Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Midseason Report: AL Central

     What seemed like it was the Tigers' division to lose on paper has turned into a two, maybe three, team race in the AL Central. The Cleveland Indians have gotten off to a hot start and are giving the Tigers a good run for their money thanks to the likes of new manager Terry Francona, Jason Kipnis, and Carlos Santana. Can the Indians keep up and possibly overtake Detroit or will they suffer from their annual second-half swoon?

  1. Detroit Tigers: Detroit is the talk of the MLB community with the likes of third baseman Miguel Cabrera and starting pitcher Max Scherzer. The reigning MVP and last year's Triple Crown winner hasn't lost a step, hitting .363 with 29 home runs and 92 RBIs. As for Scherzer, he's 13-0 this season with an ERA of 3.06, a WHIP of 0.95, and 146 strikeouts. What's more is that this is a down-year for Justin Verlander (9-6, 3.71 ERA, 122 SO). Must Fix: The Tigers have had closer issues for the majority of the 1st half. Jose Valverde (5.59 ERA, 9 for 12 in save opportunities) has been mundane this year and Bruce Rondon doesn't appear to be ready assume the closer's role yet. Fortunately, Joaquin Benoit (1.73 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 7 saves) seems to be the solution for the Tigers currently.
  2. Cleveland Indians: Surprise!!! Cleveland's 47-43 right now and is sitting in 2nd place in the AL Central. Why? Because of second baseman Kipnis (.293, 13 HR, 54 RBI, 20 SB), left fielder Michael Brantley (.283, 7 HR, 46 RBI, 9 SB), and catcher Santana (11 HR, 40 RBI). Fun fact: The Tribe is tied with Boston for 3rd in the majors in stolen bases with 70 swiped bags. Must Fix: Someone not named Justin Masterson (10-7, 3.69 ERA, 134 SO) needs to step up in the rotation. As a matter of fact, Cleveland pitching in general (4.41 team ERA) needs to improve. The Indians have walked the most batters in the majors this season with 327 walks. 
  3. Kansas City Royals: Getting James Shields from the Tampa Bay Rays this offseason has appeared to have paid off for the Royals at the moment. His record might be 4-6, but he has an ERA of 3.12 and has struck out 112 batters. He's also holding opponents to a .246 batting average this year. Kansas City has also gotten help from its pitching. Shields hasn't been the only pitcher that has been great for the Royals. Ervin Santana (94 SO, 1.05 WHIP, 2.90 ERA) has been a great help for Kansas City. They also have a great bullpen (2.94 ERA, .226 BA for opp.) and a great closer in Greg Holland. He's saved 22 games for Kansas City this year and has an ERA of 1.80 and a WHIP of 0.91. Must Fix: In spite of the fact that they're sending two players from their lineup to the All-Star Game (left fielder Alex Gordon and catcher Salvador Perez), their lineup ranks 22nd in baseball in runs scored this year with 353. Granted, they have three guys with 40+ RBIs (Gordon, Eric Hosmer, and Billy Butler) and four guys hitting above .280 (Perez, Hosmer, Gordon, and David Lough). But they have a team OPS of .693 and a team slugging percentage of .381.
  4. Minnesota Twins: Good news for Twins fans: Minnesota's farm system is touted as being one of the best in baseball by many baseball scouts and executives. Meanwhile, catcher Joe Mauer (.311 BA, .392 OBP, 104 hits) has been Joe Mauer and first baseman Justin Morneau (7 HR, 51 RBI) is showing signs of life after suffering a concussion a few years back. Minnesota also has a valuable trading piece in closer Glen Perkins. In 32 2/3 IP in 2013, Perkins has struck out 45 batters while only walking seven batters and saving 20 games. He also has an ERA of 1.93. Must Fix: It'll take some time for the prospects in the farm system to develop, so the Twins will have to work with what they got. But you can guarantee that Minnesota is excited about its future.
  5. Chicago White Sox: Chris Sale has picked up where he left off from last year. He has a 2.78 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 123 strikeouts this year. Jose Quintana has also been productive for the rotation with a 3.67 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP this season. Their bullpen has also been terrific; Addison Reed has 22 saves and 42 strikeouts in 39 IP and Jesse Crain (0.74 ERA, 19 holds) was named an All-Star before shoulder problems sidelined him. Must Fix: In spite of Sale's outstanding statistics, he has a record of 5-8. This is due to the fact that White Sox pitchers have one of the lowest run support averages in the majors (0.13 RS per start). As a matter of fact, Chicago's South Side ballclub ranks 29th in runs scored with 325 runs scored and 28th in on-base percentage with a team OBP of .299. Another issue for Chicago has been injuries. Losing Paul Konerko to a strained lower back hurts this club immensely.

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