American League Central Win Total Betting Guide
Last season, the American League Central was the worst division, with three teams finishing with under 65 wins and the Cleveland Indians winning in a runaway. Unfortunately, it’s shaping up to be a similar outcome as no team made significant offseason moves. Cleveland is a heavy favorite with the highest win total offered from FanDuel Sportsbook.
As the start of the regular season inches closer, let’s examine which teams in this division have betting value for their win totals. The best bets for this division are both under the total, which makes sense because the offered totals add up to more wins than there are available. Thus, a slight majority of our value bets throughout our divisional preview series will be under the total.
|Team||FanDuel Total||numberFire Projected Wins|
|Chicago White Sox||73.5||75|
|Kansas City Royals||69.5||71|
Cleveland Indians – Under 90.5
Cleveland has won at least 90 games and won the division for the last three years, and while they’ll likely win the division for a fourth straight season, they’ll have trouble getting back to 90 wins. The Indians were an elite team last year that slightly underachieved according to their Pythagorean win record. However, they lost some important hitters over the offseason.
While the dynamic duo of Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor returns to carry this lineup, outfielder Michael Brantley left for Houston. Brantley amassed 3.5 wins above replacement (WAR) last season according to FanGraphs, and it appears that Cleveland is going to replace him with a replacement-level (or close) player in Jordan Luplow. The other major loss for the Indians was Yan Gomes, who will be replaced by the inferior Roberto Perez. Gomes was traded to the Nationals and our projections see Perez as a large step down for Cleveland.
Cleveland had other departures during the offseason as well, such as Yonder Alonso, who was traded to the White Sox, and Edwin Encarnacion, who was traded to the Mariners. However, in this case, the Encarnacion trade resulted in solid replacements for both Alonso and Encarnacion. Jake Bauers and Carlos Santana will fill the first base and designated hitter positions, respectively. These losses won’t affect the Indians' win record nearly as much as the losses of Brantley and Gomes.
In the past, the Indians have relied on dominant starting pitching, behind aces Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco. Both are nearing the end of their prime, so much of Cleveland’s future success will fall upon Trevor Bauer, who had a breakout season last year with an ERA of 2.21 and 221 strikeouts. Cleveland’s fourth starter, Mike Clevinger, also had a breakout season with 4.3 WAR, but FanGraphs’ Depth Charts projections see him reverting back to the neighborhood of 2.7 WAR. Thus, much of this season pitching-wise falls on Bauer’s shoulders; for the Indians to continue their dominance, he’ll have to emerge as a true ace.
The value here is on the under, as the losses of Brantley and Gomes and the aging pitching staff will have a negative effect on Cleveland. Although this division is still theirs for the taking for the foreseeable future, it’s tough to see this team as the World Series contender of recent seasons.
Minnesota Twins – Under 84.5
Minnesota took a step back last season by winning 78 games after they won 85 games and lost in the wild card game in 2017. Their offense regressed as they scored nearly 80 fewer runs in 2018. Even still, they slightly overachieved according to their Pythagorean win record (77-85), and in order to go over their win total, they’ll need to replicate the 85 wins from two seasons ago.
Fortunately for the Twins, they’ve improved their lineup greatly from last season with some major additions. Minnesota replaces the retired Joe Mauer with C.J. Cron at first base and the departed Brian Dozier with Jonathan Schoop at second base, both of whom should improve the lineup. However, there are two major factors behind the Twins’ projected offensive improvement this season.
The first is the signing of Nelson Cruz to play designated hitter, a massive upgrade over Robbie Grossman according to our projections. The second is the continued rise of the younger position players, such as Miguel Sano, who struggled with injuries last season and will be out for Opening Day, in addition to Max Kepler. However, the most important young position player for the Twins is centerfielder Byron Buxton, who had an awful season in 2018 with an on-base percentage (OBP) of just .183 in 90 at-bats.
Buxton projects to bounce back this year, which should stabilize the Twins’ lineup. Whether that’s enough to push them over the 84.5 win total is another story. These moves are significant, but our model projects the Twins to finish with just 80 wins.
Minnesota has a future ace in Jose Berrios, but they’re not especially deep on the pitching side. Berrios and Kyle Gibson provide a solid one-two punch, but they have questions on the back end with Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda, who missed all of 2018 with a knee injury. If Minnesota can get quality pitching from those four throughout the entire season, they could come close to 85 wins, especially since their divisional opponents are mostly terrible. However, it’s better to bet against it and take the under, as the Twins don’t have enough firepower to get to the mid-80s in wins.