Well – here we are. Roughly a third of the way into the 2020 MLB season. While a few teams have barely seen the field as a result of dealing with COVID outbreaks, the majority of the league has managed to play about 20 of their games (give or take). This seems like a good time to start reflecting on what has been, and what may be. After all – the playoffs are right around the corner in this most unique of seasons.
Every few weeks we’ll be checking in on each team as they navigate this 60 game race to the postseason. While there’s plenty to talk about off the field, this series will focus primarily on the games and how the season is shaking out. So, let’s dive in, shall we?
The Minnesota Twins
It’s no surprise that the Twins are on top in the AL Central after they won the division last year. Addressing their biggest weakness in the offseason, the Twins traded for Kenta Maeda, and signed veteran arms Homer Bailey and Rich Hill on the same day. Are Hill and Bailey the answer to their prayers? No, but they offer a veteran presence on a young staff.
Aside from their changes on the mound, the 2019 Twins remain relatively intact, and that’s a good thing. Through the first 15 games of the season, the Twins lead the AL in runs and were second in home runs, the latter being helped out by Nelson Cruz, who continues to defy his age.
Even with their star offseason acquisition Josh Donaldson on the IL, the Twins continue to rake. And in a division that’s already sporting a deficit of decent pitching, the Twins might just slug their way to the division title yet again.
The Detroit Tigers
Are the Tigers good? Seriously. Are the 2020 Detroit Tigers good, or are they a product of a shortened season, mixed with a lax sense of urgency? I don’t quite know.
The Tigers are at the mid-point of their rebuild, which means they’re in that nether sphere of baseball teams. They are not an elite squad, like the Dodgers or the Yankees, but they’re also not a Triple-A team like the Marlins or Pirates. Coming into 2020, the best you could ask for from the Motor City Kitties was some exciting games and perhaps a few glimpses of the future.
The Tigers are delivering on both, while still holding some of the future back.
Bleacher Report ranked their system 11th ahead of the 2019 season, but then bumped them to 9th after the season concluded. With Casey Mize and Matt Manning blazing their way to the majors, primed and ready to join Michael Fulmer, the Tigers are setting themselves up to potentially have a rotation much like the one that brought them to three consecutive ALCS appearances in the early 2010s.
With the potential for a rotation made up of Mize, Manning, Fulmer, and Boyd, the Tigers could have one of the more dominant stables of studs in the league over the coming years. Saying that Matthew Boyd has struggled so far in 2020 is an understatement, but Spencer Turnbull has shown up to pick up the slack.
The Tigers secured C.J. Cron and Jonathan Schoop from division rival Minnesota in the offseason, adding stability to their lineup without gambling too much. Cron and Schoop were two of the eight Twins hitters to record over 100 hits last season, and there’s nothing better than stealing directly from your competition, especially when they show up.
But truly the biggest story for the Tigers has been the resurgence, even if it’s a small sample size, of Miguel Cabrera. Sure Miggy’s hitting just north of the Mendoza Line, but as he transitions into the twilight of his career, it’s nice to see the guy park a few dingers.
Miggy has four home runs this season, a third of his total from 2019. If Miggy can continue to produce, and help shepherd this young Tigers team into the new era of Detroit baseball, the Tigers will be well on their way.
Two years ago, if you told me that Cleveland would trade away Cory Kluber, and still have the best pitching staff in the game, my head would spin.
Consider my head spinning then, because this entire staff is absolutely bananas. With a collective ERA just north of 2.00 and a team WHIP below 0.900, Cleveland is smoking their competition to the tune of 11 strikeouts per nine innings. And the main forces behind those numbers are all 25 years old. That’s right. Zack Plesac, Shane Beiber, and Aaron Civale are just getting started. Good luck with that in the future, AL Central teams.
So why aren’t they in first place if they have an elite rotation? Their offense is garbage.
The only offensive categories where Cleveland isn’t in the bottom of the AL are walks and hit-by-pitches. That’s it. Besides that, Cleveland’s offensive is more anemic than it has been in the last decade.
That being said, we can certainly tag this with a #SmallSampleSize, but if something doesn’t shift to Cleveland, their season might not end the way they hoped. And that shift may have to take a backseat to the problems the clubhouse is currently facing.
Say one thing for them, Cleveland is getting in the way of their own success in 2020. Especially the nonsense they’ve experienced off the field.
The Chicago White Sox
Okay, the Chicago White Sox have not been a competitive baseball team since they went on a 24-12 run to open the 2016 season. The Chicago White Sox have not been to the postseason since 2008, three years after they won the World Series. In that same timespan, the White Sox have had two winning seasons.
Two winning seasons. In twelve years. What an awful decade and change.
However, if there’s any silver lining to this shortened season for Southside fans, it’s the chance to get a glimpse at the future.
The White Sox are playing a fun brand of baseball. They’re young, talented, and playing games that matter with the reckless abandon of a team that hasn’t played a meaningful game in four years. This team is going to be something else and this isn’t even their final form.
Without Michael Kopech and Reynaldo Lopez, the rotation is…. actually not that bad. Veterans Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Keuchel are decent, performing at the level in which their contracts are rated. Dylan Cease is getting experience and that’s worth its weight in gold, and Lucas Giolito has shown signs of the player he was once thought to be.
This rotation has potential that you can count on. They will be good, and 2020 has been a preview of coming attractions.
At the plate, the White Sox continue to show off that same potential and prowess. Yoan Moncada continues to impress and make Red Sox fans longingly press their noses up against the glass. Tim Anderson continues to surprise and delight at shortstop. Eloy Jimenez is following up a solid rookie season with a dominant offensive performance in this shortened season.
And as he has for the last few years, the foundational piece of the White Sox, José Abreu, has once again shown up for the Southside squad.
Robert is already making an impact in his first season as being one of those dual offensive threats you read so much about. Robert can hit the longball and swipe bags. The guy can take it to the gap and can drive in runs.
This White Sox team will eventually have a lineup whose top 6 hitters will be terrifying at the plate. And in a volatile AL Central, that’s good news for Chicago fans.
The Kansas City Royals
Man, it’s gotta be tough for Royals fans. The brief shining moment that was their World Series Camelot squad now a fading memory. The Royals are once again in the throes of a hellacious rebuild.
Whit Merrifield is a bonafide stud and isn’t getting the recognition he deserves. Whit is LIT and he always has been. This guy is a generational talent, he’s simply unreal
The rotation, however… Well, the rotation is something else.
If there’s one thing you can say about the Royals pitching staff it’s that they are consistently inconsistent. Can you trust a Royals starter on any given night? Do they instill confidence when they take the mound? Not particularly.
Now, that’s not to say they don’t have the numbers to say otherwise. Brad Keller has yet to allow a run in his two starts this season. Aside from their ERAs, Danny Duffy and Brad Singer are having decent years. Every Royals pitcher is just super inconsistent.
The Royals are a thunderstorm of a baseball team. There’s distant thunder, the occasional bolt of lightning, but all you really want is some sunshine.
The 2020 season is an unprecedented exercise in fast-tracking a baseball season, and that’s going to lend itself to unprecedented events. Can the White Sox win the division? Yeah, sure. Can the Royals and their patchwork lineup take a wild card spot? Absolutely. In a year where things can change on a dime, what makes you think the MLB season would be any different.
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