2011 MLB Playoffs: Forecasting the American League Central Race

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2011 MLB Playoffs: Forecasting the American League Central Race
Jason Miller/Getty Images

 

This is the first of six articles where I will discuss playoff races that are legitimately in the air. Sorry, Phillies fans, no article for you. You’re in, unless you just completely implode. The first one comes brought to you by the AL Central Race:

 

Team

Wins

Losses

GB

RS/G

RA/G

Detroit Tigers

64

56

-

4.4

4.6

Cleveland Indians

60

57

2.5

4.3

4.3

Chicago White Sox

60

60

4

4

4.1

Minnesota Twins

52

67

11.5

3.9

4.8

Kansas City Royals

50

71

14.5

4.3

4.8

Who will win the AL Central this year?

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I can pretty safely write off the Twins and Royals for this year, so that gives us a 3-team race.

 

Currently, coolstandings.com provides the following odds of winning the division (which are almost exactly the odds of making the playoffs, seeing as the Yankees or Red Sox will likely be the wild card):

 

Detroit Tigers:          53.1 %

Cleveland Indians:    32.7 %

Chicago White Sox: 14.2 %

 

Analyzing the remaining strength-of-schedule for all three teams yields the following results:

 

Ed Zurga/Getty Images
If the Tigers hang on, Justin Verlander will start in the post-season for the first time since his rookie season (2006).

Detroit has a .464 weighted opponent winning percentage* down the stretch, and a .440 weighted opponent winning percentage not including Cleveland or Chicago. This is due largely because they’re the only team that is done with the Rangers and the only team with three full series left against the lowly Minnesota Twins. They also benefit from another series against the Orioles (from whom they took 2 of 3 over the weekend) and a 3-game set against the Oakland Athletics.

 

That’s the easiest of the three contenders in the AL Central. Chicago is looking at a .489 weighted opponent winning percentage and .468 when Detroit and Cleveland aren’t included; these figures are .478 and .448 for Cleveland respectively.

 

My take is that Detroit is going to hold on, finishing with a record of about 88-74; this is due to both their easier schedule and a more steady dose of off-days than Cleveland will have.

 

Cleveland will stumble down the stretch because they are a young team and, because of rain-outs, now have to make up 45 games in just 44 days. They are without their best all-around player (Grady Sizemore) for the remainder of the year and just got their second-best player (Shin Soo Choo) back in the lineup after a long DL stint. They’ll turn in with about a .500 record, but finish just ahead of the Chicago White Sox—that is, unless Adam Dunn awakes from his season-long slumber. 

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