Who is the betting favorite to win the American League Central this season? The oddsmakers are in agreement: it’s the Cleveland Guardians. They have the best preseason odds and the highest predicted win total among the division’s five teams.
Here are DraftKings Ohio’s AL Central projected win totals and division odds: Guardians 86.5 wins, +135; Chicago White Sox 83.5 wins, +195; Minnesota Twins 82.5 wins, +280; Detroit Tigers 70.5 wins, +2000; Kansas City Royals 69.5 wins, +3500. If the oddsmakers are correct, it looks like it’ll be a three-team race for the division title between the Guardians, White Sox, and Twins, and a two-team battle to stay out of the basement between the Tigers and Royals.
The Guardians may have been the surprise team in all of baseball last season. Everybody (including the oddsmakers) was handing the title to the White Sox before the season. But while the White Sox under-achieved, the Guardians over-achieved in their first season with their new name. The Guardians finished 92-70. They beat their projected win total by 16.5 victories and finished 11 games in front of the second-place White Sox, who finished 81-81.
The Guardians’ run total (698) was tops in the division, and so was their runs allowed total (634). That +64 run differential was fifth overall in the AL, but the Guardians did not compare well to the other division winners in the majors. Their 698 runs were 39 fewer than any other division winner, and they finished second-to-last in the majors in home runs with 127. Only the Tigers (110) had fewer round-trippers.
For whom the Bell tolls
Cleveland added first baseman Josh Bell in the off-season to increase its power output. He clubbed 37 homers in 2019 and 27 homers in 2021 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he had just 17 knocks in 156 games last season with the Washington Nationals and San Diego Padres. Bell probably will hit cleanup behind Steven Kwan, Amed Rosario, and Jose Ramirez.
Another key-offseason acquisition for the Guardians was catcher Mike Zunino, who caught just 36 games last year for the Tampa Bay Rays. His last game before undergoing surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome was June 9. He appears to be healthy. Most players who undergo TOC surgery are pitchers and usually in their dominant arm. In Zunino’s case, he’s neither a pitcher nor is his left arm the dominant one. Cleveland’s 2022 catching duo of Austin Hedges and Luke Maile is gone and off to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, respectively.
Only the Tigers
The Guardians won’t dive into the AL Central pool much in the early part of the season as the majors go to a schedule in which each team will play every other team in at least one series. None of the Guardians’ first five series are against an AL Central team, and they’ll face only one division foe (Detroit) before May. In March and April, Cleveland will play the Seattle Mariners, Oakland Athletics, New York Yankees, Nationals, Tigers, Miami Marlins, Colorado Rockies, and Boston Red Sox.
While the Guardians are the favorites to win the AL Central, the oddsmakers aren’t giving them much of a chance to win the World Series. Cleveland is a +2300 longshot, according to DraftKings Ohio.
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