You hate the Houston Astros. I hate the Houston Astros. We all hate the Houston Astros.
But…there is no doubt that baseball fans everywhere will have their eyes on the Astros this season, and while most will be strongly rooting for their demise, almost just as many will take delight when a first-pitch fastball runs juuuuust a bit too far inside.*
*Except if it’s at the head–that’s still bullshit. No place for that.*
In the spirit of rooting for a fall from grace, William Hill is offering odds on how many times Astros hitters will take one for the team this season (you can sign up for William Hill and grab a free $150 bet right here).
The betting total opened at 83.5 batters, but that number has been quickly bet down to 81.5 after Major League Baseball warned against teams taking retaliatory measures against Houston this season.
At the current number of 81.5, Astros hitters must be plunked at least 0.51 times per game in order for the over to cash.
For the sake of comparison, four teams (Mets, Reds, A’s, Cubs) were hit at least 0.51 times per game a season ago, while the league average was 66.1.
As for the Astros hitters themselves, they were dinged 0.41 times per game during the 2019 regular season, 17th most in baseball.
How players choose to retaliate and the frequency with which they do so figures to be one of the more fascinating subplots of the season.
Historically speaking, athletes have stuck together in times of intense scrutiny, but various high-profile players have emerged in recent days to condemn the sign-stealing scandal that has rocked the sports world. Will those words lead to on-field action?
Phillies legend Larry Bowa, who is with the team in Clearwater this week, recently offered this opinion to The Inquirer’s Bob Brookover:
I’ll be shocked if some pitchers do not drill some of these guys this year. If that doesn’t happen, this game has really changed. I know it has changed, but somebody has got to take some hits. Hit them in the ribs, hit them in the leg, whatever you have to do, but let them know you’re ticked off about what happened. What are they going to do? They can’t do a [bleeping] thing. They should be embarrassed by it all. They need to come out and say, ‘You know what, we made a big-time mistake.’ The way they are handling it is brutal.
Truthfully, the game has changed, but the animosity in league circles over this scandal feels unprecedented–steroid era included–and it’s not hard to see why.
Beyond the 2017 World Series won by an outed cheater, statistics and individual performance, along with subsequent contracts were likely drastically altered by Houston’s systematic cheating.
What remains to be seen is if that animosity and the desire of retaliation lead to action. Will Major League Baseball follow through and instruct its umpires to use less tolerance when it comes to going inside on Astros hitters?
Will opposing pitchers even care?
I wouldn’t bet on it.