AL Central standings through Sunday, July 21:
Cool Standings (used by ESPN) now projects 86 wins the the Indians, and gives them a 37% chance of making the playoffs (down from 39% a week ago), Baseball Prospectus projects 85 wins for the Indians, and gives them a 30% chance of making the playoffs (down from 32% a week ago), while Fangraphs' advanced standings now project 83 wins for the Indians, putting them 8 games back of Detroit and 6 games back of the second wildcard (same as a week ago).
Detroit Tigers (1-2)
Detroit began its second half with three games in Kansas City. Anibal Sanchez walked 5 in 6 innings Friday, but limited the scoring off him to just one run. The Tigers didn't get a single runner past first base though, and lost 1-0. The offense did better Saturday, with 13 hits, including 3 apiece from Victor Martinez and Alex Avila, which helped them score 5 runs. However, Justin Verlander was roughed up for 6 runs in 5.2 innings, giving up 8 hits and 4 walks. I think he's been better than some of his numbers suggest, but he's certainly not at the level he was from 2009-2012. Detroit avoided being swept by winning 4-1 on Sunday. Doug Fister went 6 innings and Miguel Cabrera and Andy Dirks each homered.
(With just three days of action last week, I'll forego the usual player of the week/weak honors this time.)
Cleveland Indians (1-2)
The Tribe returned to action with three games in Minnesota. Scott Kazmir was through 5.2 shutout innings when Lonnie Chisenhall mishandled a ball at third, leading to two unearned runs. The Indians managed just 4 hits all night and a Nick Swisher error in the 8th helped another run to score, leaving Cleveland with a 3-2 loss. It was deja vu all over again Saturday. Corey Kluber pitched 5 scoreless innings, but exited with a sore hip. Chisenhall blundered on a throw home in the 6th, helping 3 runs to score, though Rich Hill also deserves a fair amount of the play, as he was not sharp. Both Cleveland runs in the 3-2 defeat came on a home run by Jason Kipnis. Justin Masterson took the mound Sunday, and gave the team just what it needed. He had a no-hitter going through 6, and ultimately finished with 8 strikeouts and 0 walks, with just 1 run allowed in 7 innings. Kipnis homered again, and also added an RBI single in a 7-1 victory.
The Indians infield made 4 errors on the weekend, and had a couple other miscues that weren't charged as errors too. The starting pitching has been really strong the last couple times through the rotation, but they need better support from the guys behind them.
Kansas City Royals (2-1)
The Royals hosted Detroit for the weekend. Ervin Santana pitched a wonderful game Friday night, pitching 7.1 shutout innings while allowing just 3 base runners. Billy Butler had two hits and drove in the game's only run in the 1st inning as K.C. won 1-0. Santana could be a very solid trading chip for the Royals, should they decide they're out of contention before the deadline. Jeremy Guthrie allowed 5 runs in 6 innings Saturday, but the bullpen provided 3 scoreless frames and the offense, led by 3 hits (including a HR) from Mike Moustakas, carried the team to a 6-5 win. The bats went quiet again Sunday though, and while James Shields went 7 innings (allowing 3 runs), he remained stuck at just 4 wins.
Minnesota Twins (2-1)
The Twins started their second half by hosting the Indians. Mike Pelfry allowed 2 runs in 5.2 innings and the Minnesota bullpen then threw 3.1 innings without allowing a hit. The offense took advantage of defensive miscues by the Tribe and the Twins pulled out a 3-2 win. Kevin Correia allowed just 2 runs in 6 innings Saturday, and while Minnesota found itself trailing 2-0 for the second night in a row, they once again bounced back for a 3-2 victory, with Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau each collecting a pair of hits. The Twins looked to sweep on Sunday, but Scott Diamond gave up 6 runs and was out before the end of the 5th. Brian Dozier had Minnesota's only 2 hits in a 7-1 loss.
Chicago White Sox (2-1)
The White Sox hosted the Braves and got their second half off to a familiar start with another loss. Alexei Ramirez had 3 hits in the 6-4 defeat, with John Danks giving up 5 runs in 7 innings. On Saturday Jake Peavy made his first start since June 4. Chicago hopes he'll pitch well enough in the next week and a half to rebuild some trade value so that they can get a prospect or two for him. He went 6 innings, allowing 4 runs, but only two of them earned. Alex Rios, another player the Sox would like to deal, put up 3 hits, including a HR, and the Pale Hose won 10-6. In Sunday's rubber match, Rios had 2 more hits and the bullpen pitched 3.1 innings without allowing a hit in a 3-1 victory.
2013 Player Power Poll
1) Chris Sale (CHW) - 120.0 IP, 2.85 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 9.83 K/9, 2.03 BB/9, 153 ERA+, 4.5 bWAR, 3.3 fWAR
2) Max Scherzer (DET) - 129.2 IP, 3.19 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 10.55 K/9, 2.15 BB/9, 134 ERA+, 3.8 bWAR, 4.0 fWAR
3) Anibal Sanchez (DET) - 98.0 IP, 2.85 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 10.47 K/9, 2.94 BB/9, 150 ERA+, 2.8 bWAR, 3.3 fWAR
4) James Shields (KC) - 141.2 IP, 3.24 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 7.75 K/9, 2.54 BB/9, 127 ERA+, 2.2 bWAR, 2.7 fWAR
5) Ervin Santana (KC) - 130.1 IP, 3.18 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 7.18 K/9, 1.93 BB/9, 130 ERA+, 2.1 bWAR, 2.1 fWAR
1) Miguel Cabrera (DET) - .359/.452/.668, 201 wRC+, 134 H, 31 HR, 75 R, 96 RBI, 48 bBat*, 51 fBat*
2) Jason Kipnis (CLE) - .303/.386/.527, 153 wRC+, 23 2B, 62 RBI, 21 SB, 24 bBat, 24 fBat
3) Joe Mauer (MIN) - .320/.402/.471, 142 wRC+, 116 H, 31 2B, 51 R, 20 bBat, 20 fBat
4) Carlos Santana (CLE) - .271/.381/.455, 135 wRC+, 55 BB, 23 2B, 43 RBI, 18 bBat, 15 fBat
5) Prince Fielder (DET) - .269/.364/.453, 122 wRC+, 50 BB, 21 2B, 70 RBI, 10 bBat, 11 fBat
*bBat and fBat are abbreviations I'm using for the hitting component of WAR at Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs, respectively.
The Week Ahead
Royals: 4 vs. Orioles, 3 @ White Sox
Tigers: 4 @ White Sox, 3 vs. Phillies
Twins: 3 @ Angels, 4 @ Mariners
White Sox: 4 vs. Tigers, 3 vs. Royals