The 2023 MLB season has come with many surprises, but one thing that won’t surprise many is the AL Central being bad. But how bad can it be before it is surprising? A division filled with spotty rotations, weak bullpens, and shallow lineups sees its best team sitting at 31-32 over a third of the way through the season.
No team has ever won their division with a losing record, but there is a first for everything. Could this year be the year that happens?
I believe the AL Central is a three-horse race between the Minnesota Twins, Cleveland Guardians, and Chicago White Sox
The Twins, much like 2022, started off hot. Despite trading away the reigning batting champ Luis Arraez for Pablo Lopez, they looked good at the start, but have since seen some adversity. Pablo Lopez has come down to earth, and the bats seem to have gone cold. As the Twins head into a little bit of a gauntlet in their schedule, we will soon see what they’re really made of.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox (as I mentioned earlier) got off to a horrible start, but have since seemed to pull things together. Sweeping the Tigers and taking two out of three games in the Bronx shows that they are headed in the right direction. But everlasting inconsistency and questions regarding their trade deadline plans will tell the story for the rest of their season. The biggest problems lie in the production of shortstop Tim Anderson, who seems to have lost some power, and starters Dylan Cease and Lance Lynn who are well out of form this far into the season. With a 20-14 record since the end of their losing streak on April 30, the Sox are still very much in the race for the Central.
The Guardians shockingly won the division last year, largely thanks to BABIP, hard baserunning, and lockdown pitching. Many asked the question of whether or not this success was sustainable for years to come and the answer seems to be no. The Guardians have lacked consistent offense, especially power. They were also without starters Tristion Mackenzie and Aaron Civale for a while, and now Cal Quantrill hits the IL with a shoulder injury. James Karinchak and Emmanuel Clase also seem to be not as incredible as they were in the 2022 campaign. For a team that feasted on beating division rivals, Cleveland needs to figure it out quickly.
Even though the AL Central is widely regarded as the worst division in baseball, the battle through the coming months could prove to be entertaining, and all three teams I mentioned have the tools to compete in October. Who will prevail? Only time will tell.