Race for the Pennant: AL Central

The All-Star break is a great time for evaluating where a team stands. Last week, Joe looked at the long-term prospects of some cellar-dwelling teams. This week and next, we’re previewing the race for the postseason within each division. Monday I discussed the American League East; today’s topic is the AL Central. The content is organized by current standing:

Detroit Tigers
55-42 | division lead

The Tigers offense is firing on all cylinders. Currently they are second in the league in OBP with a .332 mark. They rank 4th in runs scored with 453, and 2nd in batting average at .278. Victor Martinez is batting .322, and Miguel Cabrera is batting .311.

While the offense is doing its job, however, the pitching has struggled this year. Justin Verlander has struggled to find his form so far, posting a 4.88 ERA, (1.3+ runs above his career average) while the team’s 4.00 ERA is 23rd in the majors. Some of Verlander’s peripheral stats indicate he may be having some bad luck, but even his FIP (fielding independent pitching) is above 4. Also of worry is the Tigers’ home record, which is hovering around .500.

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Cuban Crossovers: Jose Abreu

While a number of Central American countries have had their marked impact on baseball over the years, it seems defected Cuban players have recently attracted the most attention in the western hemisphere in terms of potential.
There is sometimes a tendency to over-hype international players, especially when the comparison is made based on Cuba’s somewhat spotty statistics, but the scouting is generally solid, and a number of recent signings have worked out for Major League clubs.
This week I’ll write a series on a number of high-profile Cuban players who defected to the MLB.
We’ll start with a recent sensation, White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu.

Abreu is just one of the latest examples of an international star whose potential scored him a large contract with a big-league club. Abreu was signed at $68 million through 2019 in a six-year deal. At 27 years old, this contract will take him right through his prime years.

Anticipated to be a middle-of-the-order first baseman, much was expected offensively in his first year. He hasn’t disappointed, establishing himself as one of the league’s biggest power threats.

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