Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Here's why the Tigers won't be challenged in the AL Central ...
It seems simple enough. Right now, Detroit is the only team in the AL Central with a record above .500. Here are the standings entering play on June 12:
Cleveland 31-33, 5.5 GB
Kansas City 29-33, 6.5 GB
Minnesota 28-33, 7 GB
White Sox 28-35, 8 GB
Would you believe the Tigers are the only team in the division that has not suffered a losing streak of eight games or more? Detroit's longest skid this season is four games. They haven't shot themselves in the foot like other clubs in this division:
Cleveland had an eight-game losing streak that started June 2 and ended Tuesday night with a 5-2 win over Texas. During that stretch, the Indians got swept by Detroit. They were just a half-game out of first when that slide started. Now, they are 5.5 back. The flaws in their pitching staff have really shown up recently. The Tribe allowed 51 runs, over 6 runs per game, during that eight-game skid. The Indians rank 13th in the AL in pitching. That's not a recipe for season-long contention.
Kansas City had an eight-game losing streak from May 22 to May 29. The Royals offense swirled right down the toilet during that stretch. They scored only 14 runs in those eight games and fell a season-worst 7.5 games off the AL Central lead. The poor hitting has caused KC to turn to a franchise legend, George Brett, as hitting coach. It remains to be seen whether he can help Mike Moustakas get out of a season-long slump, or figure out what happened to Eric Hosmer's power stroke. The Royals have hit a league-low 32 home runs this year. Hosmer has just one home run as we approach mid-June.
Minnesota was the consensus pick to finish last in the division this year, and I won't be shocked if that comes to pass. The Twins are ahead of the White Sox for now, but I think the Sox will pass them by before all is said and done. Minnesota lost 10 games in a row from May 14 to May 24. That long losing streak won't be the Twins' last. This team has four starting pitchers with an ERA over 5. Opening Day starter Vance Worley has been a complete bust, going 1-5 with a 7.21 ERA. P.J. Walters is the Twins' best pitcher right now. Ick.
The White Sox briefly got back to .500 on May 26 after completing a three-game sweep of the hapless Miami Marlins. Just when you thought it was safe to wear your Sox cap with pride again, the team tanked, losing eight straight from May 27 until June 4. The main culprit was the offense. The Sox are 14th in the league in runs, batting average and slugging percentage. They are dead last in on-base percentage.They were shut out three times during the losing streak and scored only 15 runs during those eight games. Sadly, it looks like longtime star Paul Konerko's career is all but over. He's got only six home runs. He's basically a 37-year-old singles hitter with no speed and a .647 OPS. The Sox have built their lineup around Konerko for years, but Father Time is knocking loudly for the team captain.
Meanwhile, the Tigers keep humming along at a consistent pace. They are winning roughly four out of every seven games they play. They probably won't hit the 100-win mark, as many people expected them to coming into the year, but they don't need to. They'll likely finish between 92 and 95 wins, and that will be more than enough to win the division.
Back in the mid- to late-1990s, the AL Central was called "The Comedy Central." Cleveland had dominant teams and everyone else stunk. We're back to that point now, except that Detroit is now the team dominating. Every other team in this division has significant work to do before it can call itself a legitimate contender.