Tigers Indians Weekend Preview

TOP AL CENTRAL CONTENDERS TIGERS AND INDIANS PLAY WEEKEND SET IN CLEVELAND

The major betting markets had some real trouble evaluating the American League Central division this year. How do you discount a Kansas City Royals team that went to the World Series?! How much of a hit to the Detroit Tigers take by losing Max Scherzer, amidst concerns that Justin Verlander's best days are way behind him? Does Cleveland have what it takes to win the division, or are they just the "least worst" of the confusing options?

Entering the season, there were the projected win totals in Las Vegas...

Cleveland 84.5
Detroit 84.5
Chicago White Sox 81.5
Kansas City 80.5
Minnesota 71.5

Everyone agreed that Minnesota didn't have a roster to contend. Otherwise...toss-up! There's so much margin for error at that level of parity that any alignment of 1-4 wouldn't be a shock. What's clear is that the market is still skeptical about the Royals regardless of what happened lst season. And, the market still wants to believe Detroit can compete even with a questionable back of the rotation.

This is going to be a "weekend" report here in the NOTEBOOK, as we cut back a bit from daily articles until the NBA Playoffs arrive. Let's look at all three games based on the projected pitching matchups. Note that those are subject to change by game time.

First, a reminder of how these offenses performed last season...

OFFENSE (2014 stats)
Detroit: 4.67 runs per game, .331 on-base, .426 slugging
Cleveland: 4.13 runs per game, .317 on-base, .389 slugging

Detroit had big bats...and still has them this season. They are still seen as a championship caliber offense entering the new season. All the questions about the team revolve around the pitching staff. Cleveland isn't far off in terms of many "analytics" style projections for 2015. They have the kind of lineup that's a threat to do something in any part of the order. Probable edge to Detroit in this series offensively, though Cleveland will be looking to make a statement.

FRIDAY'S PITCHERS (2014 stats)
Alfredo Simon: 3.44 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 5.8 K-Rate, 6.1 IP-per-Start
Zach McAllister: 5.23 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 7.7 K-Rate 4.8 IP-per-Start

Simon pitched with the Reds last year, and will likely see those numbers rise in the transition back to the league with Designated Hitters. Remember, it was a low-scoring year in 2014....so a 3.44 ERA in the NL isn't anything special. Expectations for Simon are generic (or worse). The Tigers are hoping he's a gamble that's going to pay off. Of course, he still rates an edge over what McAllister accomplished last season! Stathead types believe McAllister will outperform those numbers. He'd better if Cleveland is going to make it to October.

SATURDAY'S PITCHERS (2014 stats)
David Price: 3.26 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 9.6 K-Rate 7.3 IP-per-Start
T.J. House: 3.35 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 7.1 K-Rate 5.6 IP-per-Start

Price is the new ace of the Tigers staff after that playoff-push trade in 2014. Scherzer's gone, and now it's up to Price to carry the staff. Nothing in his history to suggest he can't do it. House pitched over his head last year. For handicapping purposes, it's best to focus on the WHIP and IP per start numbers. If he does that again, then his ERA may be up close to 4 of 4.5. Big edge to Price in this one...the game Detroit really can't afford to lose in this road set.

SUNDAY'S PITCHERS (2014 stats)
Kyle Lobstein: 4.35 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 6.2 K-Rate 5.6 IP-per-Start
Corey Kluber: 2.44 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 10.3 K-Rate 6.9 IP-per-Start

We flip flop here to get Cleveland's ace lined up against a question mark for Detroit (pending changes to the rotation...wouldn't it be something if Price and Kluber lined up?!). Kluber had a Cy Young season last year, and is likely to continue shining if he can avoid injury. Lobstein made six starts late last season...posting the generic numbers you see above. This is why the market is so skeptical about the Tigers, particularly if Verlander's definitely in his decline phase. The offense will have to keep outscoring what guys like Lobstein, Simon, and Greene allow. Big edge here to Kluber and the Tribe in the series finale.

It's a huge weekend in baseball. It's likely that at least one pick from Tigers/Indians will show up in the NETWORK portfolio. Other big series we're paying a lot of attention to:

Boston at the New York Yankees
Toronto at Baltimore
Kansas City at the LA Angels
Seattle at Oakland
St. Louis at Cincinnati
San Francisco at San Diego

Big weekend! Given the uncertain state of many divisional races, many of those matchups should loom large in shaping early season dynamics.

Purchase the BEST BETS on the board each day this weekend right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 during normal business hours Friday or before the first games start Saturday. This is a great time to lock in for extended packages for baseball or the NBA through the playoffs.

Back with you Monday for another marquee series preview. Here's what's coming up next week.

Monday: MLB Series Preview...Washington Nationals at the Boston Red Sox
Wednesday April 15: NBA Season Finale "Must-Game" Preview (if applicable)
Friday: NBA Playoff previews begin!

We'll go back to daily reports once the NBA Playoffs begin...with at least one day devoted to each of the eight first round matchups beginning Friday. Be sure you're with us here in the NOTEBOOK for great handicapping information...then link up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!

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