MLB Outlook: American League Central

After looking at the AL (American League) East yesterday, it’s time to look at the AL Central today. What can we expect from one of baseball’s most intriguing divisions this season?

Cleveland Indians 37-31: Everything seems to be going right for the Cleveland Indians these days. After a slow start, they’re back in first place, two games ahead of the Minnesota Twins. This is, in part, thanks to four members of their offense: third baseman Jose Ramírez (.318 avg., 11 home runs, 34 RBIs, 67 games), outfielder Michael Brantley (.296 avg., 5 home runs, 28 RBIs, 54 games), outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall (.289 avg., 10 home runs, 37 RBIs, 45 games), and designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion (.261 avg., 16 home runs, 37 RBIs, 66 games). These four have carried the Tribe’s otherwise not-so-special offense. On top of their hitting however, the Indians pitchers have been some of the best in baseball, coming in at 5th with an ERA of 3.87. This is in large part due to the fact the Indians have the best bullpen in all of baseball, as they have an ERA of 2.56. The bullpen needs to continue to shutdown teams in order to win, and the Indians may want to consider getting some outside help at the trade deadline on offense if they hope to make the World Series for a second season in a row.

Minnesota Twins 34-33: From worst to… Second? Oh well. That’s still quite the jump for the Twins, who are now only 25 wins behind they’re overall total of 59 last season, where they had the worst record in all of baseball. If you looked only at their pitching however, you might want to know exactly how this happened, seeing as they’re 28th in all of baseball with a 4.97 ERA. But then when you look at their hitting, they’re still not that great seeing as they’re 16th in MLB with a BA (batting average) of .253, 18th with 84 home runs, and 21st with 312 runs. Needless to say, the Twins have a lot of work to do. They need to bring in a big hitter to help out third baseman Miguel Sano, and they need a pitcher – any pitcher – to come in and get outs.

Kansas City Royals 34-35: Anybody else remember that brief moment in time where the Royals were good again? They even won the World Series. No? That’s too bad. It’s hard to explain the decline of the Royals. They still have first baseman Eric Hosmer hitting over .300, and catcher Salvador Perez winning all the Gold Gloves. Mike Moustakas is still solid at third base and Lorenzo Cain is still holding down the fort in centerfield, and Whit Merrifeld is having another solid season at second base. The pitching is also better than that of the Twins and is 12th in baseball with a 4.21 ERA. They’ve even got two starting pitchers in Danny Duffy and Nate Karns who have solid ERAs in the mid-3’s. On top of those two is Jason Vargas and his 2.27 ERA. In the end, the fault must lie with the bullpen, who are 20th with an ERA of 4.49. It’s clear that, in order for the Royals to compete, they need their bullpen to stop allowing runs and blowing leads. There is nothing wrong with the offense, or the rotation. In the end, on paper, this is the team that should be running away with the AL Central. Instead, they’re puttering along in 3rd place.

Detroit Tigers 32-37: The AL Central is one of those divisions where no team has been the dominant force over the last few seasons. Since 2010, we’ve seen four different Central teams win the division, with the Tigers being the team to reach it the most having won it four times. During that time, Miguel Cabrera not only won two MVPs, but had a triple crown win and five Silver Slugger awards to go along with his seven straight All-Star appearances. So why oh why can’t the team that has arguably the best hitter in all of baseball, make the playoffs? Well, it definitely has nothing to do with the offense. That’s clear by simply uttering the name “Miguel Cabrera.” Ultimately, the Tigers lack pitching. Having traded away David Price as well as losing Max Scherzer to free agency over recent years, the Tigers are really only left with Justin Verlander to head their rotation. That’s nothing to cry about, but one pitcher does not make the rotation. In fact Verlander isn’t even pitching well as he has a record of 4-4 with a 4.50 ERA in 14 games started in 2017. The Tigers only have one pitcher with an ERA under 4.00, and that’s Michael Fulmer’s respectable, but unspectacular, 3.45. The bullpen isn’t any better, as it has an ERA of 4.93, which is good (or bad) enough for 27th in all of baseball. Needless to say, while the Tigers offense likes to put on a show, it’s doesn’t matter if you score 10 runs when you allow 11. If the Tigers hope to put pressure on Cleveland for the division, or even compete for a Wild Card spot, they need to get some pitching help, and they need to do it fast.

Chicago White Sox 31-37: Oh, Chicago. Before your only claim to fame was that at least you weren’t the Cubs. But now they’ve broken the curse after 108 seasons and have won a World Series. The lowly White Sox haven’t placed above fourth in the division since 2012, and haven’t made the playoffs since 2008. They’re getting close to the decade mark without seeing postseason play. So what do they need to do in order to compete in their division? Let’s start with the offense. The White Sox have only three hitters putting together a decent season at the plate. Left fielder Melky Cabrera (.284 average, 7 home runs, 40 RBIs, 65 games played), José Abreu (.293 average, 11 home runs, 43 RBIs, 67 games played), and Avisaíl Garcia (.332 average, 10 home runs, 48 RBIs, 66 games). They need help offensively in all but those three positions. The White Sox bullpen, however, is 5th in the AL with an ERA of 3.69, and they’re 8th in MLB. Their starters, however, are more in line with the offense as they’re 18th in all of baseball with an ERA of 4.71. Needless to say, the White Sox have a lot of holes to fill, so unless they can revamp their offense, as well as their starting rotation, the White Sox won’t be competitive for quite some time. But that’s a lot of wheeling and dealing for this season alone, and they don’t have enough chips on the table to make the deals they need.

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