The AL Central - 1st Month Thoughts
Continuing in my rundown of the first month of the MLB season, I will now dive into the AL Central. Coming into this season, everyone had the Detroit Tigers as being the runaway winners of the division. They did the most in the offseason to improve their team by adding Prince Fielder BUT they did lose Victor Martinez for the season and ended up with a defensive infield of Prince Fielder at first base and Miguel Cabrera at third base. YEESH! Lets look at the breakdown.
The (W)Indians are currently in first place after a month and are among the surprises in all of baseball. They have been able to keep up with the Tigers based on surprising pitching from Derek Lowe. Lowe is currently 4-1 on the year with an ERA of 2.39 after being 9-17 with an ERA over 5 for the Braves last season. The experts thought Lowe would do even worse going back to the AL this year especially with the NL losing Fielder and Pujols to AL teams! The Windians have also gotten a great performance out of Vinnie Pestano out of the bullpen. He’s averaging 13.15 Ks per 9 innings so far which is just unheard of for a setup man who might only face 1 or 2 batters an appearance. Josh Tomlin and Justin Masterson have been God awful so far but it hasn’t hurt the Indians except for keeping them from having a bigger lead over the Tigers. Offensively, the Indians are being carried by Adrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis. I don’t think Cleveland can continue to count on Derek Lowe winning with smoke and mirrors. He has issued more walks than strikeouts and I feel that will start to catch up with him soon. If Carlos Santana doesn’t raise his average off of .238, it could be a long summer for the Indians once things start to return to normal unless they are going to be like the movie and emulate these guys taking Cleveland to the playoffs:
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox lost Ozzie Guillen when he bolted the last week of the 2011 season for greener pastures in Miami. Their ace Mark Buehrle decided to join Ozzie with the Marlins in Miami. The White Sox decided to replace Buehrle with Chris Sale and went with a guy that had never managed a baseball team on any level in Robin Ventura to replace Ozzie. The expectations were for rock bottom. There were no big additions to the roster. Carlos Quentin was traded to the Padres. Somehow, the White Sox are right in the thick of it. The most hated man in baseball, AJ Pierzynski has had his best month of baseball at the plate in his career with 5 HRs, 18 RBI, and almost a .300 average. Adam Dunn has returned to form by hitting 9 HRs and 23 RBI to lead the team in both categories. His batting average is even almost .100 points higher than last year! Paul Konerko continues to defy the odds and as is hitting .347 with 6 homers. Phillip Humber threw a perfect game. Chris Sale has been outstanding as a starter but might get shifted to the bullpen because of how bad Hector Santiago has been at closer with an ERA of 6.30. But perhaps the most surprising factor in the White Sox exceeding expectations is Jake Peavy. He has been dominant so far this year with an ERA under 2.00 as he has been fully healthy for the first time since joining the team. I don’t know if AJ, Alex Rios and Adam Dunn can keep hitting. I don’t know if Jake Peavy can keep healthy. Since I hate the White Sox, I will be rooting for a collapse. Or perhaps to find out that they repeated the history of the most famous White Sox team of all time and lose on purpose:
It’s hard to believe that this is the franchise that Ozzie Guillen would always call “piranyas” and would find a way to win the AL Central or at least bug the hell out of whatever team did eventually win it. How the times have changed. Joe Mauer isn’t an MVP batting champion anymore. Justin Morneau isn’t a slugging MVP anymore. They don’t have Joe Nathan mowing down hitters at the end of games anymore. They don’t have great pitching anymore. The Twins might be the worst team in baseball right now. Morneau has never recovered from his concussion and has had several nagging injuries since. Joe Mauer is starting to receive the effects of being a catcher having missed time due to leg weakness last season. When Denard Span’s .309 average with 0 homers and only 6 RBI is at the top of your stats, you know it is going to be a long season. When Carl Pavano is your best starting pitcher with an ERA of almost 5 and you have 2 starters (Liriano and Hendricks) with an ERA of 9+, you stink. The Twins might as well go for this formula because it couldn’t do any worse than what they are doing right now:
Kansas City Royals
It seems like every year is going to be the season that the Royals finally return to the success of the George Brett teams in the late 70s to mid 80s. The Royals have so many highly touted propsects. Billy Butler. Alex Gordon. Mike Moustakas. Eric Hosmer. Danny Duffy. Unfortunately, they have no pitching. Perhaps they would like to have former Cy Young Award winner, Zack Greinke, back? They get to host the All Star Game this season and experts thought it could coincide with the rebirth of the Royals as playoff contenders. Alex Gordon struggled early but is slowly starting to return to the form he had last season when he finally started living up to the hype. Butler and Moustakas have been as solid as advertised but still not quite to the elite level they will supposedly reach. Eric Hosmer has been supplying the power but is putting up numbers that look like last year for Adam Dunn…which is not a good thing. There is nothing to say about the pitching other than, YUCK. When the starting pitcher leading your team in wins (2) has an ERA of 9.00, there isn’t much to say that is positive. Danny Duffy has shown signs of brilliance but will the Royals be able to continue to develop him? Who can they get to improve the staff? It looks like another year of Royals fans only having this moment to bring back fond memories:
The Tigers were supposed to have a cakewalk to the playoffs this year. They have Cy Young/MVP Justin Verlander still in his prime. They have Triple Crown threat Miguel Cabrera. They added one of the premiere home run hitters in the game in Prince Fielder. However, they lost Doug Fister to the DL 4 innings into his 1st start of the season. Jose Valverde after going perfect on save opportunities in 2011, has already blown a couple in 2012. Verlander while pitching very good has only gotten 2 wins in 6 starts. Their infield defense leaves a lot to be desired. And Max Scherzer has screwed the pooch royally so far this year with 3 losses and an ERA over 6 so far. With those negatives being said, they ares till only 1 game out of 1st place and Justin Verlander and Doug Fister will combine for more than 2 wins in the next month. Miguel Cabrera is also going to raise his average about another 20 points too. In the end, the Tigers will prove the experts right and win the division. They just have too much power and the best starting pitcher in the entire division to not be able to win it at the end of 162 games. While I don’t think they can relive the glory of the 1984 Tigers, the Motown Mashers will provide plenty of memories this year.