MLB: Kansas City Royals at Cleveland Indians

Around The AL Central: Are The Tables Turning?

As we draw nearer by the day to the “There are only 100 games left!” point of the baseball season, things in the AL Central are beginning to fluctuate, and the fun part of the race is just starting to take place.

This weekend saw a few significant division rival match ups, and things were flipped upside down rather quickly. During the last iteration of Around The AL Central, (brought to you by our own Collin Whitchurch, whom I will be doing the honors for this week) the division looked like this:

Team Record WPCT%
Kansas City 27-22 .551
Cleveland 26-22 .542
Chicago 27-24 .529
Detroit 24-25 .490
Minnesota 15-34 .306

Now, just a short week later and the landscape of the AL Central looks like this:

Team Record WPCT%
Cleveland 32-24 .571
Kansas City 30-27 .526
Chicago 29-28 .509
Detroit 29-28 .509
Minnesota 16-40 .286

Yes, you may note that the White Sox are clinging for dear life to their status as an above .500 team, while Detroit finally made the mark. As the White Sox faced the Tigers at Comerica Park this past weekend and the Indians hosted the Royals, both visiting teams got their stuff rocked, for lack of a better term. Let’s take a look at what’s happening now with each team.


For the last few years, the Indians have always been the sleepers in this division, and every year I underrate them, probably due to their lack of star power with the exception of Corey Kluber, but they always tend to sneak up on the Central when we least expect it. That time is now. Their starting staff has the fourth-best ERA in the AL, most of that on the backs of Danny Salazar and Kluber, the latter of which currently has a K/9 rate of 8.92, good for eleventh in the AL, while posting a BB/9 rate of 2.03 (which for the record is higher than both Chris Sale and Jose Quintana). Kluber has struggled stranding runners on this season though, posting just a 66 percent LOB%, fifth-worst in the AL. Salazar holds a 2.24 ERA with a 10.67 K.9. His walk rate is 4.63, but he’s been a bit better than Kluber at keeping the runners on base from scoring and the ball in the yard.

The Indians hosted the Kansas City Royals this weekend for a four-game set, and they sent the Royals off to Baltimore without something that they had come to Progressive Field with — the division lead. The Indians outscored the defending World Champs a whopping 25-6, thanks to a Royals rotation that it seems can only take solace in Danny Duffy lately. The Indians didn’t see Royals closer Wade Davis all weekend after he sat out on Thursday walk-off victory, as no other save situation came up.

The real scoop on the Indians these days though, is that all the good they’re currently doing they’ll likely have to continue doing without Michael Brantley. After Jeff Passan tweeted that the Indians were “seriously concerned” about the state of Brantley’s health, Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported Monday that Indians GM Chris Antonetti addressed the situation with a little less trepidation:

Brantley is an important piece of the Indians offense and should he be out for a significant amount of time, it would not only effect of the AL Central race but potentially the outfielder marker at the trade deadline — a front on which the White Sox could be active. I would speculate the situation with Brantley is quite severe, but Antonetti is going to do his best to keep it under his hat for now.

Next up: The Indians are facing the Mariners for a four-game set at Safeco before continuing their West Coast road trip in Anaheim to take on the Angels. They’ll then head back to the Midwest to face the Royals again, this time at Kauffman Stadium for a three-game set to finish out their road trip.


Shell shocked might be a good way to describe how the Royals feel after they were swept this past weekend (The Sox have a sympathy card in the mail). The sweep simply served to underscore the subtle issues their rotation is facing. Or perhaps they’re not so subtle, with the example of Royals starter Chris Young, who gave up four home runs in the fifth inning of Sunday’s contest while struggling with his slider. The Royals  starters currently are 13th in ERA in the AL, with their rotation compiling a less than impressive 4.82 mark so far this season.

Having a strong offense is key, especially when your rotation is scuffling — something the Royals learned the hard way this weekend. The Royals have been victim to a myraid of injuries that has recently plagued their lineup, with the latest addition being third baseman Mike Moustakas, who just underwent season-ending knee surgery. Left fielder Alex Gordon is on the disabled list with a fractured wrist, and catcher Salvador Perez missed six games with a bruised thigh, finally returning to the lineup on Saturday. It goes without saying, that yes, as much as the rotation for the Royals is not the best, being as banged up as they have been has not aided the situation either.

Next Up: A true test of the Royals’ fortitude is quickly approaching. They’re currently taking on the Orioles after the tough series sweep in Cleveland, and will then heading back to the South side of Chicago to take on the White Sox this weekend. After that, they head home to begin a homestand that includes visits from both the Indians and the Tigers. Fasten your seatbelts, Royals fans — it could be a bumpy ride.


Things got ugly in Motown over the weekend for the White Sox as they were swept by the division rival Tigers at Comerica, and the sweep stung especially bad when the White Sox had their three best pitchers in Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and Carlos Rodon going for them in each start. All three starters were lit up, Quintana not even making it out of the fifth inning, and things were simply not pretty.

The Tigers are 5-3  since last week, taking one from the Angels before the series sweep of the White Sox. While they may be on a relative hot streak, their rotation is currently the third-worst in the American League. However, that rotation has recently found a bit of salvation with a flash of vintage Justin Verlander on the mound and the emergence of newcomer Michael Fulmer. Fulmer flirted with a no-no recently, and has gone six-plus innings and allowed just one earned run in his last four starts, including holding the Blue Jays scoreless while the Tigers offense posted 11 runs for him. Must be nice! 

The Detroit offense has crept up on us all (especially Toronto last night), and the Tigers are currently tied for the second-best batting average in the league at .271, while also holding onto the third-highest slugging percentage at .447.

Detroit manager Brad Ausmus has recently switched up his lineup by batting center fielder Cameron Maybin second, while bumping J.D. Martinez to the five spot. “He’s getting on base, he has some speed, he can distract the pitcher, he can score on a double from first, he can steal a base,” Ausmus told the media of Maybin “He’s not really the prototypical run-producer. That doesn’t mean he can’t drive in runs… But, the bottom line is if he keeps getting on base, if he keeps having good at-bats in front of Miggy and Victor, and then J.D. behind that, there’s probably no reason to move him.”

The Tigers lineup may be of a more vintage makeup, but with the infusion of some youth, they could end up becoming a significant part of this race quite quickly, with a lot of that depending on how well Fulmer continues to carry himself in the rotation.

Next Up: The Tigers will continue a series at Comerica Park with the Blue Jays, and then head off on a road trip that will have them face the Yankees, the White Sox, and finally the Royals for four games. 


Is this really even necessary? They’re winning percentage is below .300 and they’re just sort of hanging out until next year — or maybe even the year after that. It’s okay Twins, you’ll always have 2009 and 2010!

With a ton of inter-divisional matchups on the upcoming schedules for these teams, the AL Central is going through some interesting changes, and it’s truly still anyone’s race this early in the season.

The addition of James Shields that the White Sox made over the weekend should help to solidify the back end of the rotation that was so deeply in question, potentially helping keep them  in the race, but they’ll will need to step up the offense to aid the rotation and relieve some of the stress off the bullpen in order to truly feel comfortable as contenders. Shields’ first start will come Wednesday at U.S. Cellular Field against Max Scherzer and the Nationals. Challenge accepted.

Lead photo courtesy of Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

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