A.L. Central standings through Sunday, April 21:
All five teams are still very closely bunched together (closer than any other division), both by wins and losses and by run differential. Here's a look at each of the five teams' results from last week:
Kansas City Royals (3-2)
The Royals were in Atlanta for a quick, two-game interleague tilt with the Braves. They dropped the opener, but won the back end 1-0 on the strength of seven shutout innings from Wade Davis (the 'other' piece in the James Shields/Wil Myers deal). Friday night's scheduled series opener at Fenway was postponed due to the situation in Boston, Kansas City held a lead for much of Saturday before the bullpen came undone, leading to defeat. On Sunday the Royals and Red Sox played a day/night doubleheader, K.C. took them both, with Ervin Santana pitched well in the first contest, and 3 home runs providing just enough offense in the second game.
Kansas City finds itself in 1st place, and for the moment it's hard to find much to complain about for them. All three starting pitchers they acquired during the offseason (Shields, Davis, and Santana) have done well thus far and the team is scoring enough runs to win a lot of close ballgames.
Player of the Week: Lorenzo Cain (.556/.619/.889, 1.508 OPS, 10 H, 3 2B, 1 HR, 4 R) - Probably the overall player of the week for the division, Cain has been playing better than ever so far this year.
Player of the Weak: Kelvin Herrara (4 G, 4 IP, 2 losses, 6 H, 3 HR, 4 BB, 13.50 ERA, 2.50 WHIP) - Twice last week, Herrara allowed multiple runs that made the difference between winning and losing.
Minnesota Twins (4-0)
The Twins hosted the Angels to start the week. On Monday Joe Mauer collected four hits to lead Minnesota to a victory, then he did the same thing on Tuesday. Mauer is a pretty good hitter, isn't he? Wednesday's game was postponed due to Minnesota weather, and after a scheduled day off Thursday, the Twins had their Friday contest against the White Sox postponed in Chicago. I guess the Twins get two All-Star breaks this season. When finally allowed to play on Saturday, Vance Worley pitched seven innings and the Twinkies won in extra innings. On Sunday Josh WIllingham delivered the big blow in another Minnesota victory, giving them an undefeated week.
Who predicted a winning record for Minnesota, even just three weeks into the season? They have the second-lowest slugging percentage and isolated power figures in the American League, but also have the highest walk rate in MLB. I'll leave it for you to decide which of those trends is likely to continue.
Player of the Week: Joe Mauer - (588/.667/.824, 1.490 OPS, 10 H, 1 HR, 4 BB, 3 R, 6 RBI) - His second great week in a row, Mauer is off to a tremendous start to the year.
Player of the Weak: Not Applicable - If you can go undefeated for the week, no one belongs here.
Detroit Tigers (2-4)
The Tigers began their week in Seattle for three games with the Mariners. Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, and Justin Verlander all pitched well, though Detroit dropped the third game on account of their offense being shutout and scoring only eight total runs in the series. The road trip concluded in Anaheim, where offense was even worse;Detroit scored only four runs over those three games and was swept. The lowlight came Saturday, whenRick Porcello allowed 9 earned runs and couldn't survive the 1st inning, setting a franchise record for most earned runs in a start so short (a lot of the hits were soft, but that's the way it goes sometimes).
Thursday morning the Tigers seemed poised to begin pulling away from a division otherwise stumbling, but they nosedived badly over the last four days and find themselves back at .500 and in 3rd place. Scoring just 12 runs in 6 games makes success difficult, but expect their offense to bounce back soon.
Player of the Week: Miguel Cabrera (.423/.483/.577, 1.060 OPS, 11 H, 1 HR, 3 BB) - It's felt fairly quiet, but Cabrera is off to a good start. No surprise, given that he's probably the best hitter in the league.
Player of the Weak: Omar Infante (.095/.136/.095, .232 OPS, 2 for 21) - Not that he's expected to be one of their big bats, but that's an anemic performance.
Cleveland Indians (2-4)
The Tribe hosted Boston to begin the week, in a series hyped up for pitting Terry Francona against the franchise he won two World Series with. Ubaldo Jimenez walked five Tuesday, and couldn't escape the 2nd inning, on Wednesday Justin Masterson had his first bad outing of the year, and on Thursday the Indians were swept. The weekend was spent in Houston for the start of a long road trip. The bats couldn't get anything going Friday night, leading to a fifth consecutive loss. Saturday was a different story, the offense exploded for 19 runs, the most by any MLB team in 2013. Sunday's rubber match was touch and go, but the Indians prevailed behind four home runs and just enough pitching, with the game ending on a nice defensive play by Mark Reynolds (at 3B!).
The rotation was a glaring weakness last week. Not once did the starting pitcher get into the 6th inning, forcing the bullpen to throw too many innings. Brett Myers landed on the DL, Saturday's scoring outburst overshadowed a very shaky debut from Scott Kazmir, and Jimenez continues to struggle mightily. The lineup has been inconsistent. but fairly productive, but injuries keep creeping up. Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis have already missed time,Michael Bourn is on the DL, and now Asdrubal Cabrera may miss a few games after falling down the dugout steps Saturday.
Player of the Week: Mark Reynolds (.368/.520/.789, 1.309 OPS, 2 2B, 2 HR, 6 BB, 4 R, 5 RBI) - He brought the thunder in Houston and made a nifty defensive play to end the game on Sunday.
Player of the Weak: Ubaldo Jimenez (2 starts, 6.2 IP, 6 BB, 14.85 ERA, 1.80 WHIP) - He looked good for a few innings Sunday, but it was fleeting.
Chicago White Sox (2-4)
Chicago limped into Toronto for four games during the week. On Monday the White Sox faced their former ace, Mark Buehrle, but couldn't solve him. They took the next two games, highlighted by 6.2 shutout innings from Jose Quintana, but were defeated again on Thursday, bringing their ten-game road trip to an unsuccessful 3-7 finish. The Pale Hose headed home to host the Twins, but Friday night's contest was postponed because of cold and rain in the forecast. The White Sox probably wish the entire weekend had been postponed, as they lost on both Saturday and Sunday, wasting strong starts from Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd.
Dayan Viciedo joins Gordon Beckham on the DL for Chicago, further weakening an already soft offense. The White Sox have scored the second-fewest runs per game in the American League, in large part due to drawing a historically low number of walks thus far (their walk rate stands at just 4.8% through Sunday, the worst mark in the A.L. since the DH was installed is 6.1%, by the 2002 Tigers).
Player of the Week: Dayan Viciedo (.500/.500/.714, 1.214 OPS, 7 H, 3 2B) - He was on a hot streak when forced to the DL with a strained oblique.
Player of the Weak: Jeff Keppinger (.040/.037/.040, .077 OPS, 4 K) - He managed just one hit, a single, for the week. This is already his second trip to this spot on the season.
2013 Player Power Poll
1) Mark Reynolds (Indians): .298/.379/.737, 1.116 OPS, 4 2B, 7 HR, 12 R, 18 RBI
2) Prince Fielder (Tigers): .333/.429/.638, .1.066 OPS, 6 2B, 5 HR, 10 R, 21 RBI
3) Justin Masterson (Indians): 3-1, 27 IP, 25 K, 9 BB, 1.67 ERA, 1.11 WHIP
4) Joe Mauer (Twins): .337/.437/.547, .983 OPS, 5 2B, 2 HR, 11 R, 7 RBI
5) Anibal Sanchez (Tigers): 2-1, 25.2 IP, 24 K, 8 BB, 1.75 ERA, 1.13 WHIP
The Week Ahead
Tigers: 3 vs. Royals, 3 vs. Braves
Royals: 3 @ Tigers, 4 vs. Indians
Indians: 3 @ White Sox, 4 @ Royals
White Sox: 3 vs. Indians, 4 vs. Rays