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AL Central Title Up For Grabs

We're halfway through August and five of the six division leaders have cushions of four games or less. Talk about parity. This is shaping up to be one of the more exciting finishes to a season in awhile, and I feel fortunate to have a front row seat for all of it. Even more exciting is that several of these contending teams were thought to have absolutely no shot at reaching the postseason back in April, but for various reasons, find themselves right in the thick of things as we approach September. Arizona is one of those teams, and they are actually leading the World Champion Giants by two games.

The most interesting race, by far, is the one for the AL Central crown. Most expected Minnesota to win what appeared to be a weak division, but they're actually in fourth place, 11 games out of first place. Though the Twinkies could very well go on one of their signature late-season runs and get back into the race, it appears we'll have a three-team royal rumble the rest of the way. Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit are all separated by a mere five games, and thanks to the heavy divisional schedule they all have at the end of the season, we're going to get the opportunity to see these teams go at each other for a month.

Let's analyze the three teams to try and figure out who has the best shot at taking the title.

Chicago White Sox 58-60 (5.0 games back)

The White Sox have had a nice run recently, forcing themselves back into the conversation. Mark Buehrle and Gavin Floyd have provided a solid 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation, and Philip Humber has been pitching well as of late. Former infielder Sergio Santos, meanwhile, has emerged as a solid option at the backend of the bullpen.

The line-up is solid if not spectacular, with a few guys not quite living up to their vast potential. Juan Pierre is still managing to get it done, even though I feel like he's been around since the 70's, and they have my favorite utility man in baseball, the one and only Omar Vizquel. There is some thump in the line-up, led by Paul Konerko, who just continues to post MVP caliber numbers year after year. I'm not sure the White Sox have what it takes to keep up their current pace and remain in the running, but anything could happen in the Central.

Cleveland Indians 59-57 (3.0 games back)

These guys have been the feel-good story of the season. They have played consistently solid baseball, and they have a talented, young pitching staff to thank for that. Guys like Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin are having career years, and in spite of the fact that supposed ace Fausto Carmona has really scuffled, the rotation remains a strength, especially with the recently acquired Ubaldo Jimenez added to the mix. The bullpen has also been remarkable, considering it is made up primarily of guys who only the most rabid Indians' fans had heard of prior to 2011. Joe Smith, Tony Sipp, Vinnie Pestano, and closer Chris Perez are all enjoying fine years.

The line-up relies heavily on guys like Carlos Santana and Travis Hafner, which doesn't inspire a lot of confidence, but they've been getting the job done. The real offensive star in Cleveland, though, has been shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who has been something of a revelation . He is batting .290 with 19 homers and 60 RBIs. I really hope the Indians find a way to overtake the Tigers and hold off the White Sox, because this team would be a lot of fun to watch in October. And, of course, with Jack Hannahan on the squad, anything is possible.

Detroit Tigers 63-55 (first place in AL Central)

Justin Verlander. That's all you need to know about the Detroit Tigers and why they're in first place. The guy has been remarkable in ‘11, and may be in line for the Cy Young. He is leading the league in wins (17) and has been unhittable for large portions of the season. There isn't a whole lot behind the big righty, especially with Rick Porcello and Brad Penny struggling mightily. Both have ERAs near five. But the bullpen has been excellent, with closer Jose Valverde having recorded 34 consecutive saves.

The line-up has been solid, as Miguel Cabrera continues to put up his now-expected MVP numbers. He is leading the team in average, home runs, RBI, OBP, and hits. Suffice it to say that the Tigers will need him to keep up his pace down the stretch. Victor Martinez has been a solid addition, though his power numbers are down significantly. Jhonny Peralta, Alex Avila, and Brennan Boesch have all played integral roles on offense, and Avila especially has been a key contributor both at the plate and behind it.

The winner is…

So, those are the contenders. But who takes the crown? My heart is telling me the Indians, but my head is saying Tigers. I think this is a race that will come down to the wire, but I'm going with the feel good pick here. I think Jimenez puts the Indians over the top, and they pass by the Tigers on the last day of the season. I don't see the White Sox legitimately hanging around this race for much longer.

Agree with me? Disagree? Tweet me and tell me why @rwags614 .

We're halfway through August and five of the six division leaders have cushions of four games or less. Talk about parity. This is shaping up to be one of the more exciting finishes to a season in awhile, and I feel fortunate to have a front row seat for all of it. Even more exciting is that several of these contending teams were thought to have absolutely no shot at reaching the postseason back in April, but for various reasons, find themselves right in the thick of things as we approach September. Arizona is one of those teams, and they are actually leading the World Champion Giants by two games.

The most interesting race, by far, is the one for the AL Central crown. Most expected Minnesota to win what appeared to be a weak division, but they're actually in fourth place, 11 games out of first place. Though the Twinkies could very well go on one of their signature late-season runs and get back into the race, it appears we'll have a three-team royal rumble the rest of the way. Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit are all separated by a mere five games, and thanks to the heavy divisional schedule they all have at the end of the season, we're going to get the opportunity to see these teams go at each other for a month.

Let's analyze the three teams to try and figure out who has the best shot at taking the title.

Chicago White Sox 58-60 (5.0 games back)

The White Sox have had a nice run recently, forcing themselves back into the conversation. Mark Buehrle and Gavin Floyd have provided a solid 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation, and Philip Humber has been pitching well as of late. Former infielder Sergio Santos, meanwhile, has emerged as a solid option at the backend of the bullpen.

The line-up is solid if not spectacular, with a few guys not quite living up to their vast potential. Juan Pierre is still managing to get it done, even though I feel like he's been around since the 70's, and they have my favorite utility man in baseball, the one and only Omar Vizquel. There is some thump in the line-up, led by Paul Konerko, who just continues to post MVP caliber numbers year after year. I'm not sure the White Sox have what it takes to keep up their current pace and remain in the running, but anything could happen in the Central.

Cleveland Indians 59-57 (3.0 games back)

These guys have been the feel-good story of the season. They have played consistently solid baseball, and they have a talented, young pitching staff to thank for that. Guys like Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin are having career years, and in spite of the fact that supposed ace Fausto Carmona has really scuffled, the rotation remains a strength, especially with the recently acquired Ubaldo Jimenez added to the mix. The bullpen has also been remarkable, considering it is made up primarily of guys who only the most rabid Indians' fans had heard of prior to 2011. Joe Smith, Tony Sipp, Vinnie Pestano, and closer Chris Perez are all enjoying fine years.

The line-up relies heavily on guys like Carlos Santana and Travis Hafner, which doesn't inspire a lot of confidence, but they've been getting the job done. The real offensive star in Cleveland, though, has been shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who has been something of a revelation . He is batting .290 with 19 homers and 60 RBIs. I really hope the Indians find a way to overtake the Tigers and hold off the White Sox, because this team would be a lot of fun to watch in October. And, of course, with Jack Hannahan on the squad, anything is possible.

Detroit Tigers 63-55 (first place in AL Central)

Justin Verlander. That's all you need to know about the Detroit Tigers and why they're in first place. The guy has been remarkable in ‘11, and may be in line for the Cy Young. He is leading the league in wins (17) and has been unhittable for large portions of the season. There isn't a whole lot behind the big righty, especially with Rick Porcello and Brad Penny struggling mightily. Both have ERAs near five. But the bullpen has been excellent, with closer Jose Valverde having recorded 34 consecutive saves.

The line-up has been solid, as Miguel Cabrera continues to put up his now-expected MVP numbers. He is leading the team in average, home runs, RBI, OBP, and hits. Suffice it to say that the Tigers will need him to keep up his pace down the stretch. Victor Martinez has been a solid addition, though his power numbers are down significantly. Jhonny Peralta, Alex Avila, and Brennan Boesch have all played integral roles on offense, and Avila especially has been a key contributor both at the plate and behind it.

The winner is…

So, those are the contenders. But who takes the crown? My heart is telling me the Indians, but my head is saying Tigers. I think this is a race that will come down to the wire, but I'm going with the feel good pick here. I think Jimenez puts the Indians over the top, and they pass by the Tigers on the last day of the season. I don't see the White Sox legitimately hanging around this race for much longer.

Agree with me? Disagree? Tweet me and tell me why @rwags614 .