Spring training is in full swing and a touch of normalcy has entered the lives of baseball fans everywhere. The crack of bats and stat lines are back on the Twitter feed and it all feels so new yet missed. So in appreciation of the near future, let’s dive into some 2021 regular-season AL Central predictions.
How the Division Will Stack Up
Recently, the AL Central has had a knack for wide gaps between the top teams and the rest. In 2015, we started to see a trend of blowouts from the first-place teams. That season, the Twins finished 12 games behind the WS Champion Royals. Since 2017, (excluding the Covid Season) third-place teams have finished 20+ games behind, with second-place teams lagging, as well.
After Kansas City’s fall from grace, Cleveland was at the top of the AL Central standings until 2019. Minnesota had them beat by eight games, but from 2016-2018 the Indians took the division title, eight games ahead in 2016, 17 games ahead in 2017 and 13 games ahead in 2018.
Quite the impressive run and by no small margin!
In three years, there have been two 100 win teams in the AL Central. Most of the time, they were beating up on the rest of the division.
Whichever way you look at it, this division has not exactly been competitive or even close really – we haven’t even brought up Detroit or Chicago yet. For Cleveland or Minnesota fans, this is a good trend, but 2021 is shaping up to be a little different.
To quote Tim Anderson of the Chicago White Sox, “[expletive] it, we are the best team in the American League”
That is some pretty big talk for a team that snuck their way into the expanded playoffs, losing to the Athletics in the first round in 2020. According to FanGraphs, the White Sox are expected to finish at the top of the AL Central, tied with the Twins. But if Chicago fails to make a solid postseason run this year, those words will come back to haunt him.
So how will the Cleveland Indians stack up in the 2021 season? Francona and company have been getting used to being on or near the top of the AL Central for a while now.
The Indians are expected to stay up there this year. We have heard from FanGraphs already, but the PECOTA standings from Baseball Prospectus have a different story to tell. Unfortunately for the White Sox, Baseball Prospectus has them in 3rd place with 82 wins with the Indians in 2nd with 85+ wins, about four games behind the projected winner, the Twins.
The good news is that the Cleveland Indians are projected to do well and the season should be one heck of a ride. Even with the departure of big names like Francisco Lindor and other players, The Indians still have a very good shot of taking the AL Central if they just exceed expectations in the slightest. With the 2020 AL Cy Young Award winner and Heavy Hitter Franmil Reyes in our back pocket, it’s a real possibility.
We are looking at a more competitive division and should be excited for a real race to the top over the summer. This makes for better baseball!
Teams have been in the rebuilding process for a while and 2021 is the year that those same teams could make a run in the division and years to come. Let’s Go Tribe!