AL Central: A Two Team Race

By parmyjr22
Aug. 04, 2016

J.D. Martinez blasted a home run on the first pitch of his first at-bat back from the DL.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

As we enter the month of August and the MLB season has about two months remaining and the post season races are starting to heat up. The American League Central has turned into a two team race between the Cleveland Indians the Detroit Tigers. This is mostly due to the fact that the Cleveland Indians have fallen back to earth and are playing like the team they truly are – capable of contending not a team capable of running away with the division.

The month of July and August have not been friendly to the Indians; posting a 12-12 (.500) and 0-3 (.000) record respectively. During the same period the Detroit Tigers collected a 16-10 (.615) record in July and have gone 2-0 (1.000) thus far in August. Both teams’ offenses posted similar numbers in July.

It was the strong pitching Detroit combined with the mediocre pitching of the Indians, however, that helped the Tigers catapult themselves to within 2.0 games of Cleveland.

As you can see the Indians pitching staff struggled in the month of July. In regards to the Tigers, they were without their No. 2 starter in Jordan Zimmermann, who landed on the DL back on July 2nd. Despite Zimmermann being out the entire month Tigers Ace Justin Verlander and rookie sensation Michael Fulmer combined to go 6-0 surrendering only 18 earned runs and striking out 72. On the flip side the Cleveland Indians had two starters, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer, who struggled mightily in July. The two posted a 6.14 ERA and 5.19 ERA respectively.

Zimmermann looks to extend the Tigers win streak to 9 straight in his return from the DL
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers are on their way to overtaking the Cleveland Indians, and will likely find themselves in first place in the AL Central at seasons end. The Tigers currently have a number of things going their way while the Indians are unraveling, to an extent.

For the Tigers, Jordan Zimmermann will make his return tonight against the Chicago White Sox and will be looking to extend the current season high 8 game win streak to 9 games as well as the Tigers third consecutive three game sweep. J.D. Martinez was also activated from the disabled list last night and took Chris Sale yard in his first at-bat back breaking a 1-1 tie late in the game. On top of the Tigers being a healthy team once again, pitchers Shane Greene and Matt Boyd have seemed to settle into their new roles nicely. Greene, as the set-up man, has been lights out posting a 0.93 ERA while striking out 10 batters in 11 appearances in July. On the flip side, starter Matt Boyd went 2-0 with a 2.21 ERA surrendering only 5 earned runs over the course of 20.1 innings collecting 23 strikeouts. Even more impressive was Anibal Sanchez making a spot start in an important game on Tuesday against James Shields and the White Sox, earning a win allowing the Tigers to continue their win streak.

Jonathan Lucroy opted to play for a championship with the Texas Rangers rather than contending with the Cleveland Indians.
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

As for the Cleveland Indians, they were unable to fix their miserable catching situation when Jonathan Lucroy vetoed being traded to Cleveland and chose to go to the Texas Rangers. With Yan Gomes on the DL Roberto Perez (batting .061) and Chris Gimenez (.198) have brought nothing to the table for the Indians. Starting pitcher Danny Salazar (11-4) was recently put on the disabled list due to elbow inflammation and will likely be out 2-3 weeks; this is a major blow to the starting rotation. Michael Brantley, who is arguably the best offensive players the Indians currently employ, is still on the DL and doesn’t seem to be making a return anytime soon. Health is a major concern for the Indians, on top of Salazar, Gomes and Brantley; they currently have three other players on the DL. While the Indians were able to add Andrew Miller as their new set-up man before the trade deadline, the bullpen has not been all that impressive. Relievers Zach McAllister, Kyle Crockett and Cody Anderson have been less then effective this season. Each has posted an ERA of 5.34, 5.40 and 7.15 respectively.

While the Cleveland Indians are still the current favorite to win the AL Central with a 91% chance according to MLB.com, the Detroit Tigers are creeping their way up and currently sit with a 51% chance to win the Division. Detroit seems to have everything going their way at this point in time, the team is healthy, the pitching staff has been on a role and the offense keeps putting up enough runs to win games. Is the month of August when we will see the Tigers hurdle the Indians? Who will win the AL Central at seasons end?