The Cleveland Guardians should be favorites to win the AL Central
To some, the question of, “Can the Cleveland Guardians win the AL Central?” may be a dumb question since they are only one game out of first place in the American League Central standings. However, the Guardians have the third-best odds to win the division at +300.
With an AL Central race that is bound to go down to the wire, the newly named Guardians have the best shot of sitting on the AL Central throne at the end of the regular season.
A Top Six Pitching Staff
To much of my surprise, the Guardians’ pitching staff has the sixth-best ERA in the MLB at 3.57. They’ve also helped the Guardians (along with the offense) to the 11th best run differential in the league at +35.
The Guardians’ starting pitching staff has been spearheaded by Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie, who rank in the top-25 in ERA in the MLB. After posting a 4.95 ERA last season, McKenize has bounced back in a major way by putting up a 2.96 ERA in 70 innings.
One pitcher that the Guardians would like to return to form is the No. 8 pick in the 2016 draft Cal Quantrill. After a season where Quantrill posted a 2.97 ERA, he’s had his struggles this season, posting a 3.97 ERA in 71.2 innings. Even if he can’t return to last year’s form, if Quantrill can lower that number just a little, it would be an added boost to the Guardians’ staff.
On another note, the Guardians’ bullpen has been one of the best in the league with a 2.18 ERA. They’ve been able to post the second-best bullpen ERA with relievers like Emmanual Clase, Eli Morgan and Sam Hentges all having an ERA under 1.65. With bullpens becoming increasingly important, the Guardians seem to be in good hands.
An Offense Headlined by an AL MVP Candidate
If it weren’t for a slump in the middle of May that trickled into the start of June, third baseman José Ramírez may be a top-three candidate to win the AL MVP. He currently has the fourth-best odds to win the award a +950. Nonetheless, Ramírez is on track to having one of the best seasons of his career, batting .305, driving in 62 runs, and hitting 16 homers.
On top of Ramírez, the Guardians have received other significant contributions from Josh Naylor, Andrés Giménez, and Owen Miller. The trio has knocked in 98 of the Guardians’ 258 runs and have a combined .280 batting average.
Rookie left fielder, Steven Kwan, started the season blazing hot, batting .328 for the first month of the season, but has since hit a bit of a rookie wall with his average dipping to .267.
With Ramírez getting more aid on offense than last season, the Guardians are more well-rounded and shouldn’t have to rely as heavily on Ramírez to produce runs.
The one bat that they really need to get going is designated hitter Franmil Reyes. Reyes is coming off a year where he batted .254, but had 85 RBI and 30 home runs. Currently, he’s hitting .195 in 133 at-bats and has 12 RBI. If Reyes can get going, it’s another layer to this Guardians offense that seems to be getting more pieces.
Rest of Season Outlook
The good news for the Guardians is that they have the ninth easiest schedule the rest of the season. The bad news is that the Chicago White Sox (who’s three-and-a-half games out of first) have the second easiest.
However, with White Sox manager Tony La Russa being a wild card and constant injuries, it’s hard to know if the White Sox will get back to the level they were at last season.
As of now, the top spot in the AL Central belongs to the Minnesota Twins, but they have the 11th hardest schedule and it remains to be seen if their core pieces can stay healthy for an entire season.
More than half the season remains, but the Guardians are in the best position to win the AL Central.