A.L. Central standings through Sunday, May 5:
The AL Central was the most dominant division in baseball last week, going 10-1 in games against teams from other divisions. The Royals went 4-1 and lost 1st place to the Tigers. The Indians went 5-1 and couldn't gain any ground (though they did move from 5th to 3rd). The AL Central's combined run differential is +69, more than double the second- best in baseball. Don't let your AL East friends give you any crap, we play some ball in the Midwest! Here's a look at each teams' results from last week:
Detroit Tigers (6-1)
The Tigers were at home to face Minnesota to begin the week. Max Scherzer struck out 10 on Monday and Prince Fielder hit a 3-run homer run to lead the offense in victory. Justin Verlander struck out 8 on Tuesday and Detroit won again, getting homers from Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, and Alex Avila. Anibal Sanchez struck out 9 on Wednesday, but there were no Tiger home runs and they dropped the contest, then headed down to Houston for 4 games with the (very) lowly Astros. Thursday's game went 14 innings, allowing Detroit's pitchers to collect 18 more strikeouts in the win. The K count finally fell on Friday, but they still won the game. The attention shifted to the offense on Saturday, as Detroit won 17-2, collecting 21 hits, including 4 from Miguel Cabrera and Torii Hunter. Verlander finished the week off by carrying a no hitter into the 7th and striking out 9 more as the Tigers completed a 4-game sweep.
The strikeout rate for Detroit's pitching staff is 26.6% right now, higher than any team in baseball history has ever finished a season (the record is 23.1%, by last season's Rays). The Tigers also lead baseball in runs scored per game and have a pretty good case as the best team in either league right now. I'm glad there are wildcard spots.
Player of the Week: Justin Verlander (2 starts, 14 IP, 1 ER, 7 H, 4 BB, 17 K) - Ho hum, just another dominating week in the life of baseball's best pitcher.
Player of the Weak: Victor Martinez (.258/.258/.419, .677 OPS) - This isn't THAT bad, but it was a powerhouse week for the Tigers, and this was the worst anyone did.
Kansas City Royals (4-1)
The Royals started their week by dropping the finale against the Indians 9-0, with Wade Davis getting hit hard and the offense collecting just 3 hits. Kansas City stayed at home all week, with Tampa Bay next into town. James Shield pitched well and the offense rebounded for an easy win Tuesday. After falling behind 5-0, the Royals came back and won again Wednesday, every member of the lineup collected at least 1 hit as K.C. scored 9 for the second straight night. Thursday's game was postponed by snow, as was Friday night's scheduled opener against the White Sox (it's May, Mother Nature, what the heck?!). LGFT Jeremy Guthrie pitched a shutout on Saturday and Lorenzo Cain tripled in the only runs needed. The Royals were trailed 5-3 with 2 outs in the 9th on Sunday, but tied the game on a double by Billy Butler and won it in the 11th, their fourth straight victory.
Kansas City's 17-10 record is their best start since 2003 and is a better 27-game stretch than they had at any point in 2012. Their rotation ans bullpen have both been well above average so far, they look like they might hang around a while.
Player of the Week: Jeremy Guthrie (1 start, 9 IP, 0 ER, 4 H, 1 BB) - His first career shutout.
Player of the Weak: Wade Davis (2 starts, 10.2 IP, 9 ER, 17 H, 6 BB, 7.59 ERA, 2.16 WHIP)
Cleveland Indians (5-1)
The Tribe began the week by crushing Kansas City 9-0, with Ubaldo Jimenez baffling everyone by throwing 7 shutout frames. Ryan Raburn had 4 hits, including his first 2 home runs as an Indian. Next came 2 games against the Phillies. Tuesday the Tribe jumped on Roy Halladay for 8 runs, then another 6 against the bullpen. Raburn again hit 2 home runs, the first Indian with back-to-back multi-HR games since Travis Hafner in 2004. Zach McAllister went 7 innings in the 14-2 victory. Wednesday it was Cliff Lee's turn to lose in the Indians' "Conquering Cy Young" tour. Trevor Bauer pitched 5 shutout innings in the win. The Twins came to town next. Drew Stubbs plated the game winner on his third double of the night in the 10th inning, Jason Kipnis also drove in 4 runs. Scott Kazmir pitched well Saturday, extending the winning streak to six before the Tribe finally lost on Sunday.
Until Sunday's loss the Indians had scored 6+ runs in six consecutive games and they're now 3rd in the American League in runs per game. 5-1 won't happen every week, but hopefully the more consistent hitting from last week can continue.
Player of the Week: Ryan Raburn (.591/.591/1.182, 1.773 OPS, 13 H, 4 HR, 5 R, 9 RBI) - He deserves to win the AL Player of the Week Award.
Player of the Weak: Lonnie Chisenhall (.214/.267/.429, .695 OPS) - Another example of no one really having a bad week, but someone having to wear this crown.
Minnesota Twins (2-4)
The Twins hosted the the Tigers at the start of the week and struck out 31 times over three games. The offense was limited to just 6 hits on Monday and again on Tuesday, both losses, but finally put enough hitting together to salvage a win in the finale, Justin Morneau and Chris Parmalee each had a couple hits and drove in a pair of runs. The silver lining of the series for Minnesota would have to be the 9 innings out shutout baseball they got from their bullpen. It was off to Cleveland next. Friday night the Twins took the lead twice, but lost it both times as their bullpen finally cracked. On Saturday Kevin Correia failed to pitch at least 7 innings for the first time all season, and allowed more than 3 runs for the first time too. As they had against Detroit, Minnesota won the finale, with Mike Pelfrey cooling the Indians' bats, and avoided being swept.
Minnesota's bullpen continues to be the strongest in the AL, leading the way with an ERA of 2.56 and a FIP of 2.93, allowing the fewest home runs (0.49 per 9 innings) and second-fewest walks (2.66 per 9 innings). Maybe the Twins should just go straight to the bullpen every night.
Player of the Week: Trevor Plouffe (..278/.381/.667, 1.048 OPS, 2 HR) - Most his damage was done while playing the Indians, whom he continues to have much success against.
Player of the Weak: Brian Dozier (.176/.222/.176, .399 OPS)
Chicago White Sox (2-3)
The White Sox were in Texas to face the Rangers, they dropped the opener 10-6 before bouncing back to win on Wednesday and Thursday. Chris Sale allowed just 2 runs over 7 innings in the first win, with Conor Gillaspie and Alejandro De Aza each homering. Tyler Flowers hit a 3-run shot to provide the only scoring needed Thursday, as Hector Santiago and the bullpen combined to allow just 1 run. Friday's game in Kansas City was postponed, then the White Sox were shutout on Saturday. Chicago was ahead 5-3 in the 9th on Sunday, but Addison Reed couldn't close it out. Reed has allowed 13 runs in 10.2 innings against the Royals in his career. Ugly. The Sox might have won in extra innings, but manager Robin Ventura intentionally walked Chris Getz (.617 OPS) for some reason. Two batters later, Alex Gordon knocked in the winning run, dropping the Sox a season-high 6.5 games out of 1st.
The White Sox are scoring the fewest runs per game of any American League team and their pitching keeps getting shakier and shakier. Gavin Floyd is on the DL and will find out today if he needs Tommy John surgery. Jake Peavy has been scratched from his start today due to back stiffness.
Player of the Week: Alejandro De Aza (.316/.409/.579, .988 OPS, 6 H, 3 BB, 1 HR, 4 RBI)
Player of the Weak: Jeff Keppinger (.167/.167/.167, .333 OPS) - Keppinger has 104 PA so far and is yet to draw a single walk. Yikes.
2013 Player Power Poll
1) Justin Verlander (Tigers): 4-2 46.1 IP, 51 K, 1.55 ERA, 1.10 WHIP
2) Carlos Santana (Indians): .379/.471/.690, 1.160 OPS, 15 XBH, 17 R, 14 RBI
3) Miguel Cabrera (Tigers): .385/.465/.615, 1.080 OPS, 47 H, 26 R, 36 RBI
4) Prince Fielder (Tigers): .304/.429/.571, 1.000 OPS, 6 HR, 24 BB, 18 R, 32 RBI
5) Anibal Sanchez (Tigers): 3-2, 39.2 IP, 50 K, 1.82 ERA, 1.06 WHIP
Gosh, the Tigers have a lot of players off to really great starts. If this keeps up I'll have to do a top 5 non-Tigers list. Santana would get killed in MVP voting by Cabrera and Fielder due to the difference in RBI, but I don't hold it against him.
The Week Ahead
Indians: 4 vs. Athletics, 3 @ Tigers
Tigers: 2 @ Nationals, 3 vs. Indians
Twins: 4 @ Red Sox, 3 vs. Orioles