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AL Central Marked By Mediocrity

April has come and gone. With the calendar flipping to May, there have been plenty of story-lines to follow across the baseball world. Bryce Harper seems to have found his swing again. Aaron Judge is making himself known as a Bronx Bomber. Even Eric Thames is having a resurgence in Milwaukee.

Teams in the AL Central have been making headlines of their own. The four top teams are separated by two games. Meanwhile, the Royals are the lone team with an under .500 record.

What's been going well for each AL Central squad? What needs to improve in the coming months? Let's dive in.
Image courtesy of Brad Rempel, USA Today Sports
Cleveland Indians (April Record 14-10)
What's Gone Right
Following their World Series run, the Indians might have come out of the gate a little slower than they would like. Francisco Lindor is continuing his strong performance from last year's postseason. He leads all shortstops in home runs, slugging percentage and WAR. Jose Ramirez is also proving he can hold his own. Through April, he hitting .330/.388/.593 with six home runs, the second highest total on the team.

Cleveland's pitching staff continues to be one of it's strengths. Indians pitchers have compiled the highest WAR total in all of baseball. Both their starters and relievers rank in the top six in WAR. Their 9.97 K/9 ranks as the best in baseball while their 2.79 BB/9 is the second lowest mark. Cleveland's strong pitching helped the club to sweep three-game series from the Twins and Rangers during the season's first month.

Room For Improvement
Edwin Encarnacion was the team's big free agent acquisition and he has't exactly gotten off to a hot start. Through April's action, he was hitting .200/343/.353 with one home run. Those averages are all below his career production. Jason Kipnis has been limited to nine games and his production has suffered when he's been on the field.

Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer have both struggled at the back of the Indians rotation. Tomlin has posted an 8.87 ERA, the club's worst mark, while averaging less than five innings per start. Bauer's ERA is slightly better at 6.26 and he's been close to six innings per appearance. Cleveland was only swept by one team in April, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and both Tomlin and Bauer made starts in that series.

Chicago White Sox (April Record 13-10)
What's Gone Right
The White Sox were supposed to be in the midst of a rebuild but they find themselves a half game out of first place after the season's first month. Avisail Garcia is batting .368/.409/.621 and he leads the team with 10 extra-base hits. Matt Davidson joins Garcia in the .600 slugging percentage club and he's also been getting on base over 33% of the time.

Miguel Gonzalez and Derek Holland have been quiet surprises in the White Sox rotation. Gonzalez leads the team with three wins and he's posted a 3.27 ERA with 21 strikeouts. Holland's ERA is better at 2.17 and he's second on the team in strikeouts. Even former Twins Anthony Swarzak has been good out of the bullpen as he has yet to allow a run in over 12 innings.
Improvement Areas
Veterans on the team like Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera haven't started strong. Frazier is hitting under .185 while getting on base less than 29% of the time. Cabrera's .260 average is 25 points lower than his career mark. His .668 SLG would also be his lowest total since the 2014 campaign.

Jose Quintana, the team's best starter a year ago, has struggled out of the gate. His ERA is north of 5.00 for April and his WHIP is over 1.46. James Shields was brought in as a veteran starter and he has been limited to three starts while currently being on the 10-day DL. Former Twin Mike Pelfrey has made a pair of starts so you know you're in desperation mode when you turn to Big Pelf.

Detroit Tigers (April Record 12-12)
What's Gone Right
The Tigers took advantage of six games with the Twins as 25% of their victories have come against Minnesota. Justin Upton has provided the most value to the Tigers as he has gotten on base over 40% of the time while compiling a .968 OPS. Both of those totals, if sustained, would be career-best marks. Ian Kinsler and Alex Avial have also had good starts to the year.

Detroit's pitching has been a mixture of good and bad. Michael Fulmer has put together the most consistent starts as he has a staff leading 3.19 ERA with 26 strikeouts over 31 innings. Justin Wilson and Shane Green have also limited damage out of the bullpen.

Improvement Areas
Former Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera has been limited to five extra-base hits and a .268 average. He currently is on the 10-day DL. Veteran slugger Victor Martinez has been limited in his time at DH. He has combined to hit .218/.281/.276 with only three extra-base hits in over 96 plate appearances.

Justin Verlander and Jordan Zimmermann are supposed to be the anchors of this starting staff. Verlander, the 2016 runner-up for Cy Young, has a 4.60 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP. Zimmermann has a 1.62 WHIP and and ERA of over 6.00. Francisco Rodriguez has also struggled as the closer as he has allowed 14 hits (3 home runs) and six earned runs in less than 10 innings.
Kansas City Royals (7-16)
What's Gone Right
Not much has gone right for the 2016 World Series champions. Lorenzo Cain leads the team in WAR and over half of his value comes on the defensive side of the ball. Salvador Perez and Mike Moustakas have combined for 13 home runs with each having OPS over .835. Other than that, there hasn't been much to write home about.

The Royals top three starters (Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy, and Jason Vargas) all have ERA totals under 3.00. Kennedy and Vargas have a WHIP under 1.00. Because of the strong start by the Royals starters, the club ranks first in the AL for WAR from their starting staff. Kansas City's lone sweep in the first month came in a three-game homestand versus the Angels.

Improvement Areas
Positive signs on the offensive side of the ball have been few and far between. The Royals rank at the bottom of the AL in many offensive categories. Their .210 batting average is 10 points lower than any team in the league. Slugging percentage doesn't rank them any better as they are in last by 14 points.

While the front end of the rotation has been strong, the bullpen has been a weakness for Kansas City. The team's relief core has the third worst ERA in the AL while posting a negative WAR total. Relief pitchers Matt Strahm and Travis Wood both have ERA marks north of 11.50. Nate Karns and Jason Hammel have also struggled in the back end of the rotation. A lot of pitching help will be needed to turn things around in KC.

What will May entail for the AL Central? Will anyone be able to separate themselves from the pack? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.


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20 Comments

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Old Twins Cap
May 01 2017 09:03 PM

One man's mediocrity, is another man's parity.

 

Is the Central losing that many games across the other divisions? 

 

Like to think the Central is competitve, but I've been wrong pretty much the last decade, except the Royals.

    • glunn, Thrylos, PseudoSABR and 1 other like this
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Comrade Bork
May 01 2017 09:41 PM
Twins squeak out the division championship 83-81!!
    • glunn likes this
It looks like the Twins Offense is about to heat up...while the pitching is coming back to reality a bit. Perhaps some changes in the rotation and in the bullpen can right those ships..if that happens, the Twins will begin to separate a little bit.
    • glunn likes this
Cleveland's record puts them on pace for 95-67.
Is that really mediocre?
    • Mike Sixel, markos, rghrbek and 1 other like this

 

Cleveland's record puts them on pace for 95-67.
Is that really mediocre?

 

Indeed. Cleveland is not mediocre this year. Good pitching + good hitting = good team.

 

And Kansas City isn't mediocre. It's just not good this year. 

 

But the general mediocrity of the division should provide an opportunity for the Twins to get some wins this year. 

    • Mike Sixel likes this

The record of division teams against division teams as a group is always going to be .500 so the only test  of a division is their record against everyone else.  The Royals for example are 7-8 against teams outside our division and 1-8 against the Central and they haven't even played the Tigers or Indians yet which would indicate that our division is very strong and the Royals are simply the weak brother in the division. The Royals are 1 game below .500 against outside divisions and the rest of the Central is a collective even which would indicate our division is simply average. Twins have only played 3 games outside the division.  Too early to tell how strong the division is.  

    • glunn likes this
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Brock Beauchamp
May 02 2017 07:45 AM

Isn't this how most divisions end up, though? One team that's good, three teams that are middling and end up with ~10 games of one another, and one team that's really bad.

 

The fact that the AL Central doesn't have a team off to a roaring start isn't really news. Cleveland is playing at a good clip, as expected. Then there's a bunch of teams beating one another. Then there's a bad team off to a hellacious start.

 

The NL Central has just a two game gap between first and last, led by the Cub (13-12) and trailed by the Pirates (11-14). Is that a mediocre division? One of those teams is better than anything in the ALC (Cubs) and I'd take two more of those teams over everyone in the ALC but Cleveland (Cards and Pirates).

    • glunn, Mike Sixel and Vanimal46 like this

The AL Central has represented the AL in the WS for three straight years so I think we should probably wait a bit before claiming it's mediocre.  

    • Blake and bizaff like this

I'm going with 1 really bad team, three "meh" teams, and Cleveland winning 90+ games. Just like almost everyone projected.

    • LA VIkes Fan and Vanimal46 like this

"The Tigers took advantage of six games with the Twins as 25% of their victories have come against Minnesota."

 

So, 25% of 12 wins=3.  Six games against the Twins, that means 3 wins, 3 losses for each.  Is that really "taking advantage of 6 games with the Twins"?  The Tigers are .500 against the Twins, .500 against other teams.....

    • gunnarthor, Dantes929 and hybridbear like this

 

"The Tigers took advantage of six games with the Twins as 25% of their victories have come against Minnesota."

 

So, 25% of 12 wins=3.  Six games against the Twins, that means 3 wins, 3 losses for each.  Is that really "taking advantage of 6 games with the Twins"?  The Tigers are .500 against the Twins, .500 against other teams.....

Narrative.

AL Central Marked By Mediocrity

 

One can sub "MLB" for "AL Central" and, using these arguments, would be correct, year in and year out :)

 

That's how baseball happens.

    • Dantes929 likes this
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Winston Smith
May 02 2017 09:30 AM

 

"The Tigers took advantage of six games with the Twins as 25% of their victories have come against Minnesota."

 

So, 25% of 12 wins=3.  Six games against the Twins, that means 3 wins, 3 losses for each.  Is that really "taking advantage of 6 games with the Twins"?  The Tigers are .500 against the Twins, .500 against other teams.....

Well the twins are 5-0 against the Royals and 7-11 against the rest. Still early.

 

"The Tigers took advantage of six games with the Twins as 25% of their victories have come against Minnesota."

 

So, 25% of 12 wins=3.  Six games against the Twins, that means 3 wins, 3 losses for each.  Is that really "taking advantage of 6 games with the Twins"?  The Tigers are .500 against the Twins, .500 against other teams.....

A little early for math but I believe it should say 33% of Detroit's wins have come against Minnesota.  4 out of the 12 wins.  Here is another fun Central Division fact - The Twins have already won more games this year against Kansas City (5) than they did all of last season (4).  

 

 

    • glunn likes this

 

Well the twins are 5-0 against the Royals and 7-11 against the rest. Still early.

Or, the Twins are 0-3 against Cleveland and 12-8 against the rest. Narrative.

    • Dantes929 likes this

Biggest surprises so far IMO... 

The White Sox are playing well. A little over their heads at the moment. It sure would have been nice taking a flier on Holland this off-season... 

The wheels have fallen off quickly for Kansas City. IIRC they were projected to be a ~75-80 win team. Their pitching looks just as bleak as Minnesota. Except Minnesota has an offense to back up a middling pitching staff.... They do not. 

    • glunn likes this
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Tom Froemming
May 02 2017 10:39 AM

Before anybody gets too excited about the White Sox, or reacts too strongly to anything in April, just remember Chicago was 17-8 last April. 

    • glunn, Dantes929 and gheggs42 like this
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Winston Smith
May 02 2017 10:46 AM

Fun with numbers and any way you twist them its still only April numbers and a sss.

 

Not much has gone right for the 2016 World Series champions.

 

@Cody  KC were the 2015 champs, not 2016. :)

@Cody  KC were the 2015 champs, not 2016. :)

Poor Cubs, still not getting any respect.

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