The State of the State – Ohio – May 2023
May 24, 2023
The State of the State
A look at what’s happening on the Ohio sports scene: Can the Guardians win the Central?
In looking at the American League Central standings, the Guardians have a punchers chance at winning the division. This season, they’ve been “just good enough” to remain within striking distance.
But despite having a decent rotation and bullpen, they can’t seem to string enough wins together to put any serious pressure on the Twins.
The question, for those interested in the Guardians, or better yet, interested in betting on them, is can they?
The short answer is yes. Bouncing between three and four games back of Minnesota, Cleveland has maintained a close-to .500 record because they’ve got better than average pitching. Coming out of the weekend, the Guardians boasted the fifth-best bullpen (3.37 ERA) in the majors and have an above-average rotation (4.38 ERA).
But the pitching staff has essentially dragging the rest of the team along. Unfortunately, fielding has been an issue all season, as the Guardians have the 23rd “best” fielding defense.
At the plate, it gets worse. Perhaps the biggest problem is that they’ve got very few big bats in the lineup; in other words, they’re not hitting for power, ranking 29th in isolated power and 30th in home runs hit. They rank 25th in team batting average at a measly .230 and have only scored more runs this season than Detroit.
Simply put, a very poor offensive output is putting a lot of solid pitching to waste.
The good news, however, is that Minnesota isn’t exactly running away with anything just yet. The Twins might be leading the Central, but they have fewer wins than any other division leader (they also have fewer wins than anyone in the AL East).
Minnesota has solid pitching, ranking third in the majors in team ERA, but doesn’t hit all that much better than the Guardians. While Cleveland’s team batting average sits at .230, the Twins are just slightly better at .232. Minnesota’s run production is “decent” as they’ve bounced between 12th and 15th in total runs scored.
In short, there’s not a ton that separates the Twins and Guardians, or for that matter, anyone in the AL Central’s top four slots.
But a quick peek at the futures offers an enticing bet. The Twins – and for now deservedly so – are a -300 favorite to win the Central. The Guardians are +330. That feels like an unnecessarily wide spread between two teams that aren’t that much different. In other words, there’s a value play at hand here.
The Guardians must hit better. That’s a given. But respectable pitching can buy a lot of time and mask a lot of shortcomings. Should the hitting lineup improve, or should Minnesota catch the kind of bad break that practically any MLB can, the Central is very winnable. It’s not the best division in baseball – that’s for sure – but that’s also why +330 isn’t a bad bet.
* Odds subject to change