Before the season, the Detroit Tigers were one of four teams many experts thought had a chance of winning the American League Central Division. The Cleveland Indians were the trendy pick to dethrone the Tigers after a four-year reign atop the standings, and were Sports Illustrated's pick to win the World Series. The Chicago White Sox would be a vastly improved club, but how much better would they be? Not many people bought into the Kansas City Royals after their run to the World Series last fall, but there were still some believers. The Minnesota Twins were the only team without a fighting chance in the divisional race.
Now, nearly one-quarter of the way through the 2015 season, the scales have tipped dramatically. The Tigers and Royals jumped out to red-hot starts, and seemed poised to leave the rest of the division in the dust. The Indians and White Sox have disappointed, and now have a lot of work to do in order to get back into the hunt. After looking hapless during their opening series against the Tigers, the Twins have roared back into the thick of the race. On Sunday morning, they sit two games behind the Tigers and Royals, who are tied atop the division.
We are still only 37 games into the season, but the respective playoff odds for the AL Central's teams have changed dramatically. Fangraphs originally gave the Tigers a 37 percent chance of winning the division and a 51.6 percent chance of making the playoffs. After two consecutive wins over the St. Louis Cardinals, the Tigers' odds of winning the AL Central and making the playoffs now sit at 55 percent and 75.2 percent, respectively. The Royals have seen a similar positive jump, going from an 8.8 percent chance of winning the division to 26.5 percent.
POFF0: Odds of making the playoffs at the beginning of the season
POFF1: Odds of making the playoffs as of May 17, 2015
DIV0: Odds of winning the division at the beginning of the season
DIV1: Odds of winning the division as of May 17, 2015
Originally projected to win the division, the Indians' playoff odds have taken the biggest hit of any AL Central team. They had a 43.8 percent chance of winning the division and a 57.7 percent chance of making the playoffs at the beginning of the season. Now, as they sit in last place with a 14-21 record, their playoff odds have dropped to just 29.4 percent.
The playoff odds algorithms aren't perfect, and take multiple factors into account. It seems odd that the Indians have a much larger chance of making the playoffs than the Twins (who sit at just 7.7 percent this morning) despite being six games behind them in the standings. However, there is still a lot of baseball left, and it would not be surprising to see the Tribe overtake the Twins by the end of the year.
What do you think? Are the Tigers the team to beat in the AL Central?