The Chicago White Sox hold a slim lead over Cleveland and Detroit in the American League Central Division despite Monday's 4-1 loss to Minnesota. A quick look at the standings tells fans that 2012 is shaping up to be the same old AL Central quagmire.
Chicago is only three games over .500 but has led the Central for most of June. The Indians held first for five days last week and are just a half game back, while Detroit closed the gap to two games with a win on Monday night.
Even the Royals, who were swept this weekend by St. Louis, are just five games off the pace.
The White Sox are the only division leaders with less than 40 wins on the season. As usual, no team seems to be capable of building a lead and running away with the Central.
Wasn't this the Tigers' race to lose heading into the spring?
Detroit was given the nod in the Central but has yet to put it together after some big winter moves. Cleveland isn't hitting or pitching particularly well but is sticking around nonetheless.
No one gave the White Sox a chance after the team pared down payroll over the winter. Can one of these teams rise up and take control of the Central Division?
Despite a team batting average 10 points below Detroit's, the White Sox are scoring more runs in 2012. That has not been the case recently. Chicago has failed to score more than a single run in five of its last eight games. It's no surprise that it has lost four of those games.
Right now, Chicago's pitching staff is being held up by Jake Peavy's warrior mentality and rookie arms like Chris Sale and Jose Quintana. The offense needs to score runs for these guys. If that means fewer 8-0 routs and more 4-2 victories, so be it.
A place the White Sox might have a real edge over the rest of the division is in the field. Chicago is a vastly improved defensive team this year.
With Alejandro De Aza in center coupled with Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham in the middle of the infield, the White Sox are near the top of the league in fielding percentage (.988, tied for first) and defensive efficiency (.712, tied for second) ratings.
Chicago has thrown out over 36 percent of would-be base-stealers so far this season. That's third in the AL.
Chicago has made the first move in bolstering its team, picking up Kevin Youkilis over the weekend to shore up third base. With over a month before the trade deadline, it may come down to what the Central Division teams are willing to do to get their squads over the hump.
The AL Central race figures to continue into the final three months of the season. We are left to see if one team lays claim to the division both by its play on the field and the moves upstairs.
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