American League Central Breakdown

With three teams within five games of each other on the last day of the season, the American League Central was the closest race among both leagues, which made for an entertaining final month of the season.


Detroit Tigers

The Tigers were able to coast through the second half with just 37 wins mostly due to going 53-38 in the first half, but also due to the Kansas City Royals late September collapse.  Detroit didn’t have many holes, and if they did, they weren’t very big. With a lineup featuring Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and J.D. Martinez, many opposing pitchers often struggled to tame the Tigers offense. Collectively, the Tigers batted .277 and belted 155 home runs. The offense was a bright spot, along with the starting pitching. In the second half, the Detroit starting rotation featured three former Cy Young’s in Max Scherzer, David Price, and Justin Verlander. The Tigers used eleven different starting pitchers in 2014, and those guys combined for a 3.89 ERA in 1007 innings. The bullpen was really what drug the team down. In 447 innings, the Tigers ‘pen owned an ERA of 4.29 while collecting only 41 saves.

Three big names set to hit the market from Detroit are Max Scherzer, Torii Hunter, and Victor Martinez. It is said that Hunter and Martinez both have interest in remaining with the Tigers. With Hunter entering his age-39 season, he would likely only have a one-year contract. The same could be said about VMart, though the Tigers signed him to a 4-year 70 million dollar contract on Wednesday anyway. Martinez will turn 36 in December.


Kansas City Royals

You know the saying from Talladega Nights, “If you ain’t first, you’re last!” That couldn’t be further from the truth for the Royals. Sure, they were second in the division to the Tigers, but when all was said and done, Kansas City emerged victorious, and can now fly a new flag over Kauffman Stadium. If you had told me in late July, when the Royals were two games below .500, and on their way to AL Central irrelevance, that they would play in the 2014 World Series I would’ve probably laughed, and recommended help. Thanks to a red-hot August and September, Kansas City found themselves in the playoffs for the first time in 29 years, thus ending the longest drought between the four major sports on the North American continent. A large part of success is due to the performances of Nori Aoki, who had a scorching month of September at .379/.432/.494, and Lorenzo Cain, who not only batted .315 with two big flies in September, his offensive outburst even carried over to his defense, where he made one spectacular play after another.

Kansas City will potentially lose their ace in James Shields to free agency, unless they can somehow come up with the funds to pay him. They will also likely lose Nori Aoki, who when it really came down to it, provided a spark in the Royals leadoff spot. They are looking to stay with Billy Butler, though Butler will have to take a massive pay cut in 2015 due to his lackluster offensive season in 2014. The team is also rumored around veteran outfielder Torii Hunter and Cuban native Yasmani Tomas, as well as former Royals Melky Cabrera and Ervin Santana.


Cleveland Indians

The Tribe was in the thick of things right until the very end, but were eliminated in the wildcard race during the final days of the regular season. Cleveland really did make a valiant effort to make the playoffs, with an August darn near as hot as a furnace at 18-9, but cooled off in September. In the final month, they were within 2.5 games of that second wildcard spot, but were unable to catch the hot Royals, nor the free falling Oakland Athletics. The Indians have Michael Brantley and Corey Kluber to thank for getting them as far as they did. Brantley led the team in batting average (.327), RBIs (97), On-base percentage (.385), and hits (200). On the other side of the ball, Corey Kluber led the pitching staff in wins (18), ERA (2.44), and strikeouts (269), and earned the first Cy Young award of his career, beating out Felix Hernandez and Chris Sale. I personally believe that the voters got this one right for a change.

Cleveland wouldn’t lose any key players this year due to free agency, and there is no telling what plans GM Chris Antonetti has for his club this offseason. It would behoove him to find a bat, or another starter. At the moment the starting rotation is Corey Kluber is the other four guys.


Chicago White Sox

The White Sox were one of two teams that were irrelevant in the AL Central this year. The Sox had just one month in which they owned a record that was better than .500, and that was July (14-12). The highlight of the year, and this is either hilarious or pathetic, depending on how you look at it, was Adam Dunn’s first career relief appearance, where he allowed two hits, but no earned runs. The Pale Hoes did have a couple of bright spots in Chris Sale and Jose Abreu. Chris Sale led the Sox in wins (12), ERA (2.17), and strikeouts (208). Normally, with an ERA of 2.17, you’d think that he’d have a few more wins. Sale’s team just didn’t get him the run support he needed to be successful… Which would be the case for the other four starting pitchers.

The South Siders will lose four players total due to free agency and retirement. The two big ones are Matt Lindstrom and Paul Konerko. With the team losing two big bats (Adam Dunn via trade last season) I don’t think it would be outrageous to assume that Royals free agent Billy Butler could end up within the division.


Minnesota Twins

Ah, Minnesota. The other of the irrelevant teams from the AL Central. I think I’ll leave it at that. At the start of the year, everyone knew that 2014 would be a rebuilding year for the Twins. More and more, I’m feeling like every year is a rebuilding year for them. With guys like Joe Mauer who led the team in on-base percentage (.361), Brian Dozier who led the team in home runs (23) and hits (145), and a young pitcher like Tommy Milone, how could they be so pathetic? You could point fingers at the pitching. Their leader for ERA had a 3.52 ERA, and their closer only had 34 saves, which is almost half of what Kansas City closer Greg Holland had. The difference between those two: Holland had games to save, Glenn Perkins didn’t simply because the Twins never had a lead.

The Twins fired a good portion of their coaching staff. They named Paul Molitor manager, Gene Glynn third base coach, and Tom Brunansky as hitting coach. Maybe the shakeup in the coaching staff will inspire something more than a rebuilding year for the Minnesota “Constantly Rebuilding” Twins.


Nothing was close in the American League Central division. The first three teams were within five games of each other, while the last two were within three. As for how things will go next season, and who finishes where? It’s too early to tell. It’s hard to argue a lineup with Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez in it. My early prediction would be to go with the Tigers, followed closely by the Royals or Indians. No real changes, but I’m excited to see what 2015 has to offer.


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