Tim Anderson & Byron Buxton Dictate The AL Central Race

Tim Anderson & Byron Buxton Dictate The AL Central Race

For many fans and analysts around Major League Baseball, entering the season, the AL Central champ was a forgone conclusion.

The Chicago White Sox, lead by MLBbro and budding superstar Tim Anderson, were headed to their second straight division crown under wily legend Tony LaRussa in what many consider the weakest division in baseball.

Fortunately for Byron Buxton and the Minnesota Twins, pennants are won on the field and not on paper.

While it’s far too early to pick a favorite, Buxton has Minnesota in first place and many wondering if the Central has suddenly gone from a one team demolition to a legit two (or three) team race.

Anderson hasn’t been outdone by much, but even with his success the teams seem headed in opposite directions. Let’s take a look at how this division battle has shaped up so far.

ANDERSON ALONE OUT THERE

Lately the White Sox lineup has felt like Tim Anderson vs. the world. Instead of the explosive offense most predicted, Chicago has been terrible at the plate. As a team the Southsiders rank 24th in OPS, 26th in runs scored, 27th in RBI and dead last in walks.

Chicago’s offense may be awful right now, but Anderson has continued to produce like the superstar we project him to be.

So far this season, Anderson has collected 24 hits in 72 at bats out of the leadoff spot for Chicago. After Monday’s matchup with the Los Angeles Angels, Anderson was slashing .357/.379/.500 over his last seven games.

 

Anderson already missed two games via suspension this season, and is currently appealing another for flipping the bird at Guardians fans a la Kyrie Irving. But unlike the aforementioned Irving, Tim has been head and shoulders the best ballplayer on his team every time he takes the field.

MINNESOTA GETTING BETTER AS WE GO

The Minnesota Twins offensive numbers won’t blow you away, but over the last seven games Buxton has gotten some help from their prize free agent signing, World Series Champion Carlos Correa. Over the last week of games, Carlos is slashing .357/.419/.393, a sign that Carlos is putting the ball in play, just not out of the ballpark.

 

 

The improved play of Correa combined with lefty Max Keplers .888 OPS have given Byron enough help throughout the first few weeks of the season to propel the Twins to first in the division. If fellow offseason additions like Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela can snap out of their early season funk to contribute, Minnesota may have some staying power at the top the AL Central.

As for Buxton, the concerns about his health remain and the threat of injury hangs over any projections we make about him. Buxton has always produced when on the field, often putting up numbers in spurts that compare to Mike Trout.

If Big Bux stays in the lineup all season, the Twins will be a formidable opponent the remainder of the season.

Both TA and Buxton have been close to their A games all season, the only question remaining is which one’s supporting cast will catch up quickest.

Call To The Baseball Gods: “For The Sake Of The Game, Please Keep Byron Buxton Healthy!” 

Call To The Baseball Gods: “For The Sake Of The Game, Please Keep Byron Buxton Healthy!” 

I’m sending a prayer out to the Baseball Gods: For the sake of the game, please keep Byron Buxton healthy!  

This past Friday baseball fans faced one of their biggest recurring nightmares; Byron Buxton in agony after suffering yet another fluke injury, this time to his right knee on a routine slide to second base.

Buxton jogged out of the batter’s box after hitting what appeared to be an easy pop out to the shortstop, but the Boston afternoon sun had other plans as the entire left side of the Red Sox’ defense couldn’t locate the ball.  Buxton sped up to stretch what should have been an easy out into a double and injured his knee on the slide.

He immediately slammed his fist into the infield dirt and began walking off the field, which if you have followed Buxton’s career you know it was a terrible sign.

According to the Twins, X-rays on Buxton’s right knee came back negative, and he is expected to return to the lineup sometime next weekend.

This news is great for baseball fans, but the scare is just the latest in what has been an injury riddled eight-year career for Buxton who signed a seven-year $100 million deal with the Twins in December of 2021.

READ: Byron Buxton Is One Healthy Season Away From MLBbro Supremacy | Minnesota Twins Five-Tool Talent Is A Leading MVP Candidate | mlbbro.com

Before this season Buxton had missed a total of 493 games with injuries.  Year by year he has not been able to catch a break-from hurting himself on the basepaths or crashing into the outfield wall on defense.

Since 2015 Buxton has dealt with a sprained thumb, knee contusion, back spasms, groin strain, strained wrist, fractured toe, concussion, shoulder surgery, a foot sprain and last season a hamstring injury and hip issues that put an end to a MVP caliber start to the 2021 season.

Last April he won the American League Player of the Month award by posting a .426 batting average, eight home runs, 14 runs batted in, 15 runs scored, three steals and a .466 on base percentage.

He was on pace to battle guys like Shohei Ohtani and Vlad Guerrero Jr. for the American League Most Valuable Player award before injuring himself trying to beat out a ground ball last May, a little less than 12 months since his latest injury.

Throughout the first eight games of this season Buxton appeared to already be in All-Star form.  He already has three home runs and sports an OPS of 1.058.

The Twins franchise has been competitive over the last few years but they have a major postseason monkey on their backs.  The team has lost 18 consecutive playoff games since 2002 when they defeated the Oakland A’s in the Divisional Round.

The team made major splashes this off-season and somewhat shocked  the baseball world when they signed Carlos Correa and brought in a few pieces from the Yankees to help give Buxton some support in the lineup, but he is the spoon that’s going to have to stir their pot if they have any chance of taking the American League Central title from Tim Anderson and his White Sox.

Nick Gordon, brother of former Gold Glove winner Dee Strange-Gordon will take over center field for the Twins in Buxton’s absence.