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July 03, 2017

The Wall Street Journal’s excellent baseball columnist Jared Diamond has the scoop on an exceedingly rare feat that’s in play for the 2017 Astros: first in the league in home runs, and last in the league in strikeouts.

The home-run burst you could possibly see coming. Houston added three capable sluggers over the winter, bringing in Josh Reddick, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran in an attempt to bolster an already potent lineup. The rock-bottom strikeout ranking is something else altogether, though. As Diamond wrote, the Astros struck out more than any team in baseball from 2012 through 2016, and it wasn’t even close.

Jose Altuve’s recently found ability to hit a bunch of homers while maintaining the supernatural hand-eye coordination to avoid striking out and making the most of his tiny frame offers a great head start toward first-in-homers, last-in-Ks status. Thing is, Altuve’s not remotely alone. Cuban 33-year-old rookie Yuli Gurriel strikes out even less often than Altuve, and Gurriel’s next homer will raise him to double digits. Meanwhile, Houston already has six hitters with 10 or more home runs, including Jake Marisnick, a part-time player who’s been a beast when he does crack the lineup, and George Springer, the breakout center fielder who’s tied for second in the majors with 24 home runs.

There are worse strategies than building a roster that’s suddenly chock full of players with Joe DiMaggio’s skill set.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers (55–29, plus-153, LT: 2)

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