First-half MLB betting takeaways

The Chicago Cubs should improve in the season's second half. Andrew Hancock for ESPN

With a little more than half of the 2017 season in the books, we can analyze what has changed for a handful of teams and also take another crack at setting this October's playoff participants.

Here are five teams whose first-half results might give us clues into what to expect once the All-Star break ends, and provide important insights into MLB handicapping in general.

Note: Records and statistics are reflective of all games played through Sunday, July 9.

Houston Astros

Vegas projection: 89.5 wins
My projection: 92 wins
Current record/pace: 60-29 (109-win pace)

If I'm going to share some humiliation from my Giants projection below, I might as well do some chest thumping, too. Houston was my pick in the spring to win the 2017 World Series, and the Astros have done nothing so far to diminish that outlook. Currently in a dead heat with the Dodgers for the best record and run differential in the majors, the Astros, to my eye at least, have the higher true-talent level.