This past week, we saw one of the two teams within a game's lead of the Central division, the Cleveland Indians. The team look very sharp with their young pitching (Good starting pitching lead to a very solid bullpen), and got some timely hitting. This team reminds me of the 2001 Twins: Young, talented, but inexperienced. And that inexperience caught up with them big time in the second half. It is my belief that that will ultimately happen to the 2011 Indians.
So if the Indians aren't the force in the division, then their co-leader atop the standings are: The Detroit Tigers.
The Tigers enter tonight's four game series with the Twins with a 51-46 record, and are currently tied with Cleveland for the division lead. They have some talented pitchers (Verlander, Valverde) and some pretty good hitters (M. Cabrera, V. Martinez). But beyond the before mentioned players, the Tigers have not played like they should be playing. They have gotten poor quality of starts from the likes of Rick Porcello, Brad Penny, and Max Scherzer. Their bullpen has been one of the worst in the AL (Joaquin Benoit signed a 3 yr/$17.5 mil contract this past offseason and he carries a 4.25 ERA). Needless to say, their bad pitching has held the Tigers back from a division lead.
The most pointed out fact about the Tigers, is that under manager Jim Leyland, this team has never had a winning second half of the season. And that does include their AL Pennant winning 2006 season. So there is reason for hope, that that trend will continue for the Tigers this season (One could assume that if that happens again this season, Jim Leyland might not be back in the Motor City next year).
With all the negative things that have been pointed out here, I still believe the road to win the AL Central goes through the Detroit Tigers. They are not the best team out there, but in this weak division, they are the team to beat. So hopefully the Twins can see this, and make some improvements (i.e. bullpen) and make their charge at the Tigers. And it all begins tonight at Target Field.