So who had Cleveland playing .620 baseball to start the year?
AL Central Standings
The Indians have actually slowed down, in spit eof how good their record still looks. Less than a week ago, they were 30-15. The Tribe have had at least a five game lead since May 17th, and a pythag of 30-20. The Indians are second in the AL in runs per game, and 5th best in runs allowed. After years of disapointing pundits, almost no one saw this outburst coming. Cleveland still has a long way to go, but who is going to catch them?
The only other team left standing looks to be the Tigers, who appear to be the standard issue just struggling to survive AL Central "contender" we've known so well around these parts for the last decade. The Tigers peaked at 22-18 in mid May, which they followed up with a five game losing streak to get back under .500. Detroit may very well catch Cleveland, but it's going to take them ninety games to do so at this pace.
The Tigers are merely a slightly more viable version of the White Sox, who haven't been closer than 8 games out since April 30th. Still, after a horrific April, the ChiSox had climbed to 20-25 two weeks ago, though they've since started to slide back again. The White Sox are capable of a 20-10 or 22-8 month, but they're now so far behind that a surge like that is only going to put them back in the race, rather than catapult them forward. Fact is, on Memorial Day they wake up behind the Royals.
Other than the Royals, who we don't need to talk about, the deliciously incompetent Twins remain. A shaky off-season, a shaky roster and the downfall of the Mauer & Moreneau combo has led to a stunningly terrible team. The much ballyhooed Twins way was always somewhat tenuous, especially with the huge contracts given to the injury-prone M&M. Still, the Twins won 94 games last year. You don't see thirty game declines very often, but this bunch might not get to 64 wins. The Twins have the worst offense in the league. Their team OBP is .298 and their team slugging percentage is .338. Their pitching is functional, but only by comparison. The Twins have earned their record, given their run differential.
So much of this division race hinges on what you think of Cleveland. If you assume Cleveland can play .500 baseball the rest of the way, the race is over. If you drop that down a little, we get the epic boat race scenario in which an underwhelming Tigers team eventually catches them. If you think that Cleveland has a 6-24 month waiting around the corner, then suddenly teams like the Royals and White Sox might have some life, at least for a little while.