MLB: Updated AL Central Predictions After 1 Month of Baseball
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The American League Central is considered one of the weakest divisions in Major League Baseball. With the exception of the Detroit Tigers, the rest of the field appears to be fighting for second place.
The Tigers look like the team to beat, but the rest of the division has seen some surprising starts that have them ahead (or behind) of where they were predicted to finish back on April 1.
There's been one month of baseball in the books as of this morning, but that can be deceiving as teams can take advantage of a weak schedule, bad weather or the planets of the Grimlap system aligning.
With that, here's an updated look at how the AL Central will shake out over the final five months of the season.
5) Minnesota Twins
Eduardo Escobar is one of several Twin surprises that just won't last.
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Current Record: 11-12 (3rd in AL Central)
Chris' Opening Day Prediction: 5th
Call me a pessimist, but I don't see the Twins finishing out of the basement in this division.
The Twins have been surprising thus far, scoring a series victory over the Tigers to begin the season, and a split over the AL West-leading Texas Rangers this past weekend.
However, a lot of the reasons for their success are unsustainable and will drag them down the list.
Guys like Eduardo Escobar (who is hitting .438 with a career average of .259) and Kevin Correia (whose expected downfall is examined here) have been playing out of their minds in the month of April and should come crashing back to earth in the near future.
The offense of the Twins has also been a problem, as Aaron Hicks hit .113 in April with several other players looking incapable of hitting for power.
There's a chance that the Twins could be a surprise contender, but with the weaknesses they've successfully masked in April, that seems unlikely.
4) Cleveland Indians
The Indians' spending spree raised expectations, but their pitching will doom them.
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Current Record: 11-13 (4th AL Central)
Chris' Opening Day Prediction: 3rd
Last offseason, the Cleveland Indians decided to throw some money around to turn a middle of the pack team into a contender. After signing top free agents Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher, the Indians were looking to finish the job they had started in the first half of the 2012 season.
After a month, Swisher (.265, 2 HR, 9 RBI) and Bourn (.333, 2 HR, 2 RBI) have played to their potential. However, the starting pitching has made their efforts worthless.
The Indians staff ranks 27th in baseball with a 5.23 earned run average. Even with Justin Masterson having a strong start to the season (4-2, 3.12 ERA), Cleveland can't find anybody to follow him up.
There is a chance that the staff can turn things around, as Ubaldo Jimenez could figure things out at any moment, but there isn't enough depth for long-term success.
3) Chicago White Sox
The White Sox have pitched well, but haven't been as successful at the plate.
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Current Record: 10-15 (5th in AL Central)
Chris' Opening Day Prediction: 2nd
Heading into the 2013 season, the White Sox were similar to what they were a year ago.
Back then, rookie manager Robin Ventura inherited a roster that had underachieved under Ozzie Guillen. With his laid back approach, it was unknown to see how everyone would react to the change in the clubhouse.
To the surprise of this baseball writer, the Sox were able to contend for the American League Central and came up three games short of heading to the postseason.
This year, the faces would be the same, but consistency would be the issue.
The pitching staff has been terrific in the opening month, as the rotation ranked 14th in the major leagues heading into Tuesday's game with the Texas Rangers.
The same can't be said for the South Siders' lineup. Eighty-nine runs in 25 games is good enough for 28th in the major leagues. There has to be improvement in this category for them to compete.
2) Kansas City Royals
James Shields has had tough luck so far, but should lead the Royals to contend for the wild card.
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Current Record: 14-10 (2nd in AL Central)
Chris' Opening Day Prediction: 2nd
Like the Indians, the Royals made aggressive moves during the offseason to turn an average team into a contender. By trading for James Shields, Wade Davis and Ervin Santana, general manager Dayton Moore finally said "screw the future" and made plans to win in 2013.
So far, the moves have paid off.
The starting rotation for the Royals is 10th in the major leagues with an ERA of 3.64. That's a giant leap from a season ago, when they ranked 26th at 5.01. A couple seasons ago, I would find this to be a fluke. But with a staff that's completely different from years past, this has the ability to stick.
That leaves the offense, and that's a concern due to the slow starts of Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas.
Counted on as the building blocks of the Royals' future, Moustakas and Hosmer have combined for one home run (which came last night courtesy of Moustakas). In fact, they've been extremely ineffective at hitting in all facets as Moustakas is hitting .195 and Hosmer is batting a lean .254.
Make no mistake, the Royals need them to get going to do anything. However, the ability is there, and this may be the year they stay relevant past the month of May.
1) Detroit Tigers
Detroit is loaded. Until somebody is able to take them down, they'll get the top spot.
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Current Standing: 15-10 (1st AL Central)
Chris' Opening Day Prediction: 1st
There's a saying by the legendary wrestler Ric Flair that is true in all walks of life: "To be the man...you have to beat the man!"
In terms of the AL Central, the Tigers are "The Man."
Through one month, there doesn't seem to be any chink in the armor when it comes to the defending American League champions.
Offensively, they're one of the best in baseball with reigning AL Most Valuable Player Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder leading the way.
On the mound, they have one of the deepest rotations in baseball west of Washington, and despite using the dreaded "bullpen by committee" approach at the end of games, they've blown one save this season.
With legendary manager Jim Leyland at the controls, there are few teams in baseball that can give the Tigers a challenge. That leaves the AL Central theirs for the taking.