The wild AL Central
Making sense of baseball's most unpredictable division
When the season began, almost everyone assumed the Detroit Tigers would run away with the American League Central. That hasn't happened, of course, and the AL Central might now be baseball's most unpredictable division. We asked our experts to try to make sense of it in today's Triple Play.
1. Who is the White Sox MVP: Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn or someone else?
David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield ), SweetSpot: Konerko is amazing, Dunn's comeback has been surprising and Alejandro De Aza has been terrific in the leadoff spot. But where would the Sox be with converted reliever Chris Sale? At 8-2 with a 2.46 ERA and .197 opponents' average, he's been a dominant starter and could start the All-Star Game.
Dan Szymborski (@dszymborski), ESPN Insider: While one has to appreciate Dunn's triumphant return from near-extinction, the White Sox wouldn't be quite where they are this year without Konerko's crazy year. Anyone who suggested five years ago that a 36-year-old Konerko would be hitting .359 AVG/.435 OBP/.590 SLG in nearly half a season would immediately have a guardian appointed by the court, but that's exactly what where he stands this morning. With apologies to Chris Sale, Konerko is the current White Sox MVP.
Josh Worn (@walkoffwoodward ), Walkoff Woodward: I'm fairly certain it has to be Konerko. While Dunn has demonstrated that he still is a legitimate threat, Konerko is having an even better season, which is much more impressive than Dunn's outrageous three true outcomes line.
2. Should we be taking the Indians seriously?
Schoenfield: Every time I start believing in the Indians, they have a week like this -- getting swept in Cincy, lose two of three to the Pirates. I think they can hang because of their offensive approach -- third in the majors in walks, second in fewest strikeouts -- but they need to add a starting pitcher. Derek Lowe's lifeline appears to have expired.
Szymborski: Depends how you define serious. Should the Indians be considered one of the best teams in the league? Nope, not while they're allowing more runs than they've scored. Should the Indians be taken seriously in the AL Central? Absolutely. Thanks to the underwhelming Tigers, even the Royals, back from the dead after a horrifying start, are legitimate playoff contenders.
Worn: I think the Indians are a young team with a lot of talent, but a certain X factor isn't there. The White Sox have Dunn and Konerko, the Tigers have Cabrera and Fielder. Who do the Indians have to anchor that lineup (not to mention pitching staff)?
3. Can the Tigers catch the White Sox without making a move?
Schoenfield: Sure, they're only three games back, and it may take only 85 or 86 wins to take this division. But the Tigers can't rely just on Miggy, Prince and Austin Jackson for offense. Do they look to upgrade from Delmon Young and Brennan Boesch and their sub-.300 OBPs? Do they find a second baseman? I think they do make a move or two.
Szymborski: The Tigers could catch the White Sox without making a big move -- there's still a lot of talent on the roster -- but it would become a lot more likely if they're able to make a big acquisition to fill one of the roster's gaping holes. Not to mention making a successful run in the playoffs more likely. The Tigers have a lot invested in the team being in the playoffs now and for the next few years, so now's not the time for the team to be conservative.
Worn: I do, and I'm not just saying it because I'm the resident Tigers Blogger. The White Sox found themselves overperforming earlier this year, as have the Indians. It came at a time when the Tigers were struggling to find an identity; maybe they still are, but over the past two weeks the Tigers have certainly looked like a more complete team than the other two.
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