The White Sox scuffled through another mediocre week, their third straight week with a losing record. Incredibly, they sit just 2.5 games out of 1st place. The A.L. Central is the worst division in baseball now, and there isn’t really a reasonable argument otherwise. As evidence, I submit the following:
– Every team in the division has a negative run differential (meaning they’ve all been out-scored so far this season).
– The Indians sit atop the standings, but they have the worst record of any 1st place team in either league.
– The Indians record would land them in 5th place if they were in the A.L. East.
– Minnesota has been the worst team in baseball, both in terms of their record, and their run differential.
I continue to expect Detroit to get hot at some point and put some distance between itself and the rest of the Central, but they’re in any sort of a hurry to do it and no one else is in any sort of hurry to take advantage.
Let’s take a look around the division and see what happened over the last seven days:
Chicago: The Sox began their week with a Monday doubleheader in Cleveland. The day game saw Philip Humber have a rough go of things for the third straight start since his perfect game. Eric Stults kept the Sox in the night cap, but Matt Thornton wasn’t sharp in relief and the Sox dropped to 0-2 for the day. On Tuesday, John Danks cruised through 7 innings, and after a late Indians rally, the Pale Hose recovered to win in the 10th. An Alex Rios triple scored the winning run. After some tense finishes, Wednesday brought a laugher. Another great outing from Jake Peavy and Adam Dunn’s 10th HR led the way to an 8-1 win and a split of the series.
The White Sox hosted the Royals for the weekend. Gavin Floyd shut K.C. out for 7.2 innings to win on Friday. Dunn hit his 11th HR of the season, which would tie him for the A.L. if Josh Hamilton wasn’t having one of the greatest starts in baseball history (Hamilton is batting .400, with 18 HR, 44 RBI, and an OPS of 1.321 through 35 games. Yikes!). On Saturday Chris Sale returned to the rotation after his brief (and very odd) move to the bullpen last week. I won’t pretend to know if being jerked around had an impact, or if he’s nursing an injury, or if it was just a bad day, but Sale had his worst game of the year and the Sox lost 5-0.
On Sunday Humber finally had a good start, but the bullpen was a disaster and what had been a 1-0 lead after 6 turned into a 9-1 shellacking. Matt Thornton was the first to struggle. He walked the first hitter he faced, hit the second, then threw a wild pitch before giving up a 2-run double. Thornton gave up just 1 run over 12 innings in 11 games during April. He has now appeared in five May games and given up 6 runs in just 2.2 innings. His ERA has spiked from 0.82 to 4.61. Addison Reed had the worst of it Sunday though. Reed recorded only one out, while giving up 6 runs. There were only 2 hits off him, but he walked three batters and hit another. Two of those walks were intentional, and the blame lies with manager Robin Ventura. Reed came into the game not having given up a run all season, in 13 appearances. He carried a 12.6 K/9 rate, which is very strong. I don’t understand why Ventura put so little faith in him after two runners reached. It would likely have turned into a poor inning anyway, but I strongly disagree with putting more runners on base in all but the most extreme situations.
Record for the week: 3-4
Player of the week: Adam Dunn – .250/.483/.650, an OPS of 1.133, only 5 hits, but 4 for extra bases (2 2B, 2 HR) and tied for the league lead with 9 BB
Cleveland: The Indians hosted the White Sox to start the week, and things began well for them as they swept both games of Monday’s doubleheader. Travis Hafner led the way with a 3B and a HR in the early game, Asdrubal had 3 hits and scored the winning run on a Shelley Duncan double in the evening’s contest. A late rally on Tuesday put Cleveland in position to take the first three games of the series, but closer Chris Perez (who’d been pitching really well since his Opening Day fiasco) didn’t have anything going, and the Indians dropped the game. Wednesday’s series finale was a mess and the series ended in a 2-2 split.
The Indians were off to Boston for four games starting Thursday. Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley got the series off to a good start for the Tribe, but it things went from better to bad to worse after that, with losses Friday, Saturday, and Sunday by the scores 7-5, 4-1, and 12-1 respectively. Ubaldo Jimenez was off again Friday, the Indians mustered just 3 hits Saturday, and Sunday, after Justin Masterson was knocked around, reliever Dan Wheeler pitched so poorly he was released following the game. The Indians offense has been respectable, but their pitching is a huge problem right now, and will almost certainly lead to their falling out of 1st place in the next week or so.
Record for the week: 3-5
Player of the week: Michael Brantley – .364/.364/.515, an OPS of .879, 12 hits, including 5 2B, along with 8 RBI, led the division in hits, 2B, and RBI
Detroit: The Tigers had the Northwest road swing for the week, starting off in Seattle. On Monday, 7 shutout innings from Doug Fister in his return from the DL were wasted when Octavio Dotel gave up 3 runs in the 9th. On Tuesday Justin Verlander was not at his sharpest, but even still, he pitched alright, and the Tigers managed enough runs to win the game. On Wednesday rookie Drew Smyly made his 6th straight start with 2 runs or fewer (his 1.59 ERA leads the American League), but Detroit’s vaunted lineup managed only 1 run on 5 hits and the game ended in defeat.
On Thursday Detroit began a four-game series in Oakland. An 8-run 3rd inning allowed the Tigers to win the opener comfortably. Miguel Cabrera and Andy Dirks each had 4 hits, while Max Scherzer struck out 9. On Friday and Saturday the offense managed just 5 runs total and another strong start from Doug Fister was for naught, the Tigers dropped both games. Justin Verlander was there to save the day again on Sunday though. Verlander is not going to win 24 games again, but his ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts are all right in line with what he did in 2011. Yep, he’s pretty good.
Record for the week: 3-4
Player of the week: Andy Dirks – .500/.577/.727, an OPS of 1.304, 11 hits, 4 BB, 5 runs, 4 RBI, led the A.L. in OBP, tied for the A.L. lead in AVG
Kansas City: The Royals began the week by getting the snot kicked out of them by Boston on Monday. Jonathan Sanchez was horrible, which has been something of a default setting for him thus far. But on Tuesday Billy Butler led to way in a Royals victory and on Wednesday Bruce Chen was effective enough to allow Kansas City to win the game and take the series. Irving Falu, who’d been in the Royals system since 2003 without ever appearing in a big league game until last Sunday, scored the winning run. His is a good story.
The Royals came to Chicago for the weekend, but collected just 5 hits in the opener and lost 5-0. Even worse, they couldn’t manage to strike out Adam Dunn: Dunn entered the game with at least one strikeout in 36 straight games (dating back to last September). That put him just one game short of Bill Stoneman’s MLB record of 37 consecutive games with a K (set in 1971-72 with the Expos). Sadly, the Royals couldn’t whiff him and there was no history made. Saturday the Royals took revenge with a 5-0 shutout of their own. Sunday brought a lot of late offense from the Royals and they won the game. Kansas City is now 10-6 since their 11-game losing streak. Baseball is SO predictable.
Record for the week: 4-2
Player of the week: Alcides Escobar – .400/.455/.550, an OPS of 1.005, 8 hits, 3 2B, 3 runs, 3 RBI
Minnesota: The Angels were in town to begin the week, with Jered Weaver on the mound. Weaver threw a no hitter against Minnesota in his previous start, so getting 3 hits and 1 run off him might be thought of as a moral victory for the Twins. Not an actual victory though. Francisco Liriano gave up 4 runs in just 5 innings, which actually lowered his ERA to 9.45. Scott Diamond was called up to make his first start of the season on Tuesday and threw 7 shutout innings to lead a Minnesota victory. Carl Pavano had no such luck Wednesday though, and the Twins dropped the series finale.
Thursday brought Toronto to Target Field and it was Jason Marquis’ turn to pitch poorly for Minnesota. On Friday, in what constitutes an offensive explosion for the Twins, they put up 7 runs and won the game (they haven’t scored more than 7 runs in a game since April 12th!). Saturday things were back to normal though, Minnesota managed just 1 run on 5 hits and lost. On Sunday, Diamond went 7 shutout innings for the second time in a row and the Twins held on for a 4-3 win and a split of the series. Splitting a series against a team with a winning record? Get out the ticker tape, Minnesota!
Record for the week: 3-4
Player of the week: Scott Diamond – 2 starts, 14 innings, 10 strikeouts, with just 9 hits, 1 BB, and 0 runs allowed, for an ERA of 0.00, a WHIP of 0.71, and a KK/BB ratio of 10.00.
A.L. Central Standings (through Sunday, May 6th):
W – L GB RS RA DIFF
Cleveland 18 – 16 – 147 163 -16
Detroit 17 – 17 1 142 148 -6
Chicago 13 – 15 2.5 135 136 -1
Kansas City 13 – 20 4.5 133 157 -24
Minnesota 10 – 24 8 116 182 -66
The Week Ahead: The upcoming week brings no days off for any team in the division. Instead, each team plays two 2-game series to start the week, then interleague play kicks off on Friday.
Chicago: 2 vs. DET, 2 @ LAA, 3 @ CHC
Cleveland: 2 @ MIN, 2 vs. SEA 3 vs. MIA
Detroit: 2 @ CWS, 2 vs. MIN 3 vs. PIT
Kansas City: 2 @ TEX 2 vs. BAL 3 vs. ARZ
Minnesota: 2 vs. CLE, 2 @ DET 3 @ MIL