they lost seven of eight before winning six in a row but then losing four in a row. Then they got hot again. It was ridiculous. It's an easy sell in the clubhouse for a veteran, Hall of Fame manager in Bruce Bochy to weather this storm by saying "we've done this before." They have. 

Houston Astros, 22-28 (+195)

Of course, the aforementioned 2023 Rangers didn't win the division and these Astros have plenty of the same personnel from division-winning ballclubs. They are used to winning the division pretty much every year, so they also have an easy buy-in down in the clubhouse. 

Jose Altuve is great while Kyle Tucker is having an MVP season. Yordan Alvarez is better than this and surely Alex Bregman is going to get hot at some point, given his track record. Age 30 is too early for his regression phase. It's also possible Jeremy Peña is having his offensive breakout season. Basically, though the Astros rate well in most offensive categories, I think they're more likely to get even better than anything else. 

The bullpen is a bit thin, but Ryan Pressly and Josh Hader can't possibly be any worse than they were to start the season. 

A lot of the issues come down to the rotation. What's wrong with Framber Valdez? What was wrong with Cristian Javier in two of his last three starts? Is Justin Verlander understandably just mediocre now at age 41? Can they get more from J.P. France and/or Hunter Brown this season? When will José Urquidy and Lance McCullers Jr. be back and, whenever they return, how much will they help? 

It certainly seems like they have the personnel in the rotation to eventually get things figured out, especially if Ronel Blanco is truly having a breakout season.

The Astros did dig themselves a deep hole by starting the season 12-24. Of course, they've gone 10-4 since then and are right within striking range now.

Oakland Athletics, 21-31 (+10000)

We've gotta give props to the A's for pulling themselves up to .500 (17-17) after a 1-7 start. That was a hell of a run of baseball for this group to go 16-10. Since they hit .500, however, they've gone 4-14. They've shown enough fight to believe they'll easily top last season's win total of 50, but they are much more the bad stretches than the good and won't win this division. 

Los Angeles Angels, 20-30 (+4000)

They aren't that far out of it, but the Angels are absolutely not winning this division. We don't need to discuss it further, as the odds reflect reality. 

The pick: Astros +195

It feels like the Mariners and Rangers are going to regret going through some of their issues early in the season while the Astros were trying to bury themselves. 

I wouldn't be surprised one bit if the Mariners or Rangers take this division, but I'm fully on the Astros at plus money here.