Here's an interesting figure on this brilliant Monday morning:
Remember when the American League Central was the league's biggest joke? On the morning of the 5th of August, not one or two but three American League Central teams have won nine of their last ten baseball games.
Here are the run differentials of the top two teams in each American League Division:
Here are the run differentials of the top three teams in each A.L. division:
Hey, I'm not going to try to fool you into thinking the Central's the best division in the American League (and thus, almost my definition, the whole shebang). Top to bottom, the A.L. East still takes the cake. Because of the Twins and the White Sox and the Mariners and the Astros. But the Tigers and the Indians and even the Royals ... well, they've been pretty good too. Especially the Tigers, of course, but the Indians and Royals have held their own.
Especially lately. And this is as good a day as any to feel a little sorry for those Kansas City Royals. Not so long ago, I lamented their poor luck in winning so many games that they probably cost themselves a couple of prospects. Which might have come in pretty handy in future seasons.
I know, that might sound weird. Winning's good, right? Well, that depends on your perspective. I would gladly trade one win in a non-contending season for two wins in a contending season. But that opinion is far from unanimous and there are fans who now consider this a contending season.
And this might have become something akin to that. On the brilliant morning of July 23, the Royals were eight games out of first place. Since then they've somewhat miraculously won 11 of 12 games and now they're only ... seven-and-a-half games out of first place. Because while the Royals were winning 11 of 12, the first-place Tigers were winning ... 10 out of 11. It's not often that you win 11 of 12 and pick up just a half-game in the standings, but that's exactly what the Royals have done.
And then there's your Cleveland Indians, who have won 10 of 12. If the Tigers should falter -- and there is absolutely no reason to believe they will -- the Indians remain in the best position to take advantage. They've got a significantly better run differential than the Royals, and they're only three games behind the Tigers. It's baseball and it's magical and yada yada yada, but the Royals' chance of making up eight games on Detroit in less than two months is infinitesimal. On the off-chance you need me to tell you that.
Which would seem to leave the Royals one semi-legitimate opening: the second wild card (thank you, Commissioner Bud). While they've essentially made up no ground in the Central, they have passed the Angels and caught the Yankees in the wild-card standings, and they've made up serious ground on the Orioles and the Rangers during this surge.
That's really the only thing that matters. Forget about the Tigers. No. Don't forget about the Tigers. Monday night, the Tigers and the Indians open a four-game set. While the Royals host the woeful Twins.
I suspect that most Royals fans are hoping the Tigers and the Indians beat up on each other. No. Royals fans should be rooting for the Tigers. Hard. Because the division title's gone, which means the Royals should be rooting for whomever's playing the Indians, whomever's playing the Rangers, and whomever's playing the Orioles. Every single day and night.
Yes, it's going to take a miracle. But Ervin Santana's still a Royal, so now it's time to pray for bad things to happen to good teams.