Currently, the AL Central is handling themselves pretty well with three teams at .500 or above. Let’s take a look back on the last few weeks as we finish up the first third of this season.
Minnesota Twins (11-6, 1st place)
Although the #BombaSquad is second in the AL in runs scored and HRs, the hitting in general has been middle of the pack. They’ve lost four in a row including getting swept by division rivals Kansas City Royals this past weekend. They scored only 10 runs in the three-game series and are in the process of losing their stranglehold on the division. Nonetheless, they are the team to beat and still are on top of the Central and have the second-best record in the AL.
Offensive Stud: Ageless Nelson Cruz just keeps on going at 40 years young. Dude is slashing .344/.391/.578 with four bombs and 16 driven in. Boomstick looks like he will be hitting homers until he’s 50.
Offensive Dud: Mitch Garver, who burst on the scene last year, has started off slow. He is 3-32 with just one HR. Not a good look for the catcher they were expecting to be a big part of the offense this season.
Overall the Twins pitching has been pretty good with a team ERA of 3.49, good enough for third in the AL. The bullpen has let them down in three of their last four losses also but should turn it around.
Pitching Stud: Kenta Maeda has been as advertised. The Twins got a steal in acquiring the 32-year-old righty. He is 2-0 with a 2.65 ERA and has a stellar 16/3 K/BB rate in 17 innings.
Pitching Dud: Jose Berrios, who was supposed to lead this staff, has been bad this season. He sports a 5.31 ERA in four starts. His command has been off and he is not only getting hit but has also walked nine in just 20.1 innings.
After two more against the Brewers, the Twins have an off day Thursday and then are home for a seven-game stretch against the Royals and Brewers. The four-game series against Kansas City will be a chance to get revenge for the three-game sweep this past weekend.
Detroit Tigers (9-5, 2nd)
They are currently fourth in the AL in HRs with 23, a pleasant surprise for sure. After getting shut down by Trevor Bauer at home, the Tigers have scored 35 runs in their last four games and have won all four.
Hitting Stud: JaCoby Jones is leading the league in SLG (.786) and OPS (1.177). Yes…you read that correctly. The 28-year-old centerfielder is absolutely crushing the ball with as many HRs as singles (5).
Hitting Dud: Jonathan Schoop swings at everything. This we know. When it results in a .250 OBP and no walks to 18 strikeouts in 60 PAs, it isn’t good.
Overall it has been atrocious. Their 4.90 ERA is second-worst in the AL and they are last in strikeouts with an even 100. This is not a recipe for continued success.
Pitching Stud: Spencer Turnbull is 2-0 with a solid 2.00 ERA and is striking out a batter per inning. He has solidified himself so far as the ace because…
Pitching Dud: Matthew Boyd has been a disaster. He has a 9.20 ERA and a 1.909 WHIP. He is getting hit hard, walking people, and not getting the swings and misses. Either he is hurt or needs to go back to the drawing board.
Rough road ahead for the Tigers. After they finish up this homestand, they go to Chicago and Cleveland and then come back home to face the Cubs and Twins. Over the next three weeks, we will see if the Tigers are for real.
Cleveland Indians (10-7, 3rd)
No one can say the Indians aren’t patient at the plate. They lead the AL in walks with 76 and are middle-of-the-pack in OBP (.309) despite being dead last in BA (.196).
Hitting Stud: Jose Ramirez is the only player on the team with more than 10 RBIs and 10 Runs. He has an .867 OPS which is solid considering the team is at .610. Honorable mention goes to Cesar Hernandez who has embraced the role of table-setter with a nice .414 OBP from the leadoff spot.
Hitting Dud: Francisco Lindor has started off slowly. When talking hitting duds on the Indians, his name would normally not be here. The expectations and his talent are too good for him to be this bad. He should get it together.
What can I say? They have played 17 games and haven’t allowed more than four runs in any game. They have a league-leading 2.04 ERA to go along with 184 strikeouts, also leading the AL.
Pitching Stud: The whole staff except…
Brad Hand. He is the only one with an ERA over 3.25 and it was mostly due to an implosion where he gave up three runs in a third of an inning.
After a quick two-game series against the Cubs, the Indians’ next nine games feature six against the Tigers and four against the Pittsburgh Pirates. That stretch will be where they can make a move to pull ahead of the Twins.
Chicago White Sox (8-9, 4th)
They do lead the AL in BA at .258 but also have the second-most strikeouts with 164. They swing and miss a lot but also hit the ball hard with two of their young bats in…
Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert. They’ve shown they can handle big-league pitching. Moncada is coming into his own and Robert is as good as advertised. They’ve combined for eight doubles, five HRs, and an .835 OPS.
Hitting Dud: Eloy Jimenez has gotten off to a bad start. a .661 OPS is not where the young slugger wants to be right now. The shine is coming off the once-touted prospect.
It hasn’t been anything to write home about but they are third in the AL in strikeouts.
Pitching Stud: Lucas Giolito after a disastrous first outing against the Twins has gotten his mojo back. In his last three outings, he’s thrown 19 innings and has 24 Ks while surrendering just 12 hits and one HR.
Pitching Dud: If I had to pick one I’d say Gio Gonzalez who wasn’t really expected to do much except solidify the back end of the rotation but he has gotten lit up.
They have a big home stretch coming up. 12 of their next 15 are in Guaranteed Rate Field and they will duel with the likes of the Pirates, Tigers, and Royals. It will be time to make their move in the Central.
Kansas City Royals (7-10, 5th)
They do lead the league in doubles with 37 and are tied with the White Sox for first in BA at .258. Aside from that, they really don’t scare anyone and have walked the least in the AL with 36 on the season.
Hitting Stud: Jorge Soler went beast-mode last season to lead the league in HRs. He has continued his raking. With a .925 OPS and five bombs so far, the former Cub has found a home at Kauffman Stadium.
Hitting Dud: Alex Gordon is looking old and slashing .185/.254/.278 with one HR.
Their staff has been solid with a 3.95 ERA, good for sixth in the AL. With a couple of young guys like Brady Singer and Kris Bubic in the rotation, things should only get better for the Royals on the pitching end.
Pitching Dud: Danny Duffy was given a five-year deal in 2017. Granted it’s only for $13 million a year, but he was supposed to be the ace to anchor the staff until the young guns came up. He hasn’t been that good.
Their next 11 games are against the Twins and the Cincinnati Reds. We will see what this team is made of facing the nasty pitching of the Reds and the Twins who will be looking for revenge after last weekend’s sweep.
Follow John Lepore on Twitter @jball0202
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