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AL Roundup

The Central League

This week we're going to take a look at a division that is often overlooked in favor of the fireworks of the West and the brawling rivalries of the East. That's right, folks, it's the Central.

Here's how it looks at this point in the season:

American League Central
Team W L PCT GB
Minnesota 66 54 .550 --
Cleveland 63 59 .516 4
Chicago 60 58 .508 5
Detroit 56 64 .467 10
KC 43 75 .364 22


Of course, Minnesota won the division outright in 2002 and 2003, and most have them picked to come out of the Central once again this year.

Why?

For one, the Twins have pitching. Johan Santana (13-6) leads the American League in strikeouts with 196 and his 3.23 ERA is second in the league. Brad Radke and Carlos Silva have been solid as well. And Joe Nathan, in his first season as an actual closer, has performed well, garnering 34 saves.

The bats aren't as hot as they've been in seasons past, but the core of Cristian Guzman, Jacques Jones, Lew Ford, Torii Hunter, and Corey Koskie provide enough run support that Minnesota has been able to hold a modest four game lead over their closest challenger, the Cleveland Indians.

BUT...

There are hordes of Browns fans all over the most famous Swing State who will swear to you that the future of the Tribe is not two years in the future, or even next year, but THIS YEAR.

The Cleveland Indians don't have an amazing amount of pitching talent, but they do have two young arms who could do the job. Jake Westbrook, an All Star this year, has a record of 11-5 with a 3.51 ERA.

C.C. Sabathia is a somewhat more disappointing 9-7, but no one denies that the youngster has major league talent. One Cleveland fan I know, though, laments Sabathia's inability to keep his head in the game in the face of poor umpiring. He asserts that C.C. is getting a reputation amongst umpires that's getting him profiled by Blue for airing verbal frustration over what he perceives as bad calls. If Sabathia can get his ducks in a row for the home stretch of the season, it's possible that he could rally this team into the post season.

As far as bats go, Cleveland has been a pleasant surprise this season.

Have a look at these guys:

Player AB R H HR RBI BA OBP SLG
Ron Belliard 470 66 142 5 51 .302 .375 .426
Matt Lawton 469 88 133 19 60 .284 .363 .443
Casey Blake 446 72 124 21 64 .278 .358 .491
Omar Vizquel 439 67 133 6 46 .303 .365 .403
Jody Gerut 418 62 107 9 46 .256 .336 .407
Victor Martinez 394 66 117 20 91 .297 .369 .528
Travis Haffner 390 76 123 23 91 .315 .412 .587


That's a productive, balanced offense, and one that has surprised many people this season.

What's more, the Indians and Twins square off in a three game series in Minnesota this weekend, so if the Tribe is going to make a move, this is the time.

The Chicago White Sox are still in the hunt being only a game below Cleveland in the division hunt. They're also only 6.5 out in the Wild Card race, but with four teams above them, three of which are really in the thick of it (Boston, Texas, and Anaheim), their chances of taking that coveted fourth playoff spot are extremely low. They will need to take their aim at winning the Central outright, and even that is a fairly ridiculous longshot. The question is: does anyone care?

Just a side note on Detroit. The dream is over, boys, and so it is also for the $10 I put on the Tigers to win the World Series at 100-1. Oh well. It's just such a fun bet to make.

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