Improved starting pitching is behind Cleveland’s recent surge to the top of the AL Central standings, and baseball futures odds still peg the Indians as the best club in the division.
When we took a stroll through the NL Central last week, what we saw were tight standings from top to bottom instead of a division being dominated by one team as preseason MLB futures odds suggested. Skipping directly across to the AL Central this week, we’re seeing pretty much the same situation.
About the only difference between the two divisions is while the Chicago Cubs have yet to assume their spot on top of the NL Central, the Cleveland Indians are occupying the penthouse in the AL Central. Granted, Cleveland’s lead is a mere 2½ games (as of Friday) with the last-place Chicago White Sox only 7½ back. But the Indians are beginning to look like the team that was a -500 pick in March to win the division again.
Cleveland struggled through May a game under .500, but is beginning to put things together the past couple of weeks thanks to a very nice 7-1 road trip through Minnesota and Baltimore. Priced at +800 in March to win the Fall Classic after falling just short in 2016, the Indians are now fetching a +900 price to do so at BetOnline.
Starting Rotation Leading Recent Surge By Tribe
One facet of the game that served to push the Indians forward recently is pitching, especially the rotation. Cleveland hurlers allowed just 18 runs on the 8-game road trip, well below the staff’s 3.86 overall ERA that ranks third in the Junior Circuit. Corey Kluber has been pitching like a man possessed this month after missing most of May due to an injury. Carlos Carrasco has been getting it done all season with the Tribe 11-3 in his appearances and bettors following Cleveland on the MLB odds when he takes the mound putting more than 5 units of profit into their pockets. ‘Under’ bettors are also reaping rewards with 11 of Carrasco’s 14 starts failing to reach the totals.
We knew after having witnessed their performance in the playoffs last season that Cleveland relievers were going to be good. The bullpen hasn’t disappointed so far with a 2.57 ERA leading the majors and only three blown saves in 21 opportunities. The offense is a bit of a station-to-station act, but the Indians are fifth in the AL averaging 4.83 runs per game led by Jose Ramirez. Now, if they could just keep injury-prone Michael Brantley on the field.
Can KC Continue Recent Run Up The Standings?
Minnesota is closest to the Indians in the division standings, and the Twins deserve credit for defying the odds so far after being picked to battle the White Sox for the cellar. But chinks are beginning to appear in their armor, and the club posing the biggest threat to Cleveland at the top of the ranks is Kansas City.
The Royals suffered a tragic blow before the season started with the death of Yordano Ventura in an automobile wreck in his native Dominican Republic, and they came out of spring training flat to go 6-17 in April. Jason Vargas has picked up that slack and then some, transforming himself into a Cy Young contender, and Kansas City hopes to have presumed Danny Duffy back from the DL soon. The bullpen has been coming around and closer Kelvin Herrera seems to have hit his stride.
The offense is stymied by a few underperformers like Alcides Escobar and Alex Gordon, but there’s still plenty of punch from Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain. Kansas City is definitely a team to watch in between now and the All-Star break, and one bettors will want to add to their MLB picks to possibly upset the Indians in the end.