- The AL Central is a bad collection of teams. Fortunately the Indians appear to be taking control of the division.
So far this year, the AL Central has been outscored by a collective 254 runs—which probably sounds bad on its own, but now consider that no other division has been outscored by more than 35. Yikes. Here are our midseason grades for the mess here:
Cleveland Indians (43–34)
Thanks to a recent hot streak of seven wins in a row, the Indians look like themselves again. Cleveland is finally building the distance it has sought all year between itself and the rest of the division after they were slowed by a dismal start for their offense and bullpen. After the team posted a paltry .688 OPS in April, they boosted that to .848 in May,José Ramírez, who’s been perhaps the best player in baseball, non-Mike Trout division, is anchoring a surging Cleveland offense that has scored 38 runs over its last four games. The rotation, meanwhile, remains a bright spot: Corey Kluber is posting another brilliant season (a 2.10 ERA and 0.806 WHIP), Trevor Bauer is enjoying a career year (a 2.44 ERA and 11.8 K/9 rate), and Mike Clevinger, with his 3.00 ERA and voluminous hair, is enjoying a strong showing. The bullpen is performing better than it was during the season’s first two months, but remains a source of concern. But when the rest of the team looks as good as it has lately, the bullpen just needs to finish the job.
Minnesota Twins (34-40)
Even with spectacular breakout seasons from Eddie Rosario and Eduardo Escobar—each hitting somewhere in the neighborhood of a 150 OPS+—this team still can’t cobble together a league-average offense. That’s due largely to the struggles of key players like Miguel Sanó, was optioned to the minors on June 14, and Byron Buxton, who’s now sidelined by injury after a miserable season (.156/.183/.200, no homers over 28 games). Meanwhile, offseason acquisitions Logan Morrison, Lance Lynn and Jake Odorizzi haven’t boosted the team’s win total. The result? The 2018 Twins aren’tas bad as the 2016 Twins, who finished with a triple-digit loss total, but they sure aren’t the 2017 Twins, who nabbed a wild card berth.
Detroit Tigers (36–43)
This Tigers team isn’t very good, but they could be so much worse! This spring, most predicted Detroit would finish last in the division. But a week ago, after a five-game win streak, this squad was in second place and within spitting distance of .500. Their situation has worsened since then and may not improve. Detroit’s offense has been bolstered by strong years from a few surprising players—Leonys Martín, José Iglesias and (checks notes) Niko Goodrum?—which helps fill the void left by Miguel Cabrera, who’s out for the season after bicep surgery. But they’ve also had to contend with a dreadful years from Victor Martinez and Dixon Machado, who is arguably having baseball’s worst season at the plate outside of Chris Davis (.208/.263/.285). A mediocre pitching staff doesn’t make matters any better.
Chicago White Sox (26–51)
The rebuild is struggling. Lucas Giolito has had a particularly rough go of things, with a walk rate that’s doubled from last season and an ERA+ that’s shrunk to less than one-third of what it was. Yoán Moncada has cooled off significantly after a hot start, following up six home runs in April with a combined total of four through May and June, and even José Abreu has taken a step back lately. There have been some bright spots here—standout performances from Matt Davidson at the plate, and Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Covey on the mound—but those aren’t nearly enough to drag this team out of the shadows.
Kansas City Royals (24–54)
The Royals are currently winning their battle with the Orioles for the title of worst team in the American League, but expect that race to the bottom to stay close. Not that there were any high expectations here to begin with, but it’s still a little remarkable just how bad this team has been—especially their pitching staff, with a particularly disappointing year from No. 1 starter Danny Duffy. They have baseball’s worst ERA (5.27) and FIP (4.88), as well as the highest home run rate and lowest strikeout rate. The Royals have been outscored by more than 150 runs this season, while no other team has done worse than 115. They’ve already started the process of stripping the team down for parts, with Jon Jay and Kelvin Herrera recently traded away for prospects, and that continued process is about all they have to look forward to from here.