The AL Central has a new top dog this year with the long-moribund Chicago White Sox the favorite to win their first division title in 13 years.
Also figuring to be in the mix is Minnesota, which has won the division the past two seasons, including last year by one game over Chicago and Cleveland.
Here’s an attempt to evaluate which Central teams have futures worth considering, with 2021 pennant/World Series MLB odds listed below (BetMGM doesn’t offer pennant info). Here are the sports betting numbers:
AL Central/World Series Odds DraftKings William Hill BetMGM Chicago White Sox +380/+850 +375/+1000 TBD/+900 Minnesota Twins +750/+2000 +750/+1800 TBD/+1800 Cleveland +2000/+4000 +2000/+4000 TBD/+4000 Kansas City Royals +5000/+10000 +5000/+10000 TBD/+10000 Detroit Tigers +6000/+10000 +6000/+10000 TBD/+10000
Chicago was steaming toward the division crown in 2020 before blowing a three-game lead the final eight days, to the dismay of many fans in Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana. That crash cost veteran field boss Rick Renteria his job despite being runner-up in the AL Manager of the Year voting and leading the ChiSox to a 35-25 record, their first winning season in eight years and best winning percentage (.583) since they won the Series in 2005.
Is 76-year-old Tony La Russa, who was fired as White Sox skipper in 1986, really the right man to take over? Is he why the odds are so low? After all, he hasn’t been in the dugout in 10 years. Will he be able to relate to his young, talented players? Will he be all-in with analytics?
Regardless, Chicago should win the division thanks in part to the best pitching staff in the division, which includes ace Lucas Giolito (1.06, 1.04 WHIP past two years) and ex-Astro Dallas Keuchel, who had a 1.99 ERA in eight starts last season.
The attack includes 2019 batting champ Tim Anderson and last year’s league MVP, Jose Abreu.
So, is Chicago a worthwhile futures bet to win the loop? No, baseball betting on futures isn’t fun at -125.
The Twins, who have the third shortest pennant/WS odds in the AL, just behind Chicago’s, are going to miss RHP Jake Odorizzi (15-7, 3.51 ERA in 2019), who signed with Houston in the offseason. Although Kenta Maeda remains the ace, he’ll need help.
At the plate, Minnesota set an MLB record with 307 homers in 2019, with several players having break-out years. But several then had break-down years in 2020, including catcher Mitch Garver and Byron Buxton. It’s unlikely the Twins will come close to returning to that heavy-hitting form.
Maybe if the Twins weren’t so lead-footed. They had the fewest stolen bases in the majors last season (14). To improve, they’ll need injury-prone Buxton to show up at more than half the team’s games.
As for Cleveland, blech!
Over the past two seasons they’ve seen three standout pitchers depart — two-time AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber (with NYY), virus-protocol defying Mike Clevinger (Padres, but out for 2021) and drone-flying Trevor Bauer, who won the NL Cy Young with Cincinnati last year before signing with the Dodgers. Last year’s AL Cy Young winner, Shane Bieber, won’t be enough to carry this team.
The Indians also saw powerhouse Gold Glove shortstop Francisco Lindor leave for the Yankees. And, speaking of breaking COVID protocol, that leaves third baseman Jose Ramirez as the sole remaining regular from the Indians’ last pennant-winning team, in 2016.
This season, Detroit hired ex-Astros skipper A.J. Hinch as manager, a year after he was fired in the wake of Houston’s sign-stealing scandal. But for the Tigers to be competitive it’s going to take a lot more than banging on trash cans.
Last season, the Tigers had the worst team ERA of any team in baseball the past 14 seasons, a year after Detroit hit the fewest homers in the American League. No quick fixes here.
KC also has its blemishes, but they don’t go as deep.
The Royals are indeed offensively challenged, but have commodities that can turn a club’s fortunes around — lots of speed and a pitching staff that reportedly is the deepest in team history.
The vote here is a futures wager on the Royals making a run at a wild card. And if they hit the pennant or Series jackpot, so will you.
A look at the AL West. Just catching up? Enjoy our AL East preview.