Minnesota Leading Way in Worst Division in Baseball
The American League Central is one of two divisions in baseball with one team having a winning record. There wasn’t much to separate the White Sox, Guardians and Twins in the odds to win the AL Central according to the MLB picks when the season began.
Cleveland is still within striking range of first-place Minnesota, but the White Sox are struggling to stay within 10 games of the Twins as no team is falling short of MLB predictions this season more than Chicago.
The Twins are the only one of the five teams in the AL Central to rank in the top 15 in the majors in team ERA and that has resulted with only one of the teams in the divisions with a winning record on the road.
Let’s take a look at how the five AL Central teams have fared as we hit the quarter pole in the MLB season.
- Record: 24-19
- Odds to win the division: -285
- Award candidates: Joe Ryan, Cy Young +1400; Sonny Gray, Cy Young +1600; Pablo Lopez, Cy Young +4000; Byron Buxton, MVP + 5000; Royce Lewis, Rookie of the Year +10000; Matt Wallner, Rookie of the Year +10000.
- Biggest surprise: Bailey Ober. The 6-foot-8 righty was 5-6 with a 3.82 ERA in 31 games in his first two seasons. He is 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA in his first four starts.
- Biggest disappointment: Carlos Correa. It was quite the offseason for the star shortstop as he had deals with two separate teams before issues with his physical ended those landing spots. He returned to Minnesota and is hitting just .201 after batting .291 with 47 extra-base hits in his first season with the Twins.
The starting pitching might be the best in all of baseball and yet the Twins are just five games over .500.
Minnesota’s starters have a 3.13 team ERA, the second-best mark in the majors. Ryan and Gray are listed by the Las Vegas odds among the top Cy Young candidates Lopez, acquired from Miami for reigning American League batting champion Luis Arraez, and Bailey Ober have been unhittable at times.
The bullpen has blown eight saves and is one of five American League teams with double digit losses from its non-starters.
Minnesota is 25th out of 30 MLB teams in team batting average. The Twins have pretty good power numbers to overcome the issues stringing hits together.
- Record: 19-21
- Odds to win the division: +1600
- Award candidates: Eduardo Rodriguez, Cy Young +2800; Joey Wentz, Rookie of the Year +10000.
- Biggest surprise: Alex Lange. When the Tigers traded closer Gregory Soto, it opened up the door for Lange. Lange had a 3.82 ERA while converting one of his eight save opportunities in his first two MLB seasons. He is 1-0 with a 1.06 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 17 innings. He is 7-for-8 on save opportunities.
- Biggest disappointment: Spencer Turnbull. Turnbull had a career-best 2.88 ERA in nine starts last season. In seven games this season, he is 1-4 with a 7.26 ERA as he allowed 37 hits in 31 innings.
Suddenly, there is some optimism in Detroit. It is unlikely that the Tigers will return to the postseason for the first time since 2014.
Detroit began the season losing 9 of the first 11 games. Since then, the Tigers are five games over .500.
The Detroit Tigers have a lockdown closer 🔒🔥
— Motor City Metrics (@mcmbaseballpod) May 14, 2023
This is being done despite not having one of the team’s most promising starting pitchers (Tarik Skubal) and young hitters Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene have been solid but still have not lived to their potential.
There’s not much in the way of power hitting. However, the bullpen is in the middle of the pack with a 3.83 ERA.
- Record: 19-22
- Odds to win the division: +275
- Award candidates: Tanner Bibee, Rookie of the Year +2500; Logan Allen, Rookie of the Year +3000; Shane Bieber, Cy Young +4000; Jose Ramirez, MVP +5000; Triston McKenzie, Cy Young +6000; Daniel Espino, Rookie of the Year +10000; Bo Naylor, Rookie of the Year +10000; Brayan Rocchio, Rookie of the Year +15000.
- Biggest surprise: Xzavion Curry. Curry had a 5.79 ERA with three strikeouts and six walks with two games as a rookie. So far this season, he has struck out 14 and walked five in 21⅓ innings to become a reliable arm coming out of the bullpen.
- Biggest disappointment: James Karinchak. Karinchak had a 2.08 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 39 innings during the 2022 season. He is still striking out quite a few batters (25 in 18⅔ innings). He has also walked 12 as his ERA has jumped to 4.82 while posting a 1-4 record.
The power numbers have fallen off as Cleveland went from having a .383 slugging percentage during the 2022 season to an MLB-worst .342 mark this season.
Josh Naylor has six of Cleveland’s 23 home runs and not even an American League-leading 42 stolen bases has made up for the lack of punch up and down the order.
Eight of the 11 batters with at least 50 at-bats are hitting under .240 and that is something to consider when looking at the live betting odds.
When Shane Bieber and closer Emmanuel Clase aren’t on the mound, the Guardians have had serious issues.
- Record: 15-28
- Odds to win the Division: +1600
- Award candidates: Dylan Cease, Cy Young +4000; Luis Robert Jr., MVP +7500; Oscar Colas, Rookie of the Year +8000; Lucas Giolito, Cy Young +8000; Tim Anderson, MVP +10000.
- Biggest surprise: Gregory Santos. Santos only pitched in five games, losing two of them, in his two seasons with the San Francisco Giants. In his first season with the White Sox, he is 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA with 22 strikeouts and five walks in 22 innings out of the bullpen.
- Biggest disappointment: Lance Lynn. Lynn was 19-13 with a 3.26 while making 49 starts in his first two seasons with the White Sox. He has slumped to a 2-5 record with a 6.66 ERA with 61 hits allowed in 51⅓ innings.
What a nightmarish start it has been for the White Sox.
The White Sox had an expected win total of 82.5 when the season began and at its current pace, they will likely be fortunate to hit 60 wins.
There are six hitters with batting averages over .250 led by outfielder Robert Jr. as he is on pace for a 40-homer season.
FOUR STRAIGHT GAMES! pic.twitter.com/pGsWrLmGJO
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) May 17, 2023
Even with those top hitters, the team batting average is under .240. Among the 19 pitchers called into action, 11 have ERAs over 5.00.
Cease, one of the top candidates according to the sportsbook in the Cy Young odds, is among the White Sox players underachieving.
The White Sox are 5-7 in one-run games or the record could be even worse.
- Record: 13-31
- Odds to win the division: +15000
- Award candidates: Brady Singer, Cy Young +7500; Vinnie Pasquantino, MVP +12500; Bobby Witt Jr., MVP +12500.
- Biggest surprise: Nolan Pratto. The 24-year-old outfielder hit .184 in 49 games as a rookie. His batting average has jumped to .328 with a .411 on-base percentage even though he has struck out 24 times in 19 games.
- Biggest disappointment: Singer. With a 10-5 record and an ERA of 3.23 in 27 games as a 25-year-old, Singer was viewed as one of the best young pitchers in baseball. He is just 3-4 with a 7.09 ERA so far in 2023. He has allowed at least five runs in five of his first nine starts this season.
If not for the presence of the Oakland Athletics in the American League, more attention would be paid to the struggles of the Royals.
Expectations were pretty low coming into the season with an expected win total of 68½. The Royals would need to win 48% of their remaining games to get to that mark.
The Royals have the lowest on-base percentage in the majors. Kansas City’s team ERA of 5.32 is 28th among 30 MLB teams. The Royals starters are 8-24 with a 5.65 ERA with the bullpen posting a 4.86 ERA and going 6-of-12 on save opportunities.
With Salvador Perez, Vinnie Pasquantino and Bobby Witt Jr., there are some good hitters to build around. However, there are plenty of holes in the lineup and the pitching staff is a mess.
All-AL Central team
Here’s a look at the best players in the division a quarter of the way through the season
- Starting pitcher: Gray, Minnesota Twins. Gray’s teammate Ryan could also get the nod here. Gray is 4-0 and his ERA of 1.29 is the best among the qualified pitchers. He has 56 strikeouts in 45⅓ innings and when looking at the MLB betting lines, he is among the Cy Young Award front-runners.
- Closer: Clase, Cleveland Guardians. Clase leads the majors with 14 saves His ERA of 2.95 could improve somewhat and he doesn’t strike out as many batters as some closers, still he gets the job done.
- Catcher: Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals. Perez is hitting .289 with 10 doubles and nine home runs with 25 RBIs as he continues to be one of the top catchers in the majors.
- First base: Pasquantino, Kansas City Royals. Pasquantino was one of the surprises in baseball in 2022 and he has followed that up in 2023 as he has 20 extra-base hits and he has more walks than strikeouts.
- Second base: Jorge Polanco, Minnesota Twins. Polanco didn’t make his season debut until April 21. Since then, he is hitting .283 with seven doubles, four home runs and 14 RBIs in 22 games.
- Shortstop: Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox. Anderson is another player who has missed some time. In 24 games, he is hitting .257 with five doubles, 13 runs scored and five stolen bases in 24 games.
- Third base: Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Guardians. Ramirez has hit 29 home runs or more a total of four times in six seasons. He has just four homers in the first 40 games this year. He is hitting .285 with 12 doubles, 21 runs, 22 RBIs and 21 walks.
- Left field: Steven Kwan, Cleveland Guardians. Kwan’s numbers have dropped from his rookie season when he was batting .298 with 19 stolen bases. Still, he is hitting .275 with nine stolen bases and 22 walks.
- Center field: Robert Jr., Chicago White Sox. Robert hit .338 during the 2021 season. His average dropped to .284 in 2022 and is at .274 so far in 2023. Still, he has 12 home runs, 23 extra-base hits and 28 RBIs in 42 games as he is already approaching his career-high in home runs.
- Right field: Gavin Sheets, Chicago White Sox. There’s not much to choose from. Sheets is hitting .250 with six home runs and 18 RBIs in 31 games.
- Designated hitter: Buxton, Minnesota Twins. Buxton is only hitting .234, but he has nine doubles and eight home runs to go with 27 runs and 20 RBIs.