Sizing Up the Central After 8


I said to myself before yesterday’s game began that if the Tigers couldn’t win this one, the season would have gotten off to a disappointing start. And so it went. Regardless of what happens today, the Tigers will be under .500 going into the fourth series of the year against a very hot Texas Rangers team. What is to blame?

If you just watched yesterday’s game you’d probably say a lack of runs – as they were completely stymied by mediocre lefty Bruce Chen, but that isn’t exactly true. Though they’re not mashing it like the White Sox, the Tigers OPS through 8 games is a hair above last years and they’re on pace to score 15-20 more runs – which is about what we had hoped they would do after adding Victor Martinez. Pitching, of course, has been the real problem. Coke’s quality start lowered the Tigers team ERA from 6.25 to 5.82, but still left them 13th out of 14 in the American League.  The lion’s share of that stink has come from the starters (with a 6.02 ERA) but the ‘pen isn’t exactly doing enough to make up for it (at 4.99).  Walk rates are a little higher than we’d like to see them, but for the most part the problem for our rotation has been a high rate of home runs to fly balls.  That will come down and we’ll  be fine.   The bullpen isn’t looking so great… as mediocre as they’ve been if it wasn’t for a great BABIP it would look worse.  The low strikeout rate is a bit of a concern already.

Follow me through the jump for a look at the rest of the Central:

Around the division:  We’re joined in last place at 3-5 by the preseason favorites in Minnesota.  The Twins haven’t been scoring any runs at all (literally, in yesterday’s case) with a team OPS better only than the equally disappointing Rays.  A lot of eyebrows were raised when the Twins let their middle infield go in the offseason and signed japanese import Tsuyoshi Nishioka to play second.  Nishioka didn’t show much of anything in games 1 through 6, and now he’s on the DL for 6 weeks with a broken bone in his leg.  It will be a while yet before we get to see if the Twins management made a canny move or a colossal bungle, but in the meantime… looks good for us!

And, of course, for the Chicago White Sox.  They aren’t pitching any better than we are, but they are crushing the ball in a way that makes me uneasy.  Gordon Beckham, for example has a .929 OPS after 8 games.  If Beckham hits, that could be a genuinely good team this year – not just a flawed contender.  On the subject of former top prospects:  Alex Gordon is tearing the cover off the ball for KC, helping them join the Sox in second place at 5-3.  Thankfully, even if Gordon pulls a Josh Hamilton it doesn’t look like KC can be a better than .500 team… this year.  That leaves only the most unexpected of teams for first place:  at 6-2 we have the Cleveland Indians!  This is odd, to say the least… and coming from all the least expected places.  Wasn’t all we heard about the Indians how they needed huge seasons from long shot underperformers and stars?  Well… Shin-Soo Choo isn’t hitting, Grady Sizemore is still hurt and Fausto Carmona has been (by far) their worst starter so far!  Could the Indians have a shot?  I really, really hope not…  but if Justin Masterson is going to pitch like that (and he was a BA top 100 prospect not that long ago) and Pronk is going to hit like it’s 2006 then maybe they’ll be (a lot) better than any of us thought.