Matthew Taylor Twins Daily Contributor Posted May 23 Share Posted May 23 The Minnesota Twins are the clear favorites in the American League Central right now. Might the Detroit Tigers be the biggest threat for the division crown? Image courtesy of © Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports Coming into the 2023 season, the American League Central was a clear two-team race between the Minnesota Twins and the Cleveland Guardians. In their preseason odds, Fangraphs had the Twins as the division favorites with a 38.7% chance of winning the division with the Guardians as a close second with a 33.9% chance, and the Chicago White Sox as the third most likely. We’re more than one quarter of the way through the season and the landscape of the American League Central has changed. While the Minnesota Twins have played about how well everyone projected they would (an 84-win pace) the rest of the division has been turned on its head. First of all, the Chicago White Sox have completely taken themselves out of the playoff picture. The White Sox are 11 games below .500, and that’s after a weekend sweep of the lowly Kansas City Royals. Additionally, the presumed division-favorite Cleveland Guardians have significantly underperformed. After Monday's games, the Cleveland Guardians stand at 21-26 with a -31 run differential and being freshly swept by the New York Mets. While the Guardians have suffered mostly because of their bats (they own a league-worst wRC+ of 77), they only have a league-average starting rotation and their all-world closer Emmanuel Clase leads the league in blown saves. Enter the Detroit Tigers. Coming out of the weekend, the second place team in the American League Central is the team that was originally projected to have the worst record in the division. The Detroit Tigers currently lead the Guardians by a game in the Central, and are just two and a half games back of the Minnesota Twins for the division lead. Similar to the Guardians, the Detroit Tigers have been terrible at the plate ranking just above Cleveland with a wRC+ of 82. On the pitching side, though, the Tigers have made real strides this year, ranking 12th in baseball in wOBA after finishing 26th in the same metric in 2022. A big reason for that has been Eduardo Rodriguez, who owns a 2.06 ERA, fourth best in the American League. Additionally, the return of the rising-star pitchers, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning, appear to be on the horizon. What the Tigers really need in order to solidify themselves as the main competitor to the Minnesota Twins in the American League Central is for their star batting prospects, Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene, to start meeting the lofty expectations that were set out for them and make the Detroit lineup a real threat. One area that the Detroit Tigers have an advantage over the Cleveland Guardians is in their potential for making mid-season additions. The Cleveland Guardians have repeatedly shown that they are not willing to spend money, and not likely to make much noise at the trade deadline. The Detroit Tigers, however, have shown that when they have a team with the potential to compete, they will make the necessary moves to put themselves in a position to do just that. The Twins don’t have much of a threat at all when it comes to the competition in the American League Central, but it will be interesting to see whether it’s the Cleveland Guardians who hit their stride and become the threat that we all expected them to be, or if it’s the Detroit Tigers who turn out to be the main competitor to the Minnesota Twins in 2023. View full article Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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