houston astros Jun 13, 2018; Oakland, CA, USA; Houston Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis (11) celebrates with shortstop Carlos Correa (1) after scoring against the Oakland Athletics in the second inning at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Is it possible for a defending World Series champion with a .658 winning percentage to be underrated?

Maybe it’s not. Maybe everyone in America realizes just how good the Houston Astros are. How despite flashy starts from some other teams, they’re still very much the best team in baseball, just as they were in October and just as they were assumed to be entering the season.

And yet amid much fuss over the Yankees and Red Sox and even the surprising Mariners, it seems as though Houston’s play has gone somehow under the radar. After beating the Royals 7-4 in Kansas City on Sunday, the Astros concluded a remarkable 10-0 road trip, extending their winning streak to 11 games, one short of a franchise record. Although they possess merely the third best record in baseball (behind Boston and New York), they own the league’s best run differential (+157), which gives them a pythagorean expectancy of 52-20, best in baseball. Their 49-23 BaseRuns expectancy also tops the sport.

In other words, they are who we thought they were, and that means they’re close to unbeatable.

But it gets even better for the Astros when you check out their schedule. Over their first 63 games, they played 33 contests against teams currently over .500 (Yankees, Red Sox, Mariners, Indians, Angels, Diamondbacks). After surviving and thriving during that stretch, they’re now 10 games into 36 straight against teams currently under .500. They won’t play another playoff contender until July 20, after the All-Star break, when they visit Anaheim. They won’t play another team currently in playoff position until they face the Mariners in the final days of July. The AL West standings are tight now, but they might not be by then.

It’s simply hard to find weaknesses on this team. The Astros lead baseball in runs scored and wOBA. They also lead baseball in runs allowed (in the good way), ERA and FIP. Even their sometimes-maligned bullpen ranks among the most valuable in the league. Not only do they have stars like Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, George Springer, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, they also have a resoundingly solid supporting cast led by Alex Bregman, Dallas Keuchel, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers. Catcher looked like a potential weak spot… and then Max Stassi emerged. Designated hitter seemed to be a hole… until Evan Gattis started hitting. Closer remains a question mark, but with a whopping six relievers boasting sub-3.00 FIPs, that situation should work itself out soon.

In other words, the American League should be very, very scared. The Astros have hit their stride, turning an impressive run differential into an impressive winning streak, and they can now feast on an easy schedule for more than a month, with a roster that appears as stacked as ever. Baseball, particularly in October, can’t be predicted, so we won’t dare proclaim that a Houston repeat is anywhere near inevitable. But Houston’s last 10 games showed beyond any doubt who the favorite moving forward should be.

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports, MLB.com, SI.com and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.