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2015 MLB Betting – American League Central Division Preview

Posted by Dale “Skip” Lalonde on 3/11/2015 9:00:15 PM

The Major League Baseball season is just itching to start, with so many fresh and intriguing storylines. There might not be a more interesting division in all of baseball than the American League Central.

The A.L. Central has undergone a lot of changes, specifically those involving the Chicago White Sox. This was a tightly-bunched three-team division in 2014, with the Detroit Tigers beating the Kansas City Royals by one game and the Cleveland Indians by five. For both Detroit and Cleveland, the biggest problem was the bullpen, especially the last two innings. The Tigers and Indians lost a lot of important games late, and for Detroit, the inability to get key outs in the eighth inning proved to be the undoing of the team in the playoffs against the Baltimore Orioles. There were a few reasons why Detroit did better than Cleveland, and why the Tigers also outlasted Kansas City by a game. The Tigers, first of all, were able to beat the Royals and Indians in August and September when they played each other. Detroit got to Cleveland’s bullpen and Kansas City’s starters, and those various strengths and weaknesses – the Tigers’ hitting, Cleveland’s relief pitching, and Kansas City’s starting rotation – all still exist this season.

The other reason the Tigers got past Kansas City is that the Royals’ hitting lagged behind the Tigers for much of the season, including the late-September series between the two teams. Kansas City struggled to find the offensive production that would have led to a more consistent regular season. The Royals were in deep trouble in the middle of July, and it wasn’t until then that their offense woke up. All too many times, Kansas City’s dominant bullpen wasn’t able to win games because the team didn’t lead going into the seventh inning… because it couldn’t score. That was the whole issue with the Royals in 2014: When they led after six innings, they were almost untouchable, but for much of the regular season, they didn’t get that six-inning lead. In the playoffs, you saw how well that bullpen could protect leads in the final three innings. The offense, which came alive in the playoffs, simply underachieved. That figures to be better this season.

What could hurt the Royals, though, is that they will now have a much more legitimate challenge from the Chicago White Sox, a team that was buried by the top three last season. The White Sox got Jeff Samardzija, Adam LaRoche, and Melky Cabrera, among others, in the offseason. This is a much deeper and more balanced lineup, and it’s going to be hard for the pitchers in this division to handle the White Sox’ lineup. Chicago should be able to win at least 85 games, which is what Cleveland won a year ago. This could be a tight four-team race all the way to the wire, especially if the White Sox’ lower-end starters in the rotation are reasonably good.

However, the Royals played so well in the playoffs and got enough offense to create leads after six innings. Their bullpen is the very best in baseball, and if their hitters play to their potential, this certainly looks like the best team in the American League Central.

MLB Betting Pick: Kansas City

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