The only mystery here is whether or not the Detroit Tigers catch fire and pull away from the rest of the division, or simply play down to their competition and keep another team or two in the hunt like they did last year. Are they still worth your MLB picks?
Entering the 13th week of the schedule, the Tigers owned the third-best record in the American League, but held the No. 1 slot on updated MLB futures odds as both the AL favorites and thickest chalk to win the World Series. And to think they're carrying those odds having already blown through two closers.
Detroit was 1/3 to win the division and 7/2 to bring the AL pennant to Motown when we first broke down the AL Central in February, and has become a bigger favorite as we near the halfway mark. The latest futures have the Tigers at 13/4 for the AL crown and 6/1 to win the Fall Classic after beginning the year 8/1 in that column.
While Detroit is king of the AL futures odds crop, the rest of the division resides in the lower half of list. Cleveland, the Tigers' closest challenger in the AL Central, is ninth on the chart at 15/1 to win its first pennant since 1997 after starting the season carrying 45/1 odds. Kansas City, last appearing in the postseason in 1985, is a 20/1 selection to win the AL, followed by the Minnesota Twins (66/1) and Chicago White Sox (75/1).
Don't forget to check our NL Central odds update as well!
Miggy & Max Motown's Dynamic Duo
Coming off a Triple Crown performance in 2012, Miguel Cabrera is doing his best to carry the offensive load for the Tigers once again. Cabrera leads the majors in hitting and RBI, and began the week tied for third in the American League in homers. His effort has Detroit running neck-&-neck with Boston in the AL scoring department.
Justin Verlander was expected to lead the Detroit rotation, and the 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young winner is having a pretty good season. But it's Max Scherzer who has emerged as staff ace. The righty is unbeaten on his personal ledger with the Tigers 12-3 when he pitches, translating to a 6.1 unit return for baseball bettors.
The bullpen is the only eyesore for Detroit, and it remains to be seen if manager Jim Leyland can find one closer to stick with. Rookie Bruce Rondon spit the bit in his trial earlier this year, and Jose Valverde's return didn't work out well enough to earn his release recently. Rondon has pitched well in the minors since he was sent down, but for now Leyland is going to have to rely on Joaquin Benoit and Drew Smyly, unless the Tigers go shopping for a new reliever in a July trade.
Can The Tribe Catch Fire And Catch The Tigers?
You certainly can't argue with the results Terry Francona has delivered in his first year managing the Indians (30/1 to win WS). Cleveland was picked fourth in the division's MLB odds back in March when the Tribe was an 8/1 choice to win the division, and has returned about 7.5 units while staying in the race with Detroit.
Many expected 2013 to be a breakout year of sorts for Kansas City (40/1 to win WS), but it's looking like it will be a struggle for the club to just post its second winning season in two decades. Offense has been a big problem with several hitters not developing as hoped. It wouldn't take much to back a solid pitching corps that ranks first in the AL with a 3.52 ERA.
Minnesota (100/1 to win WS) was picked last in the division, and still may wind up there if the starting pitching doesn't improve. Twins starters rank at the bottom of the American League with a 5.23 ERA, and recorded just 26 quality starts in the first 72 contests. The bullpen leads the AL in ERA, but some of those arms are getting overworked due to the rotation's inability to last at least six innings per night.
Over on the South Side of Chicago, the White Sox (150/1 to win WS) simply can't score. The Pale Hose are the least patient lineup in the AL, drawing just 179 free passes in the first 73 games and only one regular is batting above .280 (Alex Rios). Expect the ChiSox to be sellers come the trade deadline, and for the offseason to include another roster mini-overhaul.