MLB Coverage: The AL Central Race

Today’s MLB coverage is the second part of our weeklong series that will provide a basic statistical profile of each division in baseball. The focus for Tuesday is going to be the American League Central. As in yesterday’s look at the AL East, the format will be as follows…

*We’ll list each team’s rank, within the American League for runs scored, as well as the component parts of on-base percentage and slugging percentage. The same will be done on the pitching side for starters’ ERA, bullpen ERA and save percentage.

*Then I’ll list a couple notable individual performances, usually a pitcher and a hitter. They might be good, they might be bad, but they’ll generally be reflective of the team-wide performance in a given category.

* We’ll conclude with some brief comments on each team going forward.

Detroit Tigers (49-39)
Runs: 2nd
OBP: 2nd
Slugging: 3rd
Starters’ ERA: 1st
Bullpen ERA: 10th
Save Opportunities: 19/28
Notable: Max Scherzer is still unbeaten, with a 13-0 record and 3.06 ERA after eighteen starts. And perhaps you’ve heard of Miguel Cabrera, rolling to another MVP award with a stat line of .457 OBP/.673 slugging, and possibly even another Triple Crown if he can catch Baltimore’s Chris Davis in home runs (Davis leads 33-28 coming into Tuesday).

Comments: The Tigers haven’t ran off and hid from the AL Central the way they were expected to, but this is still a 90-win pace in spite of the problems in the bullpen and what has been, relatively speaking, a subpar first half for Justin Verlander. The team’s offensive prowess, given the vast dimensions of Comerica Park, is astounding, as is the depth of a rotation that’s still the league’s best with a down Verlander and Anibal Sanchez pulling some DL time.

Cleveland Indians (46-43)
Runs: 4th
OBP: 5th
Slugging: 6th
Starters’ ERA: 6th
Relievers ERA: 11th
Save Opportunities: 18/35
Notable: Jason Kipnis is having a solid year at second base, with a stat line of .379/.517, as he continues to establish himself as one of the better offensive middle infielders in the league. Ubaldo Jiminez has got to give the starting pitching some depth behind Justin Masterson. Jiminez has a 4.67 ERA after 17 starts.

Comments: Amidst the mainstream media wailing over Detroit’s bullpen problems, has anyone noticed that this same issue is the only thing keeping Cleveland from overtaking the Tigers? Chris Perez did a stint on the disabled list and having him healthy obviously helps, the depth to the pen has not been there. If they could get Brett Myers healthy—his rehab had a setback last week, for how long we’re not sure—who knows what kind of run Tito’s Tribe could get on.

Kansas City Royals (42-44)
Runs: 11th
OBP: 11th
Slugging: 12th
Starters’ ERA: 8th
Bullpen ERA: 2nd
Save Opportunities: 25/37
Notable: Closer Greg Holland is anchoring that underrated bullpen, with a 1.85 ERA and nailing 21/23 of his save chances. Mike Moustakas is the biggest culprit in that underachieving offense, batting .217.

Comments: This division is still there for Kansas City to step up and take, at least so long as the Tigers can’t get on a big run. The Royals are the one contender with the bullpen who can consistently close games, and while the starters’ ERA has slipped in recent weeks, I think it’s an area the team can feel comfortable with going forward. But they need all the offensive pieces working in tandem.

Minnesota Twins (37-49)
Runs: 10th
OBP: 8th
Slugging: 11th
Starters’ ERA: 15th
Bullpen ERA: 5th
Save Opportunities: 23/36
Notable: Josh Willingham is getting on base, with a .356 OBP, but struggling with his power, at .398 in slugging. It robs the Twins of a run producer on the field and a trade chip for the impending July 31 non-waiver deadline. Vance Worley has been a disaster in the rotation, with a  7.21 ERA in ten starts and going to the minors.

Comments: A lot of credit to the Twins for piecing together a bullpen that could close leads, but the bad luck with Worley and the inability of Scott Diamond to develop are just killing the starting pitching. If Minnesota could even move up to 11th or so in starters’ ERA, they could make a run at .500.

Chicago White Sox (34-52)
Runs: 15th
OBP: 14th
Slugging: 15th
Starters’ ERA: 3rd
Bullpen ERA: 12th
Save Opportunities: 22/31
Notable: Chris Sale’s 5-8 record with a 2.78 ERA is indicative of the starting pitching—both the quality of their work and the  non-support they get. Paul Konerko may have reached the end of the line, with a .314/.368 stat line

Comments: Not much to think about this year. It’s about building for the future and in that regard, the organization needs Jake Peavy healthy so they can trade him. Peavy threw a simulated game yesterday.


The race might be close, but Detroit is still a top-heavy 1-7 favorite to win the division. Cleveland is 7-2, while Kansas City is a healthy 20-1. I picked the Tigers to win the World Series at the start of the year, and am standing by that, but I have to say that the price tag on the Royals looks pretty enticing. If Detroit stays at a 90-win pace—or maybe dips to 87 or so by season’s end, is it really 20-1 unthinkable that Kansas City could be the team that steals the Central? Minnesota is 500-1 and Chicago is 1,000-1.

I’ll be re-evaluating all my preseason picks next week during the All-Star break, although the only thing I see myself backing off on here is the 100-win projection for the Tigers, and believing that the Indians would be terrible. The playoff projection—Detroit, and no wild-cards will likely be unchanged.