For several teams in the AL Central, 2013 is a year to establish themselves as serious playoff contenders. As predicted, the Detroit Tigers are the cream of the crop in the division, but three other teams are still fighting for respectability and a playoff spot. It is looking more and more likely that if Cleveland, Kansas City, or Minnesota have any hopes of making the playoffs this season, they will have to overtake, then hold off, the Tigers to do so.
Right now, Cleveland, with a 38-36 record, is in a tie for 4th place in the wild card race. Of course, with more than 3 months left to play, the standings in each division could change wildly, but it may be easier to beat the one team – the Tigers – than to outlast 6 or seven teams league wide for the those two wild card spots. All three teams that are still within shouting distance of the Tigers have a lot of work to do.
1) Detroit Tigers (42-32): Last week – 4-3. Summary: The Tigers hosted 2 AL East powers last week, the Orioles and the Red Sox, and Detroit held their own. This week is more of the same as they have three games each with the Angels and the Rays. While both of these teams are in last place in their divisions, both are talented, dangerous teams, and the Tigers cannot lose focus and allow any of the three teams chasing them to actually catch up. The Tigers are suffering through bullpen troubles, and hope they can get those issues ironed out before anymore wins turn into losses. Team AL Rankings – Hitting: Runs – t-2nd (373); Home Runs – t-10th (77); OPS – 2nd (.780). Pitching: Home Runs Allowed – 1st (54); BAA – 1st (.243); WHIP – 1st (1.21).
2) Cleveland Indians (38-36): Last week – 4-2. Summary: The Indians had a good week against the Royals and the Twins, the two teams in which Cleveland is battling for second with, winning each series. Unfortunately, the Indians only gained a half game on Detroit. This week may be a challenge for the Indians as they play four in Baltimore, then 3 in Chicago against the White Sox. Cleveland must take care of business against the the Sox this weekend but they can ill afford to falter against the Orioles. The Indians have been close all season; they need to lock down some consistency. Team AL Rankings – Hitting: Runs – 7th (345); Home Runs – 7th (84); OPS – 7th (.746). Pitching: Home Runs Allowed – 12th (88); BAA – 7th (.250); WHIP – 12th (1.36).
3) Kansas City Royals (35-38):Last week – 2-4. Summary: The Royals started last week in second place but lost a series to both the Indians and the White Sox. If Kansas City wants to challenge Detroit, they must not lose too many series to the teams in which they are in direct competition. This week, they host the Atlanta Braves for the first time ever. After that, the Royals have a big 4-games series in Minneapolis against the Twins. Road series or not, Kansas City cannot afford anything less than a split this week. They were unable to make up much ground on the Tigers over the past three weeks despite going from 9 games under .500 to only games 3 under. They need another hot streak. Team AL Rankings – Hitting: Runs – 13th (285); Home Runs – 15th (40); OPS – 14th (.679). Pitching – Home Runs Allowed – 8th (81); BAA – 8th (.253); WHIP – 7th (1.29).
4) Minnesota Twins (34-38): Last week – 4-2. Summary: The Twins swept the White Sox lost week but lost some ground by dropping 2 out of 3 against the Indians. Minnesota allowed 29 runs in their 6 games but scored 35. They too, have a big week approaching. They play the weak Miami Marlins twice on the road before hosting 4 against the Royals. The series with the Royals could go a long way in determining which team will step forward as a true competitor in the division if one team or the other can win 3 of the games. The Twins are in the exact same position as the Royals – they must win more than their share of the divisional games if they have any hopes at staying alive. Team AL Rankings – Hitting: Runs – 10th (304); Home Runs – 14th (68th); OPS – 10th (.713). Pitching: Home Runs Allowed – 2nd (66); BAA – 15th (.283); WHIP – 14th (1.41).
5) Chicago White Sox (31-42): Last week – 3-4. Summary: The Sox are precariously close to falling out of things for good. Pulling out 2 games against the Royals in Kansas City bought them a little time. If the Sox can’t get hot between now and the All-Star break, they will certainly become sellers relatively quickly. This week is a short one for Chicago, with two games at home against the Mets before hosting the Indians for three this weekend. As with all of these teams trying to stay relevant, winning at least 2 against Cleveland is paramount to staying in the race, no matter how briefly. Team AL Rankings – Hitting: Runs – 15th (272); Home Runs – 13th (71); OPS – 15th (.672). Pitching: Home Runs Allowed – 5th (75); BAA – 2nd (.244); OPS – 4th (1.27).
None of the teams trailing the Tigers are out of it yet, but time is starting to run out on the bottom three. None of those teams can afford to drop much further back of the Tigers and the Indians. There are some divisional match-ups this week that could separate the pack just a bit. The division is still close but the Tigers are still the team to beat.