Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 7/16/13
When the Cleveland Indians agreed to terms with manager Terry Francona, I knew they were going to be a legit contender for the AL Central division title.   Midway through the season and I must admit that I am not surprised where things stand in the American League Central. The Detroit Tigers are in first place in the division, the Cleveland Indians are right behind them in the standings under new manger Terry Francona, and the Chicago White Sox are in last place, a position I thought they would be in after their unexpected second place finish last season. But those are just general statements of some of the teams in the Central, as I will now give you each teams mid-season report card grade. Detroit Tigers (52-42) 1st Place in Central- Grade (B+ ) The Detroit Tigers find themselves in a position they thought they would be in before the All-Star break: 1st place in the American League Central. The only problem is, they are only 1.5 games ahead of the second place Cleveland Indians. I find it difficult trying to explain why a team like the Tigers are only 10 games over .500 going into the All-Star break. They rank 1st overall in team batting average (.281), 2nd overall in on-base percentage (.348) and runs (477), and 3rd overall in slugging percentage (.437). Their pitchers have done their job also. Detroit Tigers pitchers rank in the top ten in quality starts, WHIP, and opponents’ batting averages. So the only answer I can come up with for this Detroit Tigers club only being 10 games over .500 is that both sides of the ball have been inconsistent throughout the year. And let’s not forget for a team that has playoff expectations, the Tigers have the shakiest closer situation in all of baseball. It doesn’t help that the Tigers are ranked as one of the top teams who have the highest percentages of blowing a lead going into the 7th inning and beyond. Cleveland Indians (51-44) 2nd Place in Central- Grade (A-) Welcome to the Francona effect Cleveland Indians fans. The moment I heard that the Indians reached an agreement with former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona, I knew this team would be able to turn it around after their second-to-last finish the previous year in the division. It also helps when you have an All-Star pitcher such as Justin Masterson on your team who leads the MLB in shutouts (3) and is tied for 2nd in complete games (3). It also helps to be in the top ten in the MLB in runs scored, slugging percentage and on base percentage. With new acquisitions such as Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, Mark Reynolds, Scott Kazmir, Drew Stubbs and Jason Giambi, from free agency and via trade, you can expect this 2013 Cleveland Indians team to compete with the Tigers for the division title until the end of the season. Kansas City Royals (43-49) 3rd Place in Central- Grade (C+) I figured that the Royals would be much improved from last year after adding depth to their starting pitching with players such as James Shields, Ervin Santana, and last year’s trade acquisition, Jeremy Guthrie, who they acquired from the Colorado Rockies. But after 92 games into the season, the Royals still find themselves below .500. Their staring pitching hasn’t really been the issue, since they rank 9th in the MLB in quality starts. It has been the Royals offense that has this team 8 games back of the first place Detroit Tigers. The Royals rank 14th in batting average, 19th in on base percentage, 24th in overall runs scored and 28th in slugging percentage. Those offensive numbers won’t cut it, even in the worst division in baseball. Minnesota Twins (39-53) 4th Place in Central- Grade (D+) Ron Gardenhire’s magic touch with making his no-named Minnesota Twins teams into legit contenders for the American League Central Division Title have long since faded away. In the entire MLB, his Twins ballclub ranks 29th in team ERA, 29th in team WHIP, 30th in quality starts, and 30th in opponents’ batting average. If it wasn’t for the Chicago White Sox and the Houston Astros, the Minnesota Twins would be finding themselves as the worst team in the American League. Chicago White Sox (37-55) 5th Place in Central- Grade (D-) The Only thing that is stopping the Chicago White Sox from getting a failure grade is All-Star pitcher Chris Sale; but his ballclub has failed on him. Sale has a 6-8 record with a 2.85 ERA. How can a pitcher have a losing record with the stuff and ERA Chris Sale has, you may ask? Well his team has given him an average of 2.76 runs per game, that’s how. Pretty disappointing if you ask me, especially for a stud like Sale. The White Sox as a team rank 29th in runs scored, 27th in on-base percentage and 24th in slugging percentage. Going into the All-Star break last season, the White Sox were ranked in first place in the American League Central with a 2.5 game lead over the second place Detroit Tigers. This season, if it wasn’t for those beat down Houston Astros, the White Sox would be the worst team in the American League.    

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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