The Detroit Tigers ran away with the AL Central last season with Cleveland coming in second; a distant 15 games back. The Tigers decided to set their sights on winning a World Series this season through a couple of high-profile acquisitions, so sorry to say for the fans of the other four teams in the division, the gap is likely to grow wider in 2012.
The following is a brief preview of all five teams in the AL Central along with their current future odds as provided by BetOnline.
Projected 2012 Win Total: 94
Odds to Win the American League: +400
Odds to Win the 2012 World Series: +800
The Tigers biggest offseason acquisition by far was the signing of free-agent All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder. He brings some additional power to a lineup that finished the 2011 season ranked third in the AL in hitting with a team batting average of .277 and ranked fourth in scoring with 787 runs.
Detroit also has the reigning 2011 AL Cy Young and MVP winner as the ace of its pitching staff as Justin Verlander will look to pick-up where he left off from last season’s 24-5 record and 2.40 ERA. The one gap on this team will be the loss designated hitter Victor Martinez, who tore an ACL in the offseason.
Kansas City Royals
Projected 2012 Win Total: 78.5
Odds to Win the American League: +3500
Odds to Win the 2012 World Series: +5000
The good news for Kansas City fans is that in 2011 the team raised its win total for the third straight season, but the bad news is that it still won just 71 games. This year’s version should take another step in the right direction and could even flirt with 80 + wins if everything falls into place.
The Royals have a couple of legitimate bats in Alcides Escobar, Eric Hosmer, and Jeff Francoeur to go along with a quality starter in Jonathan Sanchez and an up-and-coming arm in Luke Hochevar, but they still have too many holes to seriously compete for the Central title. If anything, they could keep the race interesting for awhile, much like Cleveland.
Chicago White Sox
Projected 2012 Win Total: 77
Odds to Win the American League: +2400
Odds to Win the 2012 World Series: +3500
It will be a season of change in Chicago with Ozzie Guillen taking his talent and unique perspective on managing the game to Miami. On the field, the White Sox have a number of question marks from their lack of power in the lineup to the hole left by the departure of starting pitcher Mark Buehrie. They also have some serious concerns about the long-term health of another starter; Jake Peavy.
Chicago still has a few other grinders in the starting rotation in John Danks and Gavin Floyd, but it is doubtful it will be enough to keep pace with the Royals and Indians, let alone the Tigers. New Skipper Robin Ventura could have his hands full to try to keep things from unraveling quickly with this team.
Projected 2012 Win Total: 76
Odds to Win the American League: +2500
Odds to Win the 2012 World Series: +4000
Spring is always Cleveland’s and its fans favorite time of year as this team is getting known for its fast starts that pump a full shot of optimism into the entire organization. Unfortunately, the MLB season is 162 games long, which are far too many for a team that starts to fade as soon as the Sun starts to really heat up.
Cleveland can still make some noise behind two quality arms in Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jiminez and a batting lineup that features the likes of Carlos Santana and Asdrubal Cabrera. The Indians continue to move in the right direction, but they would need everything possible to go right just to stay in the division race through the summer.
Projected 2012 Win Total: 74
Odds to Win the American League: +3300
Odds to Win the 2012 World Series: +6600
The Twins ride to 94 wins and the 2010 AL Central title must seem like a distant memory in light of last year’s 63-win nightmare. The prospect for turning things around and eclipsing that number in 2012 looks pretty good, but this team is still in no position to compete for a division title.
Hopefully, both Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau can return to being healthy producers and the backbone of Minnesota’s lineup. They will also need Carl Pavano to put last season’s 9-13 record and 4.30 ERA behind and get back to his form from prior years.