If you were betting the American League Central last season, we feel sorry for you. Only one AL Central squad turned a profit – Chicago +2.28 units – while the other four teams combined for -46.39 units on the year.
Among that group of money burners was the American League Champion Detroit Tigers, who look to be the runaway favorite to win the division this season. Can one of the other AL Central members rise to the challenge?
Chicago White Sox (2012: 85-77 – +2.28 units, 72-84-6 over/under)
Division odds: +650
Season win total: 81
Why bet the White Sox: The rotation is a strength with Chris Sale, Jake Peavy, and Jose Quintana atop the list. The bullpen mixes youth and veterans with Addison Reed closing and Matt Thornton bridging the gap. Paul Konerko was having a spectacular season before wrist surgery last year. This team has the pitching to win low scoring games.
Why not bet the White Sox: This is an inconsistent lineup that is filled with age. Jeff Keppinger, Alex Rios, and Adam Dunn are sliding towards the end of their career. Gavin Floyd and John Danks were below average last year and the team is counting on them for victories in the rotation. Can Sale and Quintana continue their success in their second year as starters?
Season win total pick: Under 81
Cleveland Indians (2012: 68-94 - -20.39 units, 78-77-7 over/under)
Division odds: +1,000
Season win total: 77.5
Why bet the Indians: A busy offseason led to upgrades for a mediocre lineup. Michael Bourn will set the table for Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana. The additions of Mark Reynolds and Nick Swisher were also good for this team. If Brett Myers can return to being a starter with no problems, their rotation should be improved, especially if Justin Masterson can figure things out on the road.
Why not bet the Indians: Zach McAllister and Trevor Bauer at the back end of the pitching rotation are question marks, along with Masterson who allowed six or more earned runs in eight starts last season. Reynolds hit just three home runs off left-handed pitching and is prone to striking out. Can Yan Gomes, Drew Stubbs and Michael Brantley be a solid outfield if called upon?
Season win total pick: Over 77.5
Detroit Tigers (2012: 88-74 - -10.74 units, 67-86-9 over/under)
Division odds: -250
Season win total: 92.5
Why bet the Tigers: Justin Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball and is seemingly only getting better. Victor Martinez is back to join a lineup that is packed with power. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are jumping for joy as they now have even more protection. The addition of Torii Hunter will be a good presence in the clubhouse for a team that almost made it to the top last year.
Why not bet the Tigers: The bullpen is a mess again and this team is searching for a closer. They previously thought Bruce Rendon was going to do it, but now they’re searching elsewhere. Octavio Dotel and Phil Coke are inconsistent out of the bullpen, although Coke did have a clutch postseason. Starter Rick Porcello allowed 11.5 hits per nine innings pitched last season with a weak 1.53 WHIP.
Season win total pick: Under 92.5
Kansas City Royals (2012: 72-90 - -3.58 units, 73-83-6 over/under)
Division odds: +750
Season win total: 78
Why bet the Royals: James Shields finally gives Kansas City their first true No. 1 starter since the team lost Zack Greinke. Jeremy Guthrie pitched like an ace over the final two months last year. Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, and Billy Butler are a year older and should improve. Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez also have the potential to surprise and play better than expectations.
Why not bet the Royals: The rotation also features Ervin Santana, Wade Davis, and Luke Hochevar, who have been inconsistent as starters the past few seasons. The bullpen is without name power and is depending upon Greg Holland as a closer. First baseman Eric Hosmer had his average, home runs, and RBI numbers all go down from his rookie season, despite playing 24 more games last year.
Season win total pick: Over 78
Minnesota Twins (2012: 66-96 - -11.88, 78-75-9 over/under)
Division odds: +2,200
Season win total: 68.5
Why bet the Twins: Mauer and Morneau. They are back once again and are part of a potent 3-4-5 combination in the lineup with OF Josh Willingham posting career highs in games played, home runs, and RBIs last year. Scott Diamond and Vance Worley are a decent 1-2 combination in the pitching rotation, especially for a young team.
Why not bet the Twins: The bullpen is a mess with Glen Perkins in the closer role. The lefty blew nearly half of his save opportunities last year. Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey are mediocre at best, which means there is not much talent in the bottom half of the pitching rotation. Outside of the big three, there is a lot of youth and inconsistency in the offensive lineup.
Season win total pick: Under 68.5