Can the AL Central Compete this Postseason?

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Can the AL Central Compete this Postseason?
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In a three-year span, the American League Central Division enjoyed some postseason success. The Chicago White Sox stayed hot from start to finish and won the World Series over Houston in 2005. The next season, the Detroit Tigers made it to the World Series, but lost to Saint Louis. In 2007, the Cleveland Indians were just one win away from going to the World Series.

But overall, the American League Central Division has not had as much success in the MLB playoffs as they would like. In the past 10 seasons, the AL Central has only made it past the first round of the playoffs four times. During that time frame, the AL East has largely dominated, going to seven World Series from 2000 to 2009.

The 2010 AL Central title race is down to two teams, the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox. It will not be easy for either team to advance in this year’s playoffs. The winner of the Central will most likely face an AL East opponent in the first round of the playoffs.

Prior to the creation of the AL Central Division in 1994, the Minnesota Twins won the World Series in 1987 and 1991. Their next playoff appearance would not be until 2002.  Throughout the 2000s, the Twins have been a very good regular season team, winning five AL Central titles. But they have struggled terribly in the playoffs.

In 2002, the Twins beat the Oakland A’s in the American League Division Series. Then they lost to the Angels in the American League Championship Series four games to one.  Surprisingly, that was the only time the Twins made it past the first round of the playoffs in five tries.

Not only did they lose the ALDS in 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2009, they only won two games in all those series combined. In both 2003 and 2004, Minnesota lost three games to one to the dreaded New York Yankees. In 2006 and 2009, the Twins quickly exited without a single victory against Oakland and New York, respectively. An embarrassing stretch of postseason failures for the Twins and the AL Central Division.

Will the Twins get the monkey off their back and actually win a playoff series, or will it be another season for naught?

In 2005, the White Sox won their first World Series Championship since 1917. Chicago was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in 2000 and 2008.

For the White Sox to have a shot at this postseason, they will have to rally from second place and steal the division away from Minnesota. Through 130 games played, the South-Siders are five games behind the Twins.

Competing in the playoffs could be a crapshoot with the Sox. They have been the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of the Majors this season. The started poorly and were nine games under .500 on June 8th. But long win streaks of 11 and nine games in June and July propelled them into first place. August has not been so easy as they find themselves  looking up at the Twins again.

This kind of streakiness would make Chicago unpredictable in the playoffs and potentially dangerous. But general managers would rather rely on talent and not streaks in October, so the Sox are a long-shot contender to advance in the playoffs.

Of course, anything can happen once you enter the playoffs. The records and stats don’t mean as much once you get in. This is especially true of the short five-game League Division Series. But regardless of who wins the AL Central this year, they are sure to be an underdog in the first round of the playoffs.

Just for the fun of it, here are the stats through August 22. You be the judge.

                  Twins    White Sox    Yankees     Rays        Rangers
Runs Scored    605     578              653            617        599
Home Runs     113      143              147            115        126
Batting Av.    .282     .267             .267            .252      .275
OBP              .350     .331             .348            .338      .340
OPS              .789     .758             .783            .741      .758
ERA               3.96     3.99            3.87            3.63      .392
Fielding %      .989     .985             .988            .985      .982

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