As we near the halfway point of the 2014 Major League Baseball season, we come to the time when clear-cut dominant teams are separating themselves from the re-builders, the disappointments and the “wait ’til next year” teams. In years past, fans could typically judge whether or not their team would be worth watching in September by mid-June. Not so much anymore.
We have seen much more parity throughout the majors this season than in any recent year. The American League Central is a perfect example of that parity. Entering Saturday’s action, three and a half games separate the first place Detroit Tigers and tied-for-fourth place Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox.
The Tigers, heavy favorites to win the division during the preseason, enter the day with a 34-29 record, a game and a half over the Kansas City Royals. One month ago, they were 12 games over .500 and had built a 5-1/2 game lead over Kansas City. They have gone 10-17 since and have only won three of their last 10. After starting the season 27-12 and looking as though they would dominate the central division, Detroit has gone 7-17 and suffered four separate three-game losing streaks.
The Tigers’ biggest downfall has been a lack of key-hitting and dominant offense. After leading the majors in hitting about a month ago, they have been held to two runs or fewer in 10 of the 17 losses, including three shutouts. Due to no other team in the division going on a dominant streak, they still lead the division.
The Royals enter Saturday with 34 wins, tied with Detroit, but with three more losses. After winning eight of their last 10, they sit a game and half behind the lead with the three games in hand. They will try to win their sixth in a row in Chicago on Saturday. The Royals have been hanging around the .500 mark all season, and a couple more wins could put them in first place in the near future. Their starting pitching has been superb so far in June, going 6-2 with a 3.30 ERA. Their offense is beginning to perk up as well, scoring five runs in the first inning Friday, on their way to a 7-2 victory over the White Sox.
The Minnesota Twins are 32-33, three games behind Detroit. They are riding a three-game winning streak and have also been hanging around the .500 mark all season. At 33-35, the White Sox and Indians have also been hanging around the .500 mark all season, although the streaky Indians have been six games under on a couple of occasions. Either of these teams also has a legitimate chance of competing for the central division championship or a wild card spot and a chance to play in October.
With everyone throwing the word “parity” around with ease this season, any doubters need only look at the AL Central as the perfect example. And this is precisely what baseball needs; to keep as many teams’ fans hopes and aspirations for October baseball alive for as long as possible.