A funny thing happened to the AL Central on Thursday. Or two funny things, rather.
First, the division's top three teams all won to reinforce the idea that the AL Central is the most competitive division out of the gate. The White Sox may be off to their best start in 34 years, but there's still just a half-game separating them from third place:
But there's more: All three teams won with their top free-agent starter signings turning in their second gem in as many outings.
Mat Latos, White Sox
- Contract: One year, $3 million
- Thursday: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 65 game score
- Season: 2-0, 0.75 ERA, 12 IP, 4 H, 0 HR, 2 BB, 6 K, 68 game score
Ian Kennedy, Royals
- Contract: 5 years, $70 million
- Thursday: 7 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 1 HR, 74 game score
- Season: 2-0, 0.66 ERA, 13.2 IP, 7 H, 1 HR, 3 BB, 14 K, 72 game score
Jordan Zimmermann, Tigers
- Contract: Five years, $110 million
- Thursday: 6 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 62 game score
- Season: 2-0, 0.00 ERA, 13 IP, 8 H, 0 HR, 5 BB, 7 K, 67.5 game score
Zimmermann was considered the best of the second-tier starters (behind Zack Greinke and David Price), so it's not necessarily surprising that he's won both of his starts, even if the perfect ERA is a little bit ostentatious for my liking. Although he's not a direct replacement for Price since Detroit dealt him at the deadline, the slot behind Justin Verlander remained reserved for a premium pitcher, and Zimmermann's supposed to be that guy, even if he's battling inconsistent velocity.
The other two register as bigger shocks in and of themselves, but maybe not within the context of their teams. The Kennedy deal was considered a mistake before the ink dried, but considering they won a World Series with Edinson Volquez starting Game 1, I wasn't as eager to point and laugh. Latos is fine when he's healthy, and the White Sox excel at getting pitchers to the mound every five days.
If the market acted accordingly this winter, eventually you'll see a separation between performances that aligns with their contracts. In that scenario, the hope is that the White Sox only need Latos to be a healthy-enough No. 4. By banking a couple wins, including one with unremarkable offensive support, Latos wasted no time building himself a bit of a cushion against a correction.