AL Central Update – 8/12/13: Tigers Crushing All Challengers


Over the past two plus weeks, the Detroit Tigers have established themselves as not only the overwhelmingly best team in the AL Central, but one of the best in all of baseball. The Tigers now have the best record in the American League and the third best record in the majors.

Jun 12, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) delivers a pitch in the first inning of the game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Since the All-Star break, the Kansas City Royals have played as well as any Royals’ team has played in a decade, maybe two, but they have been unable to cut into the Tigers’ by more than a measly half game. The Indians played well for a while (they did have an 8-game winning streak) but were unable to maintain their momentum when they matched up head-to-head with Detroit.

1) Detroit Tigers (69-47): Last week – 5-2. Summary: The Tigers pretty much claimed the Central as their own with a devastating (to their challengers) 12-game winning streak which culminated in a 4-game sweep over Cleveland. The long streak crushed any hopes either the Indians or the Royals might have had in winning the division. Even with a pair of losses over the weekend against the Yankees, Detroit has won 13 of their last 15 games. This week, the Tigers have 3 against the reeling White Sox. The big series is over the weekend when Detroit host Kansas City for 5 games in 4 days. If they can crush the Royals as they did the Indians, their dominance over the division will be complete. Team Leaders – Hitting: Extra Base Hits – Miguel Cabrera (59); Strikeouts – Jhonny Peralta (98); OPS – Cabrera (1.145). Pitching: Strikeouts Per 9 Innings – Al Alburquerque (13.36); Walks Per 9 Innings – Doug Fister (1.57); OPS Against – Drew Smyly(.548).

Aug 7, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians first baseman Nick Swisher (33) celebrates his RBI double in the third inning against the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

2) Cleveland Indians (63-55, 7 GB): Last week – 1-6. Summary: A win on Sunday prevented the Indians from throwing up a big, fat zero in the wins column last week. The big blows came from the Tigers, who outscored Cleveland 25-11 in a 4-game set. A lack of offense hurt them early in the Angels series as well. The Tribe’s bats picked a poor time to go cold. They are now just a half a game ahead of the Royals in the division, and they are right in the middle of things for a wild card berth. Things are not over in Cleveland. This week, the Indians must bounce back against Twins and the scrappy Oakland Athletics. They are only 4 games behind the A’s in the wild card race. Team Leaders – Hitting: XBH – Jason Kipnis (45); Strikeouts – Drew Stubbs (109 – Mark Reynolds actually has the most with 136 but he is no longer on the team); OPS – Ryan Rabun (.914). Pitching: K/9 – Rich Hill (12.35); BB/9 – Cory Kluber (1.92); OPS Against – Justin Masterson(.624).

Aug 9, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Greg Holland (56) is congratulated by catcher George Kottaras (26) at the end of the game against the Boston Red Sox at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals won 9-6. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

3) Kansas City Royals (61-54, 7.5 GB): Last week – 5-2. Summary: The Royals had to have a successful week and they did, winning their match ups with both the Twins and the Red Sox.  By going 18-5 since the break, they have played themselves into the wild card conversation, although they remain 4. 5 games out of one of the two spots. They still have to wins game, regardless of who they may be playing. It is a big week for the Royals as they have three games with the Marlins where they have to win at least 2, then they have 5 with the Tigers in 4 days. Kansas City needs to win at least 3 just to keep up with the pack of 6 teams vying for the wild card spots. Team Leaders – Hitting: XBH – Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer (37); Strikeouts – Gordon (99); OPS – Billy Butler (.799). Pitching: K/9 – Greg Holland (14.48); BB/9 – Ervin Santana (2.09); OPS Against – Holland (2.32).

4) Minnesota Twins (42-63, 16.5 GB): Last week – 3-3. Summary – There is little to mention about the Twins, who at this point are just trying to improve and gain experience for the future. They are not the worst team in the American League, not even close. Nor are they close to competing for the divisional title. They can play spoiler but that is about it. This week, they are home for 3 against the Indians and 4 against the White Sox. The Twins will have a say in the wild card outcome as they play 32 more games against teams presently in the playoff race. Team Leaders – Hitting: XBH – Justin Morneau (42); Strikeouts – Aaron Hicks, Joe Mauer (84); OPS – Joe Mauer (.864). Pitching: K/9 – Glen Perkins (10.96); BB/9 – Casey Fien (1.64); OPS Against – Caleb Thielbar (.205).

5) Chicago White Sox (44-72, 25 GB): Last week – 4-2. Summary: It was actually a good week for the White Sox but they are so far out of the running, no one noticed. Even more so than the Twins, there is little to analyze about the rest of the White Sox season other than they have to work to develop their younger players for the future. They did ship off another veteran, sending Alex Rios to the Rangers. This week, they get to try to slow down the Tigers before facing the Twins over the weekend. The White Sox have 35 games remaining against teams still in the playoff race. Team Leaders – Hitting: XBH – Alejandro De Aza (40); Strikeouts – Adam Dunn (128); OPS – Dunn (.804). Pitching: K/9 – Nate Jones (10.37); BB/9 – John Danks (1.79); OPS Against – Addison Reed (.569).

While it is possible the Indians or the Royals could catch the Tigers (all three teams play each other several times over the next 6 weeks), it is highly unlikely the Tigers will play bad enough to fall back to the pack. Instead, Cleveland and Kansas City must play with an eye on the wild card spots. All they can do at this point it to focus on their own games. They are fighting it out against 4 other teams and it is improbable both can sneak into the playoffs. The team who plays the best has a legitimate shot at postseason.


Tampa Bay Rays (66-50, 0 GB)

Oakland Athletics (66-50, 0 GB)

Baltimore Orioles (65-52, 1.5 GB)

Cleveland Indians (63-55, 4 GB)

Kansas City Royals (61-54, 4.5 GB)

New York Yankees (59-57, 7 GB)