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American League Central Breakdown

American League Central Mike Day via


American League Central

With less than a month left in the 2016 MLB season, the American League Central looks to be controlled by the Cleveland Indians. They currently hold a 6 game lead over the Detroit Tigers. This division could yield two playoff teams as the Tigers are currently only one game out of the second AL wild card. Four games back of that second wild card are the defending champion Kansas City Royals. Even though the division race seems to be locked up, we will breakdown the AL Central teams to see which ones can secure a playoff berth in the next three weeks.

Cleveland Indians

The Cleveland Indians who are 83-60 have a 6 game lead over the Tigers. This Indians team has been very good all year-long as they rank in the top 6 in slugging percentage, OBP, runs scored and batting average.

First baseman Mike Napoli has been a cornerstone of this team all season. He leads the Indians with 33 home runs and 94 RBI’s while batting a solid .250. Along with Napoli, young shortstop Francisco Lindor is also having a wonderful season. He has a team leading .317 batting average, .363 OBP and 177 hits in 142 games played.

Outfielder Tyler Naquin has kind of came out of nowhere to have a good year. Naquin is batting .300 with 14 homers and 42 RBI’s in 102 games. All these offensive weapons are made better by the play of DH Carlos Santana. Santana has 31 home runs this season and provides depth to an already dangerous Indians lineup. With the Indians being in the American League, they can fully take advantage of their offensive tools.

Yes, offense is nice but any playoff team needs good pitching and the Indians certainly have good pitching. Led by ace Corey Kluber, the Indians rank 6th in the majors with a 3.77 ERA, 5th with a 1.24 WHIP and 4th with a .241 batting average against.

Kluber who is nearing 200 innings pitched, leads the Indians with 16 wins, a 3.05 ERA and 208 strikeouts. His 21 quality starts in 29 total starts has resulted in Kluber’s name being thrown around in the discussion for AL Cy Young. If he can continue his dominate performance, there is a legit chance for Kluber to win that award.

In addition to Kluber, Carlos Carrasco is having a solid season. He has a 3.32 ERA with 150 strikeouts in 146.1 innings pitched. Another big piece of this rotation is Danny Salazar. Salazar has an 11-6 record with 161 strikeouts and a 3.87 ERA. On Monday, Salazar was diagnosed with a forearm strain that could keep him out for the rest of the season. If that is the case, the Indians could lack their 2nd or 3rd best starter going into the playoffs.

Of course, the Indians made a huge splash when they traded a very big prospect package for New York Yankees reliever Andrew Miller. Miller provides shut-down work whenever needed out of the bullpen. In 17 games for the Indians this season, Miller has a 2.41 ERA with 28 strikeouts. A reliever like Miller who can pitch in the 6th, 7th, 8th or even 9th inning will be a huge asset come playoff time.

Expect the Indians to make a deep playoff run behind great pitching and an explosive offense. Led by players like Corey Kluber and Mike Napoli, the Indians are in the discussion to be a possible World Series contender. They certainly have the talent to make it to the World Series. It will be interesting to see if the Indians can live up to the hype once the playoffs roll around.

Detroit Tigers

Trailing the Indians by 6 games are the Detroit Tigers. With a record of 77-66, the Tigers are currently 1 game back of the Baltimore Orioles for the second AL wild card.

The Tigers offense ranks within the top half of the MLB in batting average, runs scored and slugging percentage. First baseman Miguel Cabrera leads Detroit with 32 home runs, 88 RBI’s and a .310 batting average. Cabrera certainly has help around him as four more Tigers all have hit 20 plus home runs this season. Those four Tigers are: J.D. Martinez (20), Victor Martinez (24), Ian Kinsler (26) and Justin Upton (22). These four players in addition to Cabrera proves why the Tigers offense is ranked so high.

This is an offense that is solely centered around Miguel Cabrera but also has great supporting members. With half of their lineup already over 20 home runs, there is little places that opposing pitchers can hide when facing the Tigers.

Justin Verlander is the veteran ace for the Tigers even though Michael Fulmer leads the team with a 2.76 ERA. Verlander is not far behind with his 3.33 mark but easily has the most innings pitched by a Tigers starter (200). Twenty-three of Verlander’s 30 starts have been quality starts which has led to him having a 14-8 record.

Other than Verlander and Fulmer, the Tigers are a little thin in their rotation. Anibal Sanchez has made 24 starts this season but has an ERA north of 5.50. Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd have made 10 and 15 starts respectively and have had similar success as both of their ERAs is right around 3.85.

High ERAs among starters and bullpen arms have resulted in the Tigers having the 18th-best team ERA at 4.22. Opponents are hitting .262 off of Tigers pitching which ranks them as 20th-best in the league in that stat.

There is no doubt that the Tigers have an offense that can carry them deep into the playoffs. The only problem with the Tigers is the fact that they lack rotation depth. They have a solid 1-2 combo but after that, things get bad real quick. Overall, the Tigers will probably not make the playoffs simply because their pitching is not good enough. If the Tigers can address needs within their rotation, they should be a force next season.

Kansas City Royals

At 74-69, the defending World Series Champion Kansas City Royals are 9 games back in the Central. Kansas City is in danger of not making the playoffs after going all the way just one year ago. Currently, the Royals are 4 games back of the second AL wild card but would need to jump 4 other teams to claim the wild card.

The Royals offense has struggled this season as they rank 25th in total runs scored with 588 and 24th in OBP with a .314. DH Kendrys Morales leads the team with 27 home runs. Morales also has 79 RBI’s to go along with his .259 batting average. Kendrys is not the only one putting up solid numbers this season. First baseman Eric Hosmer leads the team with 91 RBI’s and a .341 OBP. His 23 home runs are the 2nd most on the Royals only behind Morales. Third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert leads the team with a .280 batting average while he has also hit 10 home runs and drove in 43 runs.

Kansas City ranks 9th in team batting average but just have not found ways to score runs. The defending champs will need to figure out how to score runs on a more consistent basis if they hope to make the playoffs.

Pitching has been very solid for the Royals this season. They rank 13th in the majors with a 4.10 team ERA, 13th with a .256 batting average against and 16th with a 1.33 WHIP. Guys like Danny Duffy, Ian Kennedy and Yordano Ventura have provided solid work for the Royals this season. Duffy has been the ace of the squad as he leads the team with 11 wins, a 3.13 ERA and 167 strikeouts. Duffy’s 3.9 WAR leads all Royals pitchers with Kennedy right on his heels with a 3.4 WAR. Kennedy’s ERA is slightly higher than Duffy’s at 3.62 but Kennedy has thrown 16 more innings than Duffy so far this season.

Ventura has a 4.26 ERA but has been able to eat up innings as he has 162.2 so far this year. He has provided the Royals with rotation depth this season and that will be important if the Royals make the playoffs.

Royals closer Wade Davis has been playing at a very high-caliber this season. His 24 saves leads the team and his 9.40 K/9 shows that he can strike opposing batters out with ease. Davis was drawing interest from teams at the trade deadline but the Royals decided to keep him in case they made a run into the playoffs.

It seems possible that the Royals could make the playoffs but with so many other teams within 4 games of the wild card, it will be very difficult. If they do plan to make a run it will start with the play of the offense. They need to find ways to push runs across the board. That will be the only way the defending champs can make the playoffs in 2016.

Chicago White Sox

Fourteen games back of the Indians in the American League Central, we find the Chicago White Sox. At 69-74, their run differential sits at a disappointing -27. The Sox pitching started out good but has come back down to earth as the long MLB season drags on. One man who has not come back down to earth is Chris Sale.

Sale is 15-8 with a 3.03 ERA and 205 strikeouts. Out of 28 total starts, Sale has recorded 21 quality starts while racking up a 5.3 WAR. He has been the clear-cut ace for a Sox staff that lacks rotation depth.

The number two starter for the White Sox is Jose Quintana who mirrors Sale in a lot of stats. Twenty of Quintana’s 28 starts where quality starts and his 4.7 WAR is second to only Sale. His 3.13 ERA and 165 strikeouts has solidified the 1-2 punch of the Sox rotation. Sale and Quintana have pitched 201.2 and 184 innings respectively this season. That is far more than Carlos Rodon who has pitched the third most innings for the White Sox this season with 142. Rodon has a 3.80 ERA with 138 strikeouts and has pitched well this season. After Rodon, things start to get a little fuzzy for the Sox rotation. Miguel Gonzalez is 4-6 on the season with a 3.82 ERA but has only struck out 86 batters in 115.1 innings pitched. Matt Latos and James Shields have a combined 29 starts between them. Latos has thrown 60.1 innings and recorded a 4.62 ERA while Shields has pitched 90 innings and recorded a 7.30 ERA.

Chicago acquired Shields in a trade and it is safe to say that it did not work out. In 18 starts for the Sox, Shields is 3-10 and has allowed 28 home runs and 73 earned runs. To say that he has struggled would be an understatement. Shields made 11 starts for the San Diego Padres before being traded but his rough patch with the White Sox has pushed his season ERA over 6. The 10 year veteran has a career ERA of 3.90 so it’s easy to tell that something is going on with Shields this season.

The White Sox offense is led by first baseman Jose Abreu, third baseman Todd Frazier and outfielder Melky Cabrera. Abreu leads the team in batting average with a .298 mark. His 23 home runs is trumped by Frazer’s 36 bombs. The two corner infielders have combined for 59 long-balls this season which has provided the Sox with much-needed run support. Cabrera has hit 10 home runs of his own while hitting at a .293 clip. Even though these three have combined to hit 69 home runs, the White Sox still rank 22nd in runs scored and 19th in slugging percentage.

Currently, the White Sox sit 14 games back in the division and 9 games back in the wild card race. ESPN has the White Sox chances of making it to the playoffs at 0.1%. While that provides a small glimmer of hope to Sox fans, it seems like a long shot. In the offseason, the White Sox need to work on getting more rotation depth. They have an offense that can take them to the playoffs but they need pitching to back that up.

Minnesota Twins

Bringing up the rear in the American League Central are the Minnesota Twins. They are 30.5 games back in the Central and have a record of 53-91 so far this season.

A lone bright spot for the Twins this season has been second baseman Brian Dozier. He leads the team with 40 home runs, 94 RBI’s and a .277 batting average. Dozier’s is only the second player in Twins history to hit 40 home runs in a season; Harmon Killebrew also hit 40 in 1970.

Along with Dozier, outfielder Miguel Sano has been playing solid for the Twins this season. He has 23 home runs and 60 RBI’s to go along with his .236 batting average. Fellow outfielder Max Kepler has hit 16 home runs and drove in 59 runs so far this season. These three players are a big reason why the Twins rank 11th in runs scored with 660. The Twins .428 slugging percentage and .256 batting average against rank 13th and 16th respectively.

Minnesota’s pitching has been absolutely horrible this season. Their 5.18 team ERA ranks 29th in the majors while their 1.47 WHIP and .287 batting average against also rank in the bottom two in the majors.

Ervin Santana leads the Twins in ERA with a 3.53 mark. Santana has a 7-10 record with 129 strikeouts in 163.1 innings this season. Tyler Duffy leads the team with 8 wins but has an ERA over 6.

The 2016 season has been rough for the Minnesota Twins so far. With a total lack of pitching, it is no wonder why they are struggling so bad. Until they improve their whole pitching staff, expect to see the Twins in the cellar of the American League Central.

They do have pieces to build around in Dozier and Sano but it is going to take a lot more firepower to pull the Twins out of the basement. The Twins are in a battle with the Atlanta Braves for the first overall pick in next years draft.

The Twins have been tied to rumors involving Chicago Cubs senior VP of player development and amateur scouting Jason McLeod. It is unclear what kind of deal the two teams could be discussing but this could be the first step towards success for the Twins.


The American League Central seems to be locked up by the Indians but there are some promising teams that could also make the playoffs this season. The Tigers and Royals have the best chances at grabbing a wild card while the White Sox and Twins playoff chances are all but over. Expect this division to be interesting in the near future as teams upgrade and get better.