The AL Central is a 2-team heavyweight fight between the Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins. Minnesota has led the division for most of the season. Cleveland enjoyed one day in sole possession of first place. Both fighters have the strength to go the distance.
The only other close division race in baseball is the 3-team game of let’s-not-pull-too-hard-far-ahead-and-hurt-the-other-team’s-feelings going on in the NL Central.
One month ago yesterday, the Indians were 6 games back and +600 dogs on Bovada. Last week, Cleveland pulled ahead for a short-lived half-game division lead. Today, Cleveland is 2-and-a-half games out – ready to reclaim first place on the slightest slip-up by their intradivision rivals.
Cleveland is still down in the standings, but they are favored to finish the year on top of the Central … according to this little town called Vegas. The Indians enter the day as -125 futures favorites to the Twins’ -105 for the division crown.
Can’t Win if You Can’t Score
Cleveland’s stifling pitching staff, especially the Indians’ bullpen, has fueled an MLB-best 28-13 record since July 1.
What’s their secret? Don’t walk anybody. Pitchers learn from a young age that walks are terrible. Free passes allow even mediocre lineups the chance to hang a crooked number on the scoreboard. Some pitchers take this to heart more than others.
Cleveland’s pen has been terrific all season long. Their 3.34 bullpen ERA is the lowest in baseball. The Indians’ pen has been tagged with just 11 losses in 2019 – again, the lowest mark in baseball.
Hitting Matters, Too
While Cleveland’s pitching staff is the reason for Vegas’ optimism, the Indians roster some feared sluggers as well.
The deadline acquisition of outfielders Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes give the Indians’ lineup extra depth and power from the right side of the plate.
— SportsTime Ohio (@SportsTimeOhio) August 12, 2019
Carlos Santana does it all for Cleveland. The base-on-balls-artist is 4th in baseball both in walks (90) and on-base percentage (.414). The 33-year-old also leads the Indians with 29 home runs, 78 RBIs, and a .965 OPS.
Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor is also putting together a terrific season. The 4-time All-Star is hitting an even .300 with 20 home runs, 52 RBIs, and 72 runs scored. Lindor’s .870 OPS is second on the team to Santana’s.
Don’t Count the Twins Out
It is funny I have to write this reminder – considering Minnesota is currently in first place by 2.5 games. Although their record is good, it is far too easy to look at the Twins right now as the team that is slowly blowing a double-digit lead.
Fans of the long ball must respect the Twins. With 240 total dingers this year, no other team has gone deep more than Minnesota – whose roster contains 11 players with double-digit home runs.
The Twins would be the overwhelming division favorites if they had a bullpen to accompany their high-powered offense. Minnesota’s rotation is top-notch – featuring names like Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Jake Odorizzi, and Michael Pineda – but they tend to lose leads late.
Indians-Twins appears to be the only division race in the American League this year. With under 50 games to go, each win and loss becomes magnified. This is when watching baseball becomes the most fun.
See you on top!