AL Central Standings
Break up the Indians! The first place Tribe are winners of 8 out of their last 10 games. They just got Grady Sizemore back for the first time since May of last year, and he went 2 for 4 with a HR in his season debut. With Grady out, they received solid production from Michael Brantley who was leading off and manning center field. Finding him at bats should be a priority with the marquee name back in the line up. Travis Hafner is hitting .354 with 4 HR and a 1.053 OPS.
A team ERA of 3.16 lead by inning eater Fausto Carmona is at the core of their success. Justin Masterson has been playing fantastic, sporting a 1.33 ERA and picking up 3 wins for the effort. Chris Perez has done a fine job closing the door. Carlos Carrasco goes for them tonight against the second place Royals.
Is this sustainable? Probably not. Hafner hasn't been this dangerous in 5 years. Its been 3 years since Sizemore showed significant production. I expect that team ERA to climb by a solid run or so. They lost the opening series to the White Sox, one more to the Angels, and have sweeps of the lowly Mariners, the not great Orioles, and the Red Sox, catching them when they were flat. They have several players I like- Justin Masterson might be for real, Carlos Santana is going to haunt us for a while, and Shin-Soo Choo is one of the most under rated players in the game, but I need them to do this for another month before I start to worry about them as a serious threat to win the division.
Finally, about 5 years later than they had hoped, the Royals are being lead by Alex Gordon. He has hit .365 and knocked in 11 runs so far, and is only one HR off the team lead. Unfortunately the team lead is only 2 held by Jeff Francoeur. Despite the lack of power, the Royals are scoring runs. Their 82 runs scored are the most in the AL, 2 more than the White Sox, and out in front of Cleveland by three. Billy Butler can rake, and Frenchy has been helped along by a .340 babip, making him the third regular on the team with a batting average up over .300.
Their pitching has been middle of the road average, so their early success seems to be resulting from getting on base more than any other AL team(.341). I like a lot of the players they have in their bullpen, like Tiny Tim Collins, the stoner Jeremy Jeffress, and their excellent closer Joakim Soria.
Is this sustainable? They have a ton of cavalry on the way in the minors, but I don't think we should expect them to be world beaters right out of the gate, and Jeff Francoeur is not good at baseball. They beat up on some bad teams and caught the Red Sox with their pants down. I expect a fall in the standings very soon.
Second most runs in the AL, trailing only KC. The starting pitching has been great. The offense came out guns a blazing. After shooting themselves in the foot last week they took a pounding from a pair of LA aces and a decent rookie prospect. They probably should have had 10 wins at this time last week. sigh.
Miguel Cabrera has 5 HR early, scoring 12 and knocking in 11 with an OPS up over 1. Good thing because the rest of the line up aren't pulling their own weight. Victor Martinez is nursing a sore groin. Detroit favorite Inge is at the Mendoza line, and Austin Jackson is worse than that hitting a paltry .175.
Similarly, their pitching has been strong at the top, and weak the rest of the way. Justin Verlander has struck out 27 in 29 innings of work. Phil Coke has surprised with a nice 2.25 ERA and a .167 BAA, but the rest of the starters havent been very good. Max Scherzer is 2-0 despite his 1.71 WHIP, Rick Porcello has a ERA of 6.19, and Brad Penny has 12 walks to go with his 13 strike outs. His ERA is a whopping 8.44.
Is this sustainable? Well, they are 2 games under .500, that is very much a possibility. I expect Scherzer's numbers and their offense to rebound some, but I don't see why the Sox cant stay out ahead of the Tigers as the season progresses.
Joe Mauer is mangled and on the DL. They just switched closers. In fact it was at Nathan's request, he asked them to make Capps the closer. Morneau is getting on base at a .250 clip and doesnt have any home runs. He is also out with the flu as of yesterday. Johnny Damon walked them off twice this weekend. Their import infielder from Japan is on the DL with a broken leg. They are off to their worst start since Gardenhire took over in 2002.
They have 5 home runs. The whole team. 5 home runs.
It is ugly up there in the north woods, and frankly, that makes me feel a little better.
The division is wide open. After 15 games the whole thing is upside down based on several pre-season predictions. The Sox are lower than any of us had hoped, and they did it to themselves for the most part with terrible defense at the worst possible times and shaky pitching out of the bullpen. These things should normalize. The Sox should be ok.
My biggest concerns on the Sox right now are Pierre in left and Thornton's command.
Pierre will probably stop dropping pop ups. He will also finish with a productive sb/cs ratio, as it sits at 4/5 right now, and I dont think that counts his getting picked off. He's been brutal. He needs to get going.
Thornton is 34 years old. Thats the downside of a baseball career. The Sox got him for a song because he could never harness that easy heat. Cooper set him straight and the last few seasons have obviously been stellar. He has to get the control back. He has looked like a deer in the headlights at times this year and doesnt seem to trust his own stuff. He has to get himself sorted out, too.
If both of those guys turn it around, I still say its the Sox going away for the division. If not, we could have a dog fight on our hands, and I wouldn't be completely shocked if it was with the Tribe or the Royals.