I don't know why I keep expecting the AL Central to not be weird.
This year we went in with a competitive White Sox team, and the Twins, Tigers and Guardians looking to win games now, and...once again, this means that the AL Central race is pretty hard to separate. Even more surprisingly, the White Sox have sank in the past week, and now the Twins and Guardians have been trading off taking 1st with .500 records.
And even stranger, the Twins are getting where they're going without Carlos Correa's better average guiding them there.
The key to this Twins team, as it was last year, has been Byron Buxton. My god, that guy is incredible. So far he's hitting .351 with 11 RBIs and SIX HOME RUNS. Pretty much the same type of dominance Buxton was pulling in the first half last season has returned here, which is a relief for the Twins, who nearly lost him on a few occasions in the last 9 months. The people who have been supporting him in the lineup are not the imports like Correa, Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela, but the regulars like Max Kepler, Jorge Polanco and Luis Arraez. Nick Gordon has also been doing pretty well in a mostly bench-centric role.
It's not that the new guys are bad per se, as you can't quite call Carlos Correa a bad player. But...they're just taking a little longer to fully heat up. Correa's hitting .192 right now, which isn't good at all. Sanchez, even with 8 RBIs, is hitting .216. Urshela is at least hitting .279 but his defense hasn't been an upgrade from Josh Donaldson exactly.
What's been most surprising about this team is that the first four guys in the rotation have ERAs under 3.50 and are all doing fairly well. Joe Ryan, the unlikely Opening Day starter, is 2-1 with a 1.69 ERA and 16 Ks. Bailey Ober has logged the most innings of everyone and has a 2.81 ERA to show for it. Dylan Bundy is putting his 2021 behind him immediately and has a 0.59 ERA and 3 wins already. And Chris Archer, healthier and happier, has a 3.18 ERA in 3 starts. Yes, Chris Paddack is also here, and he's still trying desperately hard to recreate his 2019 rookie year. But both the cheap imports and the young players have combined to craft a pretty solid rotation. And all this with Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda on the IL.
This isn't a perfect team, and a lot of this team's foibles come down to who isn't hitting, but there's a lot of fun energy here, and they could go further than anyone is thinking. I still think it'll be tough to get past Cleveland or Chicago, but it could happen.
Coming Tonight: A safe choice for the best closer in the game right now.