AL Central rankings show close start in division
With a lot of attention being paid to large market MLB teams and divisions on the east and west coast, it is important not to sleep on the talent in the Midwest. For the last several years, the AL Central has been one of the hardest divisions for experts and casual fans to break down and rank from year to year.
So, as the baseball season is already a week in, here are the power rankings and expected final rankings for the AL Central this season:
1st Place: Detroit Tigers (4-2)
Although the Tigers are coming off of two consecutive losses, they still have the dominant performers in Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. Detroit’s top hitter Cabrera was locked up earlier this year in a 10-year, $292 million dollar contract. Now so far, Cabrera is batting .292 with just 3 RBIs and a home run. Don’t let the slow start fool you; Cabrera should find his stride pretty soon. Currently, right fielder Torii Hunter is leading the team with 3 home runs and 7 RBIs. As for Detroit’s pitching thus far, the team ranks 4th in quality starts and 11th in ERA. The comfort that relief pitcher Joe Nathan brings is something the Tigers should also be thankful for this season. Combine Detroit’s consistent pitching and 3rd ranked slugging percentage, and the Tigers should remain the favorite in this division, assuming the team stays healthy.
2nd Place: Cleveland Indians (5-3)
The conversation over who will be in the second spot for this division is where most people struggle to figure out. If the Indians want to keep pace with the Tigers and hold onto the second spot, Nick Swisher will need to start hitting the ball again. Batting .176 so far, Swisher has been fairly quiet for Cleveland, while David Murphy has stepped up and leads the team in RBIs with 6. Even with Swisher’s struggles, the Indians rank 6th in on base percentage and are finding ways to score runs with the younger players. The biggest concern for the Indians will be strengthening their pitching, as the team ranks in the bottom half of the league in all major pitching categories so far this season. Starting pitcher Zach McAllister had a confident outing yesterday with the win over San Diego, and leads the team with 11 strikeouts so far.
3rd Place: Chicago White Sox (4-4)
The White Sox have been on a scoring frenzy as of late, with 15 runs coming in a win over the Rockies yesterday. The White Sox lead the league in runs scored with 50, and rank 2nd in both batting average and slugging percentage. With hitting like this, the Sox have been able to keep pace with the Indians and Tigers. If Chicago’s pitching can settle down and post better ERA numbers, there is no question this team can make a run for a division title with this type of play. While it is obviously early in the season, a crucial division matchup with the Indians begins tomorrow evening. With Cleveland’s weak pitching and Chicago’s hot hitting as of late, don’t be surprised if the White Sox come out of this upcoming series ahead of Cleveland. It will be interesting to see if catcher Tyler Flowers can keep up his tremendous hitting performance, as he is batting .478 currently this year. Flowers and Jose Abreu have come on strong this season, and this upcoming home series should be a good chance for them to keep shining.
4th Place: Kansas City Royals (4-4)
Coming into this season, the Royals were favored by many to either win the division or compete for second place. However, with a slow start thus far, the Royals have seemed pretty unimpressive. Ranking last in slugging percentage and second to last in runs scored, the Royals are absolutely atrocious so far hitting the ball. It took until the eighth game of the season for the team to get its first home run from RBI leader Alex Gordon. If it were not for the impressive pitching and closing ability from the Royals pitching rotation, this team would be last in the division, and possibly the league. The Royals pitchers rank 1st in the league in quality starts and 4th in WHIP. With pitching like this, it is easy to understand why many believed the Royals could finish atop the division. The season is still young, but the Royals will need to find their bats if they plan on making any steps forward.
5th Place: Minnesota Twins (3-5)
ESPN Stats and Info noted that the Twins were the first team this season to record multiple double digit run games. They only managed to do that six times all of last season. Also, Ron Gardenhire picked up his 1,000th win over this past weekend. That is pretty much where the good news ends for the Twins this season so far. Joe Mauer has been fairly quiet this season, batting .250 with no runs batted in yet. While Minnesota ranks 5th in runs scored and 2nd in on base percentage, the lack of quality pitching is debilitating the team. The Twins rank dead last in the league in ERA, and second to last in both WHIP and quality starts. With a series against the division foe Kansas City Royals starting Friday night at home, the Twins have a chance to possibly gain some ground in the division standings. With the Twins’ solid hitting and the Royals’ lack of hitting ability, capitalizing by finding runs will be crucial in this series. Expect an impressive series from third baseman Trevor Plouffe, who leads the team with ten hits and has had a solid beginning to the year.
While the ridiculously long baseball season is still young, this breakdown may be a warning to the teams in the division. While no team is completely out of the race, each team does have some flaws that can be corrected. One theme is consistent in this division; there is no team with both solid hitting and pitching. Who knows, the first team to correct that just might take this division. Still over six months to go, stay patient.