2012 MLB Predictions: AL Central Outlook and Betting Odds
by Robert Ferringo - 3/27/2012
On the one hand, the AL Central looks to be the worst division in baseball, mainly because three of the eight worst team ERAs in baseball last year rest within it.
On the other hand, at least the lack of quality pitching – outside of Detroit’s Justin Verlander – could make for some exciting, high-scoring games in what has become a pretty boring, low-scoring sport in the post-steroid era.
But even some softball scores won’t add any intrigue to this division, which features the most lopsided odds of any in the game. Detroit, by virtue of its 95 wins in 2011 and solid offseason, is the runaway favorite to earn back-to-back division titles for the franchise for the first time since 1934-35. And unless someone drastically exceeds expectations Detroit should take this one in a walk.
But then again, as wise man say: “That’s why they play the games.”
Here is Doc’s Sports 2012 American League Central MLB predictions with betting odds:
2011 Record: 95-67
2012 Wins Over/Under: 92.5
Odds To Win 2012 AL Central: 1-to-4
Odds To Win 2012 AL Pennant: 4-to-1
2012 Detroit Tigers Odds to win World Series: 8-to-1
Outlook: The outlook for Detroit is very, very good even though this team may not be better than the one that made the postseason in 2011. Yes, they added Prince Fielder. But they also lost guys like Victor Martinez, Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen and Wilson Betemit.
The key pickup was obviously Fielder, who will pair with Miguel Cabrera to give the Tigers a lethal middle of the order. I think that Delmon Young is very underrated in this lineup and other proven hitters like Ryan Raburn, Brandon Inge, Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila will give strong support. Austin Jackson needs to have a good season at the top of the order for this team to reach its potential. One major problem, however, is that this team has sold out for a power lineup while sacrificing defense. They may be one of the worst fielding teams in the league.
Justin Verlander is a hero and the defending Cy Young and MVP will be hard-pressed to repeat last year’s incredible stats. He may need to. Because as good as guys like Doug Fister and Max Scherzer were last year I, for one, am not 100 percent sold that these guys can repeat the feat. Their back end is a little suspect as well, with shaky Rick Porcello and an unknown fifth starter.
Jose Valverde was dominating last year, going 49-for-49 in save opportunities. But there is no way that he will pull that off again. But he does have the benefit of an excellent bunch of setup men led by Joaquin Benoit and Dan Schlereth.
The more I think about this Tigers team the less I like it. They vastly overachieved last year – their plus-7 wins against their Pythagorean Wins number was the highest in the Majors – and they lost some key veterans. I have questions about their defense and pitching. But even if this team backslides a bit they are still so much better than the rest of the division that I have a hard time thinking they won’t make the playoffs.
Chicago White Sox
2011 Record: 79-83
2012 Wins Over/Under: 75.5
Odds To Win 2012 AL Central: 12-to-1
Odds To Win 2012 AL Pennant: 35-to-1
2012 Chicago White Sox Odds To Win World Series: 65-to-1
Outlook: It’s not surprising that you haven’t heard much about the White Sox this year. Now that Ozzie Guillen has moved to Miami his locker room will become a lot more docile. Whether or not that will translate into more or less wins remains to be seen.
Chicago’s season will all come down to how new manager Robin Ventura’s pitching staff can come together. Jake Peavy isn’t going to stay healthy or effective, so let’s just get that out of the way. But John Danks and Gavin Floyd have been occasionally excellent second-tier arms. Can they step up? Phil Humber has shown some electric stuff but is he going to step forward? Can Chris Sale carve a niche in the rotation? Can this group stay healthy? Lot of potential. But its potential is only exceeded by its uncertainty.
The bullpen isn’t in much better shape. They don’t have a closer. They do have some talented setup men that can form the backbone of a decent pen. But they could head into the season with three rookie relievers, and if they don’t settle on a closer then things could get very shaky in a hurry.
Their lineup is a lot like the rest of the team: plenty of potential and a whole lot of question marks. Will Adam Dunn be as bad as he was last year? Will Alex Rios ever get it together? Will Alexi Ramirez and Gordon Beckham keep trending downward? Was Al De Aza’s performance last year a mirage? They have Paul Konerko to lean on. But he can’t do it all himself.
There is definitely a competitive baseball team somewhere in this roster. But for that to happen the White Sox need a lot of things to break their way. The potential is definitely there for a much stronger lineup and a quality starting staff. But they have a lot of guys with injury histories and several, like Rios, Dunn, and Peavy, that they are running out of patience with. This team is a major X-Factor in the Central.
2011 Record: 80-82
2012 Wins Over/Under: 78.5
Odds To Win 2012 AL Central: 10-to-1
Odds To Win 2012 AL Pennant: 28-to-1
2012 Cleveland Indians Odds To Win World Series: 60-to-1
Outlook: The Indians got off to a torrid start last year, posting the highest April win total (19) in club history. They began the year 30-15 and everything was clicking. But then reality hit and the Indians won just 42.7 percent of the rest of their games and completely nosedived.
The starting rotation can only get better, right? They were No. 23 in the league in starter ERA last season (4.51), but I can’t say I see anything that has vastly improved on this group. Ubaldo Jiminez looks like a one-year wonder and he was completely lost after coming over from Colorado. He has been atrocious this spring. And outside of Justin Masterson (3.21) I don’t see a single starter on this roster that I would feel comfortable backing. Maybe that’s because no one else posted an ERA lower than 4.25 in 2011.
The bullpen was a strength – relative to the starters – last season. They don’t boast the same depth in the bullpen this year. But closer Chris Perez is looking to build on a strong year and their four best setup men – Vinnie Pestano, Tony Sipp, Rafael Perez and Joe Smith – are back and ready to roll. This group should be solid. But if they don’t get help from some of the starters they will be burnt out by July.
The biggest issue with this lineup is its lack of top-end talent. Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo are two very-good-but-not-great players. But they are surrounded by a bunch of replacement-level guys like Shelly Duncan, Casey Kotchman and Jason Kipnis. Young Carlos Santana hit 27 home runs but batted just .239. And I’m already accounting for the obligatory Travis Hafner injury that will derail their offense. They are unsettled in left field and at third base and that just shows me that this team lacks depth and overall talent.
I am not projecting good things for the Indians. I think that their starting pitching is a disaster waiting to happen and I don’t think that they have the bats to make up for it. I feel like they played over their heads while finishing in second place last year and I won’t be surprised if they are fighting to stay out of the basement late in the summer.
Kansas City Royals
2011 Record: 71-91
2012 Wins Over/Under: 78.5
Odds To Win 2012 AL Central: 12-to-1
Odds To Win 2012 AL Pennant: 40-to-1
2012 Kansas City Royals Odds To Win World Series: 80-to-1
Outlook: These guys are like the Pittsburgh Pirates of the American League. Not only are those two of the worst franchises in baseball over the last 20 years, but both teams seem to be entering 2012 with a lot of hype based almost solely on the fact that they weren’t completely pathetic last year. And just like with Pittsburgh in the NL, I’m not buying into the Royals.
Yes, this team is finally reaping some of the rewards of what has been a stocked minor league system over the last several years. Alex Gordon may have finally figured it out and Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler are coming off excellent seasons. But that’s not enough to stay competitive for 162 games. And they are still just crossing their fingers and hoping that other young players like Alcides Escobar, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain can take the same steps forward that guys like Gordon and Hosmer have. That’s a big question. And if they don’t then these young, not-ready-for-primetime players will just pull this team down.
There is also nothing about the Kansas City starting pitching staff that strikes fear into opposing batters. If they are expecting Bruce Chen (12-8, 3.77) to follow up last year’s solid season they are going to be severely disappointed. And other arms like Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino have already done enough to show me that they are long relievers at best. Instead those three will join Luke Hochevar (11-11, 4.68) to form the core of the rotation. Not good. Not good at all.
While the starting pitching staff had the second-worst ERA in baseball, the relievers – despite being overworked – were competent. They have lost closer Joakim Soria for the season. But he was mediocre at best last year. And young bucks like Aaron Crow and Greg Holland look like they may be ready to step up and take care of business.
The Royals have some decent parts. But they are still relying on a lot of fringe Major Leaguers to play major roles on this team. And the bottom line is that they have too many holes and the overall talent on this roster isn’t close to the mid-level and top-tier teams in the AL.
2011 Record: 63-99
2012 Wins Over/Under: 72.5
Odds To Win 2012 AL Central: 16-to-1
Odds To Win 2012 AL Pennant: 40-to-1
2012 Minnesota Twins Odds To Win World Series: 75-to-1
Outlook: There is the bottom falling out and then there is what happened to Minnesota last year.
The Twins have been one of the best organizations in baseball in this young century, winning 83 or more games nine times in 10 years from 2001-2010, 90 or more five times, and making six trips to the playoffs despite a shoestring payroll. But last year Minnesota bumbled its way to 99 losses and was a complete and utter disaster just one season after winning 94 games and the division.
The Twins have completely overhauled the roster, cutting ties with core guys like Mike Cuddyer, Delmon Young and Jason Kubel. I can’t say that it makes this team much better heading into the year. They are still praying that Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau can stay healthy and lead this rabble. But even if the M&M boys can hold it together – no sure thing – I don’t think there is enough around them to elevate the Twins back to the top of this division. That is, unless guys like Ben Revere, Danny Valencia and Alexi Casilla are A LOT better than they showed last year.
Minnesota always seemed to just find quality starting pitching. But there is just no way to get excited about a rotation that is being led by Carl Pavano (9-13, 4.30), Francisco Liriano (9-10, 5.09) and Nick Blackburn (7-10, 4.49). These guys just aren’t any good. And they don’t show signs of getting any better.
The bullpen had the worst ERA in baseball last season. And they didn’t really make any changes to beef it up in the offseason. Matt Capps is still the nominal closer and failed starters Glen Perkins, Anthony Swarzak and Brian Duensing are his setup men. I don’t see this as a recipe for success.
I am a big believer in Ron Gardenhire’s system. And this team has been too good for too long to just fall of the map. But where is the talent on this team? They are putting way too much faith in Mauer and Morneau, but what choice do they really have? When one (or both) of them go down again this team will sink like a stone in the standings. And even if they stay healthy I don’t think they have the pitching for a .500 finish.
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