The battle continues in the American League Central. One team is starting to surge upwards in the AL Central as another team continues to fade fast. The games played this week were mostly within the division so each team’s win-loss record is greatly magnified due to the importance of victories within the division. Let’s dive in and take a look back, shall we?
Chicago White Sox
The week started off promising for the White Sox as they were able to win the series against the division rival Detroit Tigers. The South Siders won two out three games and appeared to perhaps be on the upswing. It all went south when they came to Progressive Field to take on the Cleveland Indians, as the Indians swept them with two of their victories being walkoff wins. Their early season success continues to look like a mirage as they are fading fast in the AL Central race.
Stud of the Week: Jose Abreu
7 G, 25 AB, 3 R, 7 H, 2 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 2 BB, 2 SO .278/.333/.556
The Cuban slugger is slowly coming alive. Lost in a disappointing week was the fact that he continued to wake up from his slow start to the season. He hit a couple more dingers and came up with several clutch hits to drive in runs to keep the White Sox in most of their games. In order for the White Sox to keep their AL Central hopes alive, Abreu must continue to excel at the plate.
Dud of the Week: Todd Frazier
4 G, 11 AB, 1 R, 0 H, 3 BB, 7 SO, .000/.250/.000
The ToddFather is nowhere to be found right now. He is absolutely lost at the plate as he’s missing on pitches he should be squaring up on and looking nothing like the guy the White Sox thought they were getting when they swung that three-team trade and gave up a glut of young talent to acquire the slugging third baseman. This is arguably one of the worst slumps of his career. Something needs to change fast for Frazier; otherwise, the trade to bring him to U.S. Cellular Field may end up going down as one of the worst trades in White Sox history.
The week started off poorly for the Indians as they were swept in a three-game series by the division rivals the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. That sweep cost them first place in the AL Central for a day or two. The Tribe then came home and were able to dispatch the White Sox to bounce back from their series against the Royals and regain first place in the AL Central.
Stud of the Week: Trevor Bauer
1 GS, 1.29 ERA, 0-0, 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R/ER, 3 BB, 9 SO, 1.000 WHIP
Keep in mind that this guy wasn’t even in the starting rotation on Opening Day. He had been shuffled to the bullpen. His lack of control was too worrisome to the team to entrust him with a spot in the starting rotation. Since he’s been back in the rotation, it seems something has started to click between the ears. His control is much more on-point and he has been dominating games more often than not. His last game against the White Sox was no exception, as he shut down the Chicago offense and gave the Indians a chance to win it in walkoff fashion.
Dud of the Week: Bryan Shaw
3 G, 6.75 ERA, 2.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R/ER, 1 HR, 1 BB
The longtime Indians setup man has been shaky all season long. This week was no different, as he gave up a game-winning home run to the Kansas City Royals in late innings and ended up costing the Tribe a victory in Kansas City. He has scuffled so much that it remains a question why the Indians continue to hand the ball to him in late innings with all his struggles this season.
The Tigers had a disappointing week. They seemed to be gaining momentum in the AL Central race before it seemed to all fade away. They dropped two out of three to the White Sox on the road, then traveled to Kansas City, where they ended up losing three out of four games to the Royals. Having a losing record against AL Central rivals in a week is sure-fire way to set a team back in their postseason quest. It doesn’t help that they’ve lost right fielder J.D. Martinez for about a month due to a fractured elbow.
Stud of the Week: Justin Upton
7 G, 29 AB, 5 R, 9 H, 1 2B, 1 3B, 11 RBI, 4 BB, 8 SO, .320/.370/.680
For most of the season, it has been swing-and-miss with Upton. This week he started to figure out something at the plate as he racked up base hit after base hit and drove in runs at an exceptional rate. With Martinez down for a while, it becomes that much more important for Upton to keep it going and step up for the Tigers to keep them alive in the AL Central
Dud of the Week: Mark Lowe
3 G, 0-0, 36.00 ERA, 2 IP, 10 H, 8 R/ER, 1 HR, 1 BB, 1 SO, 5.500 WHIP
The Tigers doled out $11 million over two years for him to be a reliable late-inning arm. What an absolute mistake that looks like right now, as Lowe is doing anything but being reliable. He’s certainly not blowing guys away at the plate, and he’s leaving way too many pitches over the plate. He was beaten up pretty good by the White Sox and Royals this week. It pretty much is now just a question of when will the Tigers get rid of him.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals had their best week of the season. They swept the Indians at home, then took three out of four from the Tigers. They defended their home turf with pride and are beginning to look more and more like the defending World Series Champions from 2015. Despite several injuries to key guys, internal guys from the minors have stepped up in a big way to propel them back into the thick of it in the AL Central. They’ve done all this while finally parting ways with second baseman Omar Infante, as he was designated for assignment this week.
Stud of the Week: Whit Merrifield
7 G, 28 AB, 8 R, 12 H, 1 2B, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 1 SB, 1 BB, 4 SO, .345/.367/.483
Who is Whit Merrifield? The new leadoff hitter for the Royals, apparently. He was moved into the leadoff spot a short time ago and the results have been very encouraging. He’s hitting for both power and average while getting on base at an efficient rate. He’s performing exceptionally well and making Dayton Moore look like a genius once again for giving the second-base job to Merrifield.
Dud of the Week: Alcides Escobar
7 G, 30 AB, 3 R, 7 H, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 4 SO, .231/.259/.308
It has just been a downhill year for the speedy shortstop. He’s still playing excellent defense but has really struggled hitting out of the leadoff position. So much so he was moved down in the lineup to the two hole in favor of Merrifield. Escobar is making solid enough contact on the ball but seems to be hitting it where defenders are perfectly positioned.
There’s not much to say about the Twins this week. They lost two out of three on the road against the Los Angeles Angels and then dropped three out of four against the New York Yankees at Target Field. They continue to lose games and are failing to show much of anything at this point as they sit in the cellar of the AL Central.
Stud of the Week: No one
I can’t give anyone the stud of the week title. No one really shined for the Twins enough to stand out. It sounds cruel, but it’s the reality. Everyone on the Twins is just going through the motions at this point.
Dud of the Week: Byron Buxton
6 G, 20 AB, 2 R, 3 H, 2 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 0 BB, 9 SO, .125/.125/.250
The top Twins prospect is once again struggling at the major-league level. He has all the tools necessary to succeed, but he is continuing to look lost at the plate as he is striking out again at an alarming rate. With the Twins going nowhere fast this season, it is important to see their young prospects start to show improvement. That so far has not happened for Buxton.