Tuesday, May 1, 2012

AL Central looking weak after first month

The first month of the baseball season is in the books and there have been surprises across the baseball world. The Angels and Albert Pujols had a rough first month after experts picked them to be fighting for a division title. The Rangers have being playing on another level from most teams in baseball. Matt Kemp is on pace for a record breaking year and the Dodgers are the top team in the National League.

On paper at the start of the season, the American League Central seemed to be a one team race. The Detroit Tigers were the hands down favorite to represent the AL Central in the playoffs. But baseball is a funny game and the Tigers have stumbled a little getting out of the gate. This could open up the division to any of the other teams to find a way to dethrone the Tigers from their perch on top of AL Central.

All of the teams in the AL Central are within six games of first place in the division at the end of April. Even with the tight race in the division, the Cleveland Indians are the only team to sit above .500 at the end of the first month. The Tigers and White Sox are both one game out of first with the Royals and Twins filling up the basement. So who is going to be able to separate themselves from the pack in the coming months?

Only one team has a positive run differential as the teams start play at the beginning of May. The Indians have outscored their opponents by three runs since the season began and they have allowed the least amount of runs out of teams in the division. Every other division in baseball has a team that has scored at least 100 runs but the Central is lacking a team that has reached this feat. The Tigers have scored the most runs with 94 runs scored but they have also allowed the second most runs in the division.
Some of the biggest struggles for teams in the Central have come in their own home games. None of the teams in the Central have a winning record at home and the Royals have the dubious distinction of being the only team in baseball that has not won a contest on their home field. The Tigers sit one game below .500 at home but the Indians, White Sox, Twins, and Royals sit three games or more below the .500 mark.
Here's a quick look at the other teams in the Central with a couple of notes about their start to the 2012 season:

1. Cleveland Indians (Record 11-9): In the last ten games, the Indians have gone 6-4 to push themselves to the top of the Central. They just completed a 3-3 home stand and now the are off to Chicago for an important series in the standings. Being on top of the division at the end of the first month is familiar territory to the Indians as they finished last April with an 18-8 record. Derek Lowe seems to be comfortable at the front of the Indians rotation. He finds himself tied for the league lead with four wins and he has a very good 2.27 ERA.

2. Detroit Tigers (Record 11-11): For the second year in a row, the Tigers are struggling to start the season. A slow start didn't impact the Tigers too much last season as they finished with 95 wins over the course of the season. Delmon Young's recent incident has been a little bit of a distraction and it will be interesting to see how the team deals with the fallout. Detroit needs to get some of their pitching in order for them to find success again but the division is still theirs to lose in 2012.

3. Chicago White Sox (Record 11-11): When the White Sox sold off some of their parts in the offseason, it seemed like they might be in the middle of a rebuilding project. They kept some of their parts and they have seen a resurgence among some familiar names. Adam Dunn was one of the worst hitters in baseball last year and he has five home runs to his name in 2012. Jake Peavy might have been the best pitcher in the American League for the first month of the year. 

4. Kansas City Royals (Record 6-15): The Royals seemed to be the darlings of the baseball world before the season began. Their combination of young players and a strong bullpen looked to push them up near the top of the division. Some struggles at the plate from players like Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon have made scoring runs a challenge. There have also been some speed bumps with the pitching staff that will need to be ironed out for the team to find success in the coming months.

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