Monday, February 22, 2016
Who's Got The Over In The Central?
Back in January, I outlined how I saw the AL Central taking shape. With the World Champion Kansas City Royals again pacing the group, it was a collection of five teams with no clear cut favorite. Now that the Las Vegas Superbook has unveiled it's over/under wins totals for each team, it's time to break down what makes sense in baseball's closest division.
Cleveland Indians 85.5
Yesterday (February 21, 2016) I offered up the following opinion on Twitter, "Despite being the favorite at multiple outlets, I have no faith in the Indians ability to win the AL Central in 2016." Hilariously, that tweet ended up going viral thanks to the Indians official account being a bit less than thrilled with my subtweet.
Regardless of the feelings coming from the club itself, I stand by that thought process. Cleveland's rotation is good, with an opportunity to be very good. The question is whether or not that offense can score enough runs. I don't see the Indians winning the central, and 86 wins may accomplish that. When it comes to Terry Francona's group, I'm taking a pass:
Kansas City Royals 83.5
Let's be clear, I've been down on the Royals for quite some time, and continued to be even after their World Series loss of 2014. That being said, the time in which I continue to scoff at Ned Yost's club has come and gone. Going into the 2016 season, Kansas City absolutely has to be the favorite to win the AL Central.
Sure, the Royals rotation is an absolute joke, and their offense is very likely going to take a step backwards. I don't believe in Lorenzo Cain being an MVP candidate for a second straight year, and while I'd love for Mike Moustakas to replicate his 2015, I think he more or less takes a slight step backwards. When the dust settles though, this club knows how to win, and they should do so more than 84 times.
Detroit Tigers 80.5
Laying some ground work here, I don't like the Tigers, and neither do the over/under numbers. 81 wins would constitute a .500 season, but would also be an increase of eight wins from where Detroit finished in 2015. For a team that is looking to stave off regression, it's a worthy cause that may not end up playing out.
The Tigers have plenty of questions coming into the 2016 season surrounding their current roster. What Justin Verlander is going to be available? Can Anibal Sanchez and Miguel Cabrera stay healthy? What kind of contributions will manager Brad Ausmus get (or need) from a relatively poor farm system? At the end of the day, the Tigers should be better than they were a year ago, but the eight win jump is probably a bit too rich for my taste.
Chicago White Sox 80.5
The White Sox are an interesting team to peg in 2016. They spent relatively heavily last offseason, and ended up falling flat. Totaling just 76 wins last season, there's no doubt manager Robin Ventura was hoping for significantly better. Improvement should be coming this season however.
Unlike the Tigers, the White Sox rotation is actually good, and has youth on its side. Chris Sale is among baseball's best pitchers, and having Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon behind him makes for a fearsome trio. The offense will continue to be formidable for Chicago, especially considering additions of Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie. If I'm taking a bottom of the division team to make a turnaround, it's the White Sox.
Minnesota Twins 79.5
In 2015, few teams in baseball were more lucky than Minnesota. With runners in scoring position, the Twins generated hits at a ridiculous pace. They found themselves coming up big in clutch situations far more often than not, and there's no doubt the win category thanked them for it. What's unfortunate about all of those facts is that they are unrepeatable from a conscious standpoint.
Looking at the Central as a whole, there's probably no team with a higher probability than the Twins to win it, or finish dead last. Minnesota is going to be able to pitch, and should have both an improved staff and pen from a season ago. The offense will be there, and should have a lot of pop, but there's going to be a ton of strikeouts. Paul Molitor's group will need things to go their way more often than not. It could happen, but it also very likely may not.