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Central Intelligence: Change is the only constant in the AL Central standings

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Cleveland is back on top, but a surprise run of wins for the White Sox keeps things interesting.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

What goes up must come down. It’s as true of baseball physics as it is of early season batting averages. Hot starts cool. Winning streaks are broken, and so too are losing ones. As the final week of April came to a close, finishing the first month of the baseball season, once again the standings were shaken.

The Tigers, who had been able to cling to the top spot, fell all the way to fourth. Meanwhile the once last-place Cleveland Indians regained their place on the top, this time with no one there to make them share it.

In a surprising leap, a run of wins brought the Chicago White Sox to the second place spot behind Cleveland.

Another busy week of intra-divisional play is ahead, and as exciting as it can be for the standings it would be nice to see the teams meet up with a bit more diversity. The Tigers will surely be craving their upcoming West Coast road trip and the change of pace it will offer. [Ed.: We aren’t.]

AL Central Standings: April 30

Team Wins Losses Percentage Games Back
Team Wins Losses Percentage Games Back
Cleveland Indians 14 10 0.583 -
Chicago White Sox 13 10 0.565 0.5
Minnesota Twins 12 11 0.522 1.5
Detroit Tigers 12 12 0.500 2.0
Kansas City Royals 7 16 0.304 6.5

Cleveland Indians: 14-10

Back up where the air is fine, the Indians can gloat about their solo hold on first place for at least a little longer. There’s not a lot of breathing room among the ranks and it seems as if the standings are shifting every other day.

The Indians came away series winners against both the Astros and the Mariners last week, winning two out of three in each series. Their starting pitching continues to be streaky, but when you have Andrew Miller and Cody Allen in your bullpen I guess you’re allowed to have so-so starters.

Jason Kipnis is back, which has to be pleasing to the Indians, and in spite of showing some cobwebs from his time on the disabled list, he did manage to get his first RBI as well as a stolen base, so there are strong signs the second baseman is doing fine. Too bad, too, because Kipnis is a bonafide Tigers-killer.

Whatever Jose Ramirez is doing, the Indians are loving it. With six home runs so far this season and a .333/.388/.609 line, he is a force to be reckoned with for Cleveland. Francisco Lindor, not to be outdone, smashed in his seventh home run of the season last week, because apparently these guys weren’t enough of a menace last year.

Up Next: @ Tigers, @ Royals

Chicago White Sox: 13-10

Remember last week when the White Sox looked about as down-and-out as a team could be, and it was easy to point to their rebuild year as the culprit? Well, the team followed that up with a ridiculous tear of wins, sweeping the Royals and taking two out of three from the Tigers.

The remarkable part about it is that they seem to be winning in spite of themselves. Shortstop Tim Anderson seemed to forget how to field during the series against Detroit, bobbling catches all over the place (though, to be fair he also made several very impressive catches). And Jacob May continues to slump, his current average at .033/.147/.033, with a mere one hit in 30 at-bats. Ouch.

Despite Todd Frazier’s low average, he is actually on a seven-game hitting streak. He has recorded RBIs in six of those games, showing he certainly isn’t letting the team down. Jose Abreu is also on a six-game streak. This shouldn’t be all too surprising given his performance in previous years, but he has had a lukewarm start to the 2017 season.

On the pitching front, Mike Pelfrey continues to be Mike Pelfrey. In Sunday’s game, in spite of taking a beating from the Tigers’ offense, Miguel Gonzales did last longer that Jordan Zimmermann, giving the Sox bullpen a bit of relief.

Up Next: @ Royals, @ Orioles

Minnesota Twins: 12-11

The Twins probably wish they could go back to the start of the year, where they were on top and everything was rose-colored and lovely. Alas, this is the real world, and they are still doing much better than most forecasters would have predicted.

Of the five games they played last week, they won four. Miguel Sano continues to be a powerhouse for the Twins, and the solid core of hitters, including Max Kepler and Brian Dozier are still plugging away consistently. Byron Buxton, who floundered at the start of the season, had some success this past week, getting on base and scoring runs instead of just striking out in every at bat. This isn’t enough to get terribly excited about, but at least he’s doing better than Jacob May.

Sano, though, is just smashing hits for the Twins, including a four RBI game against the Royals on Friday. I’m not saying he’s carrying the team, because they are very heavy, but right now he’s looking like a lock for the All-Star team.

Ervin Santana. Ervin Santana has a 0.77 ERA and a WHIP of 0.657. What? I know it’s early, but damn, Santana, that’s smooth.

Up Next: vs. A’s, vs. Red Sox

Kansas City Royals: 7-16

The Royals have lost nine games in a row, which pretty much explains their place in the standings. For a team so loaded with talent it’s surprising to see the former champs unable to find themselves over the .500 mark so early in the season, especially considering how close the rest of the division is.

Jason Hammel got trounced by the Twins on Sunday, not even making it through the fourth inning while giving up five runs. Ian Kennedy continues to be a noteworthy factor in the Royals’ rotation, and is a prime example of why wins are a terrible metric for a pitcher’s value, since he currently has none. He has only allowed eight runs in his five games of work and has a WHIP of 0.989. Jason Vargas, the other shining star of the rotation, will see play against the White Sox this week. He will bring his insane 14 strikeouts-to-walks ratio with him.

Now if only the rest of the Royals had something to brag about. Lorenzo Cain finally got his first home run of the season this weekend, and Salvador Perez notched his sixth home run, but the team can’t seem to get things working for them either at the plate or in the field. Take Alex Gordon, for example. He’s a four-time Gold Glove winner, a three-time All-Star, but he’s currently hitting .181/.269/.217. For the first time in his career, he has a negative WAR of -0.1.

This may be a Royals team we recognize in name, but the parts simply don’t seem to be working together anymore.

Up Next: vs. White Sox, vs. Indians