Coming into the season, the AL Central was supposed to be the most competitive in baseball according to the betting odds, yet no American League division is less competitive in the junior circuit.
The expanse off 11 games from first place to last place in the AL is the largest among the three divisions and with Kansas City the defending league champions and having the second-best run differential in the AL, at this time it appears everyone else is playing for the wild card.
Does anyone have a realistic chance to make it interesting in this division the rest of the way with the Royals Alex Gordon on the sidelines? Let's examine who might have a chance to beat the MLB odds and get off to a quick start and become a factor.
Kansas City (52-34, +16.5 units)
Since their 7-0, the Royals have been the best team in the AL. The K.C. offense runs a little hot and cold for team with such a record and their starting pitching would hardly be considered dominant, yet with a tremendous bullpen and a bunch of players fully believing they should every day, this squad thrives. There are even few questions anymore about Ned Yost as manager, as he has - old school - qualities in which he just let's his players do their best when they are going well. Kansas City destroys right-handed starters (37-19 record), but they will be tested right after the break. The Royals are at the White Sox, home to Pittsburgh and Houston before venturing out to Cleveland, Toronto and Detroit. Nonetheless, baseball handicappers and those placing MLB picks have to really like this club.
Minnesota (49-40, +17.5)
In the world of make believe in which the season just ended, the Twins would be hosting a wild card game. Despite having the second-best record in the AL and presumed to not even be a factor in the AL Central, Minnesota has thrived. Sportsbooks have not doled out much respect towards the Twins, making them favorites only 14 times all season, but who saw this coming versus the MLB odds? Manager Paul Molitor has a team that is not great at anything but above average in all categories and instilled the importance of having a home field edge and Minny is 31-16 (+17.6 units) at Target Field. Can the Twinkies maintain this pace? We will find out immediately with a West Coast trip to Oakland and Anaheim and homestand with Yankees, Pittsburgh and Seattle. Bet against Minnesota as underdogs, not advisable for MLB picks right now!
Detroit (44-44, -2.2)
In the spring the thought was the Tigers had run their course and regress and that is precisely what has happened. The Detroit starting pitchers are 14th in ERA and that is with David Price. The bullpen ERA has been rising and the Tigers pensters are 13th in the AL. The offense is capable of carrying this team but without pitching, Detroit is really going nowhere. From July 17th to Aug. 2nd, the Tigers can make a statement with home and home series with the Orioles, plus Seattle, at Boston and at Tampa Bay. But if you are using Wagerweb for wagering, don't go overboard on Detroit.
Cleveland (42-46, -14.4)
The Indians had climbed to within two games of .500 and with having two of their top three starters at home against Oakland right before the All-Star shutdown, Cleveland had a chance to thrust themselves back in the wild card chase. But a pair of defeats means Terry Francona's club has to start over with a winning streak just to level their record. Cleveland's pitching has been mildly inconsistent, but the offense is devoid of power, ranked 13th in AL home runs and next to last in total bases. The Tribe has played better in the second half the past two years and this only occurs if the offense scores more runs. Facing in-state rival Cincinnati, Milwaukee and the White Sox sets the table for a quick getaway.
Chicago (41-45, -4.6)
Who are the White Sox? Are they the boring team that almost never had a big inning for three months or the squad that has won nine of 12 to get within shouting distance of .500? With the poorest run differential in the AL, hard to become excited to think Chicago has turned a corner. Even in this winning stretch, only three times did the offensively-starved Pale Hose score more than four runs. Also, the White Sox second half start begins with home series only against Kansas City and St. Louis, followed by a road trip to Cleveland and Boston, before returning home to take on the Bronx Bombers. Not much light at the end of this tunnel.