As White Sox Struggle, Value Elsewhere in AL Central?

Written By Eli Hershkovich on April 26, 2022
MLB Odds

Throughout the season, I’ll dabble in MLB odds, including futures prices from time to time. Let’s begin with my assessment of the AL Central, as the defending champion Chicago White Sox have struggled out of the gate.

You can find the best game-by-game odds here.

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MLB Odds: AL Central Betting Market

White Sox manager Tony La Russa may have cost his club with a boneheaded move in their extra-innings loss to the Twins on Sunday. He allowed them to pitch to MVP candidate Byron Buxton () rather than walking him with an open base available. Chicago has underachieved after opening the campaign as a -200 favorite to win the division.

Per the table above, the White Sox’s best odds to win the AL Central are following a seven-game losing streak. Is there value in this number, or should you go a different route?

Assessing White Sox’s Concerns

The betting market is well aware of Chicago’s continued success against left-handed pitching, but its lineup has tallied inefficient results otherwise. The White Sox own the second-lowest wRC+ against righties this season compared to the sixth-highest ranking in 2021.

Chicago’s productivity versus four-seam fastballs, which starters employ at the highest rate of any pitch type, has sunk too. After generating the 10th-highest efficiency against that pitch selection a season ago (via FanGraphs), La Russa’s bunch ranks No. 22 across the league.

Injuries to star outfielders Luis Robert (groin) and Eloy Jimenez (hamstring) haven’t aided that area. Nevertheless, they combined to play in just 123 games in the 2021 campaign. Third baseman Yoan Moncada (oblique), however, has also yet to play in 2022.

Moreover, fellow sluggers Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal have both seen their potency decline in that regard. They may not see positive regression down the road if their ground ball-fly ball ratio doesn’t improve.

Adding Injury To Insult: Pitching And Defense

While we’re less than a month into the season, a “buy-low” scenario would likely require Lance Lynn (knee) to regain some of his near-Cy Young form once he rejoins them this summer, as well as closer Liam Hendriks overcoming a back injury that’s plagued his command in a pair of losses.

The White Sox’s rotation boasts a pair youthful arms in Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech to go with a potential ace in Lucas Giolito. An effective Lynn solidifies a sound four-man crew. Overall, they’ve assembled the 11th-ranked FIP (3.60) among starters thus far.

Their gloves will need a turnaround to top it off. Already, they’ve manufactured the lowest Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) in all of MLB. For context, this metric applies a run value towards a team’s fielding performance.

Hence, there are too many variables up in play to avoid looking at other teams’ MLB odds in this market.

Do Twins Possess Enough Upside?

Rocco Baldelli’s bunch opened the season as a consensus +500 to win the AL Central, and there’s even a rouge +480 still available. From a market standpoint, Minnesota is certainly an attractive option despite a .500 start.

The biggest question mark remains the aforementioned Buxton. The 28-year-old has suited up in only 208 games over the last four seasons while already spending time injured with a knee issue this year. But he’s still tied for the second-highest WAR (Wander Franco, Ty France) in the AL.

Minnesota A True “Buy-Low” Candidate

Although the Twins’ offense has underperformed collectively, their 21st-ranked BABIP (.272) showcases upside. For one, shortstop Carlos Correa notched the second-highest WAR among all position players last season, yet his 30.5% strikeout rate has strained his production in his first few weeks with Minnesota.

Beyond 25-year-old Luis Arráez, the remainder of the heart of the lineup (Jorge Polanco, Gio Urshela, Max Kepler) has failed to deliver in run-producing situations. Considering the small sample size, though, there’s plenty of time to elevate their ranking — if Baldelli and Co. manage Buxton’s off-days effectively.

The Twins also present a promising staff via the likes of Joe Ryan and Bailey Ober. Assuming Sonny Gray’s hamstring strain is relatively minor, along with Dylan Bundy, Chris Archer and Chris Paddack continuing their reborn relevance in the backend of the rotation, their 4.02 FIP looks very correctable.

Despite their bullpen needing another arm, the trio of Emilio Pagan, Joe Smith, Jhoan Duran can sustain success before adding near the trade deadline. Couple that with an above-average defense, and Minnesota will be in position to contend for the AL Central crown. I’d bet the Twins at +400 or better in this MLB odds market.

Continue the discussion in our MLB Discord betting chat, where bettors chat about their favorite MLB futures bets and nightly bets. Follow TheLines on Twitter.

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Eli Hershkovich Avatar
Written by
Eli Hershkovich

Eli Hershkovich is a lead sports betting writer with TheLines and Catena Media, formerly with Audacy and The Action Network. His goal is to provide you with data and information to lead you to winning bets. Eli is an avid college basketball gambler — among many other sports — and still hasn't forgiven Virginia for ruining his 2018-2019 Texas Tech futures.

View all posts by Eli Hershkovich