MLB Roundup: American League Central
by Christian S. Kohl
Since Opening Day on March 30th, teams in the American League Central Division have played approximately fifty games, and already massive disparities have set in. While just 2.5 games separate all teams in the AL East, the Twins have managed to post just 18 wins and trail the division leaders, the Chicago White Sox, by a massive 10.5 games. Their poor offensive production amounts to a league worst 36 homers and an 11th best .244 team batting average. Carl Pavano sports the lowest ERA of any of their starters, registering just 47th best in the league with a dismal 5.46. The Twins need to click fast, or this season will end for them before it’s even begun.
The Tigers also surprisingly find themselves off to a poor start, sitting several games below .500. They sport a host of fearsome weapons, including Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder on the offensive side, along with ace Justin Verlander locking down the pitching rotation. His eye-popping 81 innings pitched and .190 opposing BA should be plenty to lead a team to a phenomenal season. But with Rick Porcello behind him as second in IP with just 57 and pitching to a 5.21 ERA, the Tigers will need more depth to continue to battle in the Central. Young starter Drew Smyly began the year in promising fashion, with several deep outings and conceding 2 runs or fewer in his first 6 starts. But Smyly and other Tigers have tapered off of late, and with nicks to Valverde and slow starts for some of their key contributors, they’ll need a little bit of life to reverse this current skid.
Cleveland sits comfortably in second, a bit of a surprise effort in the early going, rendering them a rock solid 27-23. Chris Perez has anchored their pen with a league-leading 17 saves. Helping him out along the way, the Indians lineup sports a tough-out double play tandem in Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis. The Indians also await the return of centerfield mainstay Grady Sizemore, in addition to possibly looking for a power bat come trade deadline time to boost power and RBI production down the stretch.
In no need of additional power, however, are the division leading Chicago White Sox, currently riding an eight game winning streak. The middle of their order sports two of the top 10 leaders in home runs, the resurgent Adam Dunn, and an absolutely ageless weapon in Paul Konerko. While fans and front office alike annually wonder if the next season should be Konerko’s last, he continues to produce and contend for the league lead in just about everything. The 36 year-old Konerko currently sits atop the league in hitting with a whopping .381 average, along with 11 HR and a .455 OBP. Helped along by fast starts by others in the lineup such as catcher AJ Pierzynski, the White Sox seldom struggle to produce runs. Their pitching staff also limits opposing hitters to just a .232 average, second only to the Angels in the American League.
Despite the fast start of the Indians, the depth and experience of the Tigers will likely overtake them looking ahead. The Royals and the Twins will continue struggling as Detroit and Chicago battle for the Central title. Look for Cabrera and Fielder to further warm with the summertime and give the White Sox all they can handle. If Sale and Peavy continue their excellence, and Verlander dominates as he is accustomed, one thing is clear: come October, absolutely nobody is going to want to face either of these teams in a 5 game series.
Christian S. Kohl is a writer and filmmaker based in New York City. Find out more about him at DailySpew.com.