A.L. Central standings through Sunday, April 14:
All five teams are still very closely bunched together (no other last place team is that close to 1st), but the order looks a little more like people expected it to, after the Twins sat (tied) atop the division a week ago. Here's a look at each of the five teams' results from last week:
Detroit Tigers (4-2)
The Tigers hosted Toronto to start their week and took two of three from the Blue Jays. Miguel Cabrera had a big series with seven hits, including his first home run of 2013, and Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister both pitched well. The Tigers traveled to Oakland for the weekend. In Friday's opener Prince Fielder staked them to a three-run lead and Max Scherzer struck out 11, but the bullpen couldn't hold the lead; Detroit lost in eleven innings (running Oakland's winning streak to nine games). Detroit bounced back to win Saturday and Sunday though, completing a successful week.
Detroit's lineup and starting rotation have been as good as advertised, but their relief corps continues to be shaky and has already blown three leads. Joaquin Benoit was named the team's new closer last week, which makes some sense, because he's probably their best reliever, he makes more sense to me than Phil Coke, whose platoon splits are severe. Octavio Dotel exited Friday's game with elbow soreness and while it is not considered serious, the Tigers can ill afford a further depleted pen.
Player of the Week: Prince Fielder - .632/.733/.1.158, a 1.891 OPS, 12 H, 4 2B, 2 HR, 9 BB, 5 R, 11 RBI. That's massive production, the best of any player in the league.
Player of the Weak: Victor Martinez - .150/.292/.150. 3 for 20, a week after 3 for 21. Martinez has not been able to get anything going after missing all of 2012. Is it rust? Bad luck? Serious decline?
Kansas City Royals (4-2)
The Royals were at home to face Minnesota during the week and they took care of business by sweeping the Twins. Ervin Santana pitched 8 innings while allowing just one run and the bullpen pitched 7.1 innings without allowing any runs. Next into K.C. were the Blue Jays. The Royals fell both Friday and Saturday (despite a complete game from James Shields), but salvaged a win on Sunday on the shoulders of another strong performance from Santana (who was dreadful for the Angels in 2012, Ubaldo-bad).
Kansas City has allowed fewer runs than any other Central team so far, largely due to strong relief results so far. One exception to that strong performance has been closer Greg Holland, who has appeared in four games so far and allowed multiple base runners in all of them. Manager Ned Yost says he'll remain the closer, but Kelvin Herrara has looked very good and was called on for the ninth innings twice last week.
Player of the Week: Ervin Santana - 16 IP, 2 ER, 11 K, 1.13 ERA, 1.19 WHIP. He made two starts last week, each with 8 IP and just 1 ER. How many times did he do that in 2012? Just once.
Player of the Weak: Mike Moustakas - .059/.200/.059. He managed to draw three walks, so he's got that going for him.
Cleveland Indians (2-3)
The Tribe was home against the Yankees during the week. After a solid first start, Ubaldo Jimenez was rocked in Monday's home opener. Tuesday was even worse, as Carlos Carrasco (making his first appearance since August of 2011) was hit hard and ejected for hitting Kevin Youkilis one pitch after a Robinson Cano home run. The rain was good enough to postpone both Wednesday and Thursday's games. The White Sox came to town for the weekend.Justin Masterson pitched a complete game shutout on Friday and Nick Swisher knocked in Michael Bourn to win that game in the bottom of the 9th. The bats got to Chris Sale Saturday and Zach "Rough and Ready" McAllister put in a quality start for another Tribe victory. The bats cooled off Sunday and the team lost.
McAllister and Brett Myers (in Sunday's defeat) both pitched well over the weekend, brightening the pitching forecast at least a bit, but the Indians played without Carlos Santana all week after he was knocked out of Sunday's game with an injured thumb, Jason Kipnis missed the last couple games with a sore elbow, and now Michael Bourn is out for a week with a lacerated thumb sustained in a head-first slide at first base. The Tribe needs to get healthy.
Player of the Week: Justin Masterson - 9 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 1 BB, 7 K. The first complete game of the year for the Tribe and the first shutout since last May. Masterson has been fantastic so far.
Player of the Weak: Carlos Carrasco - 3.2 innings, 7 R, 7 H, 2 BB, 2 K, and a HBP that got him suspended another 8-games whenever he's recalled again from Columbus.
Chicago White Sox (1-5)
The White Sox started a ten-game road trip with three games in Washington and were swept by the Nationals. Surprisingly, it was the starting pitching that failed Chicago. To make matters worse, 2B Gordon Beckham left Tuesday game with a sore wrist, it turns out he's got a broken bone in there and will miss six week or so. The next stop was Cleveland, where (as you know), their bats were silenced Friday and Chris Sale was shelled on Saturday, before they managed to avoid a winless week by getting a good start from Jake Peavy.
The Beckham injury shouldn't be a major blow (Beckham isn't a huge contributor), but the White Sox lineup can hardly afford to lose any production right now, because they've been performing so poorly as it is, averaging just 3.5 runs per game, second-worst in the American League. Even if their pitching is the strength predicted by many, they aren't going to go anywhere this year without better hitting than they've gotten so far.
Player of the Week: Jose Quintana - 7 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 0 BB, 7 K. Lost in the noise of Masterson's shutout Friday night was Quintana's performance, which was even stronger for the seven innings it lasted.
Player of the Weak: Dayan Viciedo - .067/.067/.067, 6 K. He managed just one hit, a single, for the week.
Minnesota Twins (0-5)
The Twins in Kansas City to begin the week and found themselves swept out of town after scoring just five runs (Joe Mauer collected five hits, including his first home run of the year, but that was about the only highlight). The team returned home to host the Mets over the weekend, but things only got worse Friday night, as Vance Worleyallowed nine runs without recording an out in the 2nd inning and Minnesota was crushed 16-5. After another loss Saturday dropped them to 0-5 on the week, the Twins may have been relieved to have Sunday's game postponed by foul weather.
Backup outfielder Wilkin Ramirez is hitting the paternity leave list and Minnesota has chosen to call up Oswaldo Arcia, one of their most highly rated prospects. Paternity leave lasts just three games in MLB, so his stay may be short, but rookie center fielder Aaron Hicks is just 2 for 47 so far (a.047 average, which is the worst by any player in his first ten games dating back to 1916), so perhaps Arcia is up to stay.
Player of the Week: Joe Mauer - .381/.409/.667, a 1.076 OPS, 8 H, 3 2B, 1 HR, 5 R. At least the guy Minnesota is paying $23 million played well.
Player of the Weak: Aaron Hicks - .000/.056/.000, 9 K. Hicks' second week was even worse than his first, as he went 0 for 17. I have to think he's sent back down to the farm for more seasoning soon.
2013 Player Power Poll
1) Justin Masterson (Indians): 3-0, 22 IP, 20 K, 8 BB, 0.41 ERA, 0.82 WHIP
2) Prince Fielder (Tigers): .429/.527/.833, .1.361 OPS, 5 2B, 4 HR, 9 R, 19 RBI
3) Alex Rios (White Sox): .362/.412/.681, 1.093 OPS, 4 HR, 3 SB, 7 R, 8 RBI
4) Torii Hunter (Tigers): .407/.418/.593, 1.011 OPS, 5 2B, 1 HR, 10 R, 8 RBI
5) Anibal Sanchez (Tigers): 2-0, 19 IP, 21 K, 8 BB, 1.42 ERA, 0.95 WHIP
The Week Ahead
Tigers: 3 @ Mariners, 3 @ Angels
Indians: 3 vs. Red Sox, 3 @ Astros
White Sox: 4 @ Blue Jays, 3 vs Twins
Twins: 3 vs. Angels, 3 @ White Sox