No, the most important number in the American League Central isn't the number of games by which the Indians lead the rest of the pack, sizable as it is. Every team has a story this season, and there's usually a number to tell it, sometimes better than words can.For some,
No, the most important number in the American League Central isn't the number of games by which the Indians lead the rest of the pack, sizable as it is. Every team has a story this season, and there's usually a number to tell it, sometimes better than words can.
For some, that number is on the stat sheet, either for the team or its individual standouts. For others, it can be found on the league leaderboard or roster. Other fates can be found on the transaction wire as rebuilding clubs shuttle players back and forth to Triple-A.
Here are some of the numbers that tell the story of the AL Central this year.
The number: 60/40
What it means:Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor are the first infield duo in MLB history to each notch at least 30 homers and 20 steals in a single season. That feat has only been achieved by eight sets of teammates (done nine times overall) in one season. Their blend of power and speed has powered the top of a lineup that has needed every ounce of their production to function. Ramirez, who is only the third member of the 30-30 club in Indians history, has emerged as an AL MVP Award contender. Lindor, who leads baseball in runs scored, is also in that conversation. Cleveland's rotation might be the backbone of the World Series contender, but Ramirez and Lindor serve as the motor for the offense.
The number: 5.15
What it means: This is the Royals' bullpen ERA, which is the worst in the AL and 29th in MLB. But here's the tricky part: The bullpen has been good, at times. But if you take away four pitchers' ERAs -- Blaine Boyer (12.05), Justin Grimm (13.50), Enny Romero (20.25) and Brandon Maurer (8.54) -- Kansas City's bullpen ERA drops to a respectable 4.18, which would rank near the middle of the pack in the AL (8th) and MLB (18th). Consider, too, that Boyer, Romero and Grimm are no longer with the organization, and Maurer could be a non-tender candidate.
The number: 16
What it means: It's the number of times the Tigers have been shut out this season, most in the Majors through play Wednesday, most by an AL team since 2014 and most by a Detroit team since the AL record 119-loss season of 2003. Though the Tigers pitched fairly well for stretches this season, given their injury worries and inexperience, their offense proved overmatched at times, especially once Jose Cabrera was lost for the season to biceps surgery. Three of those shutouts came during a winless West Coast trip in early August that included one run total over a three-game sweep in Oakland, and eight runs for the six-game journey, which included a three-game sweep to the Angels. Detroit's five 1-0 losses also lead the Majors this year and are the most by a Major League team since 2014. Two of those 1-0 losses occurred in games started by Matthew Boyd.
The number: 33
What it means: It's the combined number of games played by Byron Buxton and Ervin Santana this season. They were major contributors to the Twins' run to the AL Wild Card Game in 2017, but they both dealt with injuries this season. Buxton, who led the team in Wins Above Replacement last season, played in only 28 games while missing time with migraines, a broken toe and a sprained wrist that limited his effectiveness offensively. Santana, who had been the staff ace over the previous two seasons, made only five starts after undergoing surgery on his right middle finger. It's a major reason why Minnesota is out of contention.
The number: 26
What it means: That total represents the number of players called up from Triple-A Charlotte alone this season, surpassing the 22 promotions from 2017, per the Knights. Those promotions range from highly touted prospects such as Michael Kopech (Aug. 21), Ian Hamilton (Aug. 31) and Jace Fry (May 4), to talented players taking full advantage of their big league opportunity such as Daniel Palka (April 24). This large total makes perfect sense in the context of the development focus of Year 2 of the White Sox rebuild, with players getting a chance to grow in the Minors and prove themselves at the Majors. But it also shows a plethora of injuries dealt with by Chicago, including injuries to key players such as Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia, Yoan Moncada and now Kopech, which contributed to the White Sox overall record being a little less than what they might have expected at the season's outset.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.