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# Can the Minnesota Twins Win the American League?

## The Landscape of the AL Central

During the shortened 2020 MLB season, The Minnesota Twins won the AL Central with a 36-24 record. The Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians were not far behind as they both tied for second place with a 35-25. The Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers both had a losing record and were out of the division championship picture.

Over the course of a 162-game season, the Twins would have won 97.2 games and the White Sox and Indians would have won 94.5 games in 2020. For the 2021 season, the White Sox are the betting favorites to win the AL Central. The question for the 2021 season is if the Minnesota Twins can win the AL Central again and maybe even the AL Championship.

## Methodology for Simulating The 2021 MLB Season

My MLB betting model is based on the Bill James Pythagorean theorem which states that a team’s winning percentage is equivalent to their runs scored to the 1.81 power divided by runs scored to the 1.81 power and runs allowed to the 1.81 power. For my model I take each player on a team and I determine how many runs they either allow or score based on hitting, fielding, and pitching. After I come up with a theoretical winning percentage for each team, I think simulate their chances of winning based on their schedule and adjust their win total number.

After I come up with a win total number for all 30 MLB teams, I then run a Monte Carlo model to simulate the MLB season 10,000 times. After running my Monte Carlo model, I can put a number on a team’s chance of winning a specific number of games and their division.

Based on my AL Central win total projections, it would make no sense for me to take a side on the Minnesota Twins win total which is set at 88.5 wins. According to my projections the Twins are the best team in the AL Central based off their offense which is projected to score the most runs in the division. While their pitching and fielding is relatively decent as they are expected to allow the 2nd fewest runs in the division, it is the Twins offense that sets them apart.

The Twins offense is led by 40-year-old designated hitter Nelson Cruz, 3rd baseman Josh Donaldson, 1st Baseman Miguel Sano, and centerfielder Max Kepler. Last year the Twins underperformed offensively as they averaged only 4.48 runs per game when the average team scored 4.65 runs per game. My model which is based off Baseball Prospectus PECOTA projections assumes that the Twins will bounce back.

While it is clear that the Twins win total is efficiently set, the Chicago White Sox who are not as good as the Twins according to my model should have a win total of 85 wins rather than their 90.5 win total number at BetOnline. The White Sox lineup which averaged the second-most runs in the American League last year are projected to scored only 5% more runs per game than the average league lineup this season. That is why in my opinion the best way to bet on the Twins in the win total market is to bet against the White Sox win total and both teams will play each other 19 times. Even at -130 odds, the juice is worth the squeeze on betting on the White Sox winning fewer than 90.5 wins.

MLB pick:

Based on my model’s 10,000 simulations of the season, the Minnesota Twins won the AL Central 41.7% of the time for the 2021 MLB season. Currently the Twins are +145 underdogs which would equate to a breakeven percentage of the Twins having to win the AL Central 40.8% of the time to breakeven on your bet. Additionally, PECOTA is more bullish on the Twins than I am as their model gives them a 65.2% chance of winning the AL Central. Based on my model giving a slight edge of 0.9% and PECOTA giving a much larger edge, I recommend a small wager on the Twins winning the AL Central.

While the rebuilding Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers won the AL Central in only 2.9% of my simulations, the Cleveland Baseball Team won the AL Central 28.6% of the time. While my model is more bullish on Cleveland’s chances than PECOTA’s projection of 21.2%, both of our models are much more optimistic than the betting odds of +900 (10% breakeven odds). I believe that Cleveland’s baseball team has a plausible chance of winning the AL Central based on Minnesota and Chicago potentially cannibalizing each other.

In my opinion, Cleveland is not far off both Minnesota and Chicago even though they have lost many of their best players over the last two years (Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Francisco Lindor, and Trevor Bauer). What keeps Cleveland competitive in the AL Central is that I project their pitching staff to allow the fewest runs in their division this season. That is why I am betting on Cleveland in addition to Minnesota winning the division even though only one of those teams can win. According to my model, the AL Central is either won by Minnesota or Cleveland in 70.3% of my simulations.

MLB picks:

MLB picks:

MLB picks:

While I like the Twins this season especially in comparison to the White Sox, I do not believe that they are a good bet to win the American League Championship this season. The best reason to avoid betting on the Twins winning the AL is that there is such a large house advantage on the AL Championship market that it is not worth betting into unless you have a large edge. The other reason is because even my model which likes the Twins to win the division finds that there is a virtually no value on betting on the Twins to win the AL.

Even though the Twins are priced as +900 underdogs (10% breakeven odds) to win the American League, my model gives them a 10.4% chance which represents only a 0.4% edge. Bettors are much better off betting against the White Sox in the win total market and for the Twins in the divisional market.