MLB Predictions: AL Central Race Betting Odds and Picks
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 8/6/2010
Over the past decade the American League Central has been the easiest division to win in the AL in terms of how many wins have been needed to come out on top. But don’t try telling the White Sox, Twins or Tigers that it’s an easy division to win.
A one-game playoff was needed the last two years to determine the division winner and both of those games were one-run decisions including last year’s extra-inning game between the Twins and Tigers. Three of the last four years the division was won by a one-game margin.
Once again this year it looks like the race will not be determined before the final day of the regular season. The White Sox (62-46) hold a 1.5-game lead over Minnesota (61-48) and a nine-game lead over Detroit (53-55) through Thursday.
For AL Central betting odds, the White Sox are a slight favorite to win the division at -125 with the Twins at -111 and the long shot Tigers priced at +1600 on Sports Interaction.
Since mid-July Detroit has played a brutal schedule and Jim Leyland’s club did not fare well, basically falling out of the AL Central race. While they struggled against the major’s best, the White Sox and Twins were stringing together season-best winning streaks and making the AL Central a two-team race.
The Tigers, who were only 1.5 games back two weeks ago, are now nine games back. A four-game sweep at the hands of the lowly Indians pretty much put an end to Detroit’s hopes. The Tigers are actually closer to the Royals and Indians in the division than they are to the Chicago and Minnesota.
The White Sox have been winning at a feverish pace, but every time they turn around Minnesota is right behind them. The South Siders were hoping to put some distance between themselves and the Twins while Justin Morneau was out of the Minnesota lineup. But they have been unable to do that and Morneau is inching closer and closer to returning to the Twins and that will change the entire dynamics of the team and the division race.
Morneau has been out since July 7 when he sustained a concussion sliding into second base. Orlando Hudson has been out since July 24 with a right oblique strain and he is also set to return for Minnesota this week.
Those additions will obviously give Minnesota a huge boost, but this division race looks to come down to pitching and both rotations are pretty evenly matched. Freddy Garcia (10-4, 4.73 ERA), John Danks (11-8, 3.40 ERA), Gavin Floyd (7-8, 3.54 ERA) and Mark Buehrle (10-8, 4.05 ERA) have been rock solid all year for Chicago.
Kevin Slowey (10-5, 4.44 ERA), Francisco Liriano (10-7, 3.18 ERA), Carl Pavano (13-7, 3.32 ERA) and Scott Baker (9-9, 4.70 ERA) have been equally as consistent. The difference may come down to which team’s newcomer performs the best. The White Sox went out and acquired Edwin Jackson, he of no-hitter fame while he was in Arizona this year. Jackson went seven innings, allowing one run to pick up a win in his Chicago debut against Detroit.
The Twins improved from within by inserting Brian Duensing into the lineup. He has been the surprise of the year since joining the rotation, going 4-1 with a 2.10 ERA, giving Minnesota a huge upgrade over Nick Blackburn who was sent to the bullpen.
The bullpen is one area Minnesota has a clear advantage over Chicago. Jon Rauch has 21 saves and a 2.97 ERA for the Twins but they did not hesitate at the Trade Deadline and brought in All-Star Game winner Matt Capps, who already has a save and a win. Bobby Jenks blew his third save of the year Thursday against Detroit. He has a 5.13 ERA. A lack of depth has also consistently plagued the White Sox bullpen late in games.
Minnesota owns the season series, winning six of nine over Chicago including three in a row. The teams meet nine more times this year with Chicago having home-field advantage six times.
Even with six of the games being in Chicago and the 1.5-game lead the White Sox will have trouble holding off the surging defending AL Central champion Twins especially after Morneau returns. My MLB predictions state his division is Minnesota’s to lose.
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