I cannot imagine what possible inspiration there would be to discuss anything besides the excellent, excellent MLB postseason to date, and since I cannot imagine it, it's a major hindrance to writing about it. The AL Central results in the playoffs so far have been rather extreme, and discussing the fallout can only be fun.
Royals - What a terrifying and edifying vision into what the Royals would look like if Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas developed into plus hitters. Hosmer is just 24, and has put together highly productive stretches last year and in the second half of this year.
Mike Moustakas is 26 with a .236/.290/.379 batting line in nearly 2000 MLB plate appearances. I feel more like I'm watching Gordon Beckham have a hot week with him. He even has a "but he makes it up on defense!" rep along with him. Nevertheless, the both of them together with Alex Gordon makes a Royals offense that looked like it was missing a middle all year long a bit more capable of propping up their pitching, defense and baserunning approach.
This is a still a team that depends a lot bullpen dominance (a fleeting thing), and is at serious risk of losing their No. 1 starter and their starting right fielder in free agency. They profited off a career year from the previously league-average-at-best Jason Vargas, and because of Hosmer and Moustakas' previous struggles, there's not much of an offensive core in place to promise that scoring runs in 2014 will be any less perilous. No one on the Royals who got even 50 PAs posted an .800 OPS, and the guy who got within 20 points was 30-years-old.
Save for some Cain regression, I don't see much potential for this group to be significantly worse. They have plenty of guys capable of more than playing over their heads. Kyle Zimmer could be a factor next year and a full season of Danny Duffy could help, but they need to both find a way to boost their offense and starting rotation to account for their bullpen likely being more human at some point.
Much of this will require an opening of the coffers, to compete in free agency or just compete for their outgoing studs. A good way to convince management to pay more is to host a ton of home playoff games or win the World Series, or both, so the Royals could be drastically changing their 2013 or 2014 or bust competitive window as we speak. The Royals have been dead in the dirt for almost 30 years, so we really have no conception on what David Glass thinks is an acceptable budget for a playoff contender. Finding out could be a bummer.
Tigers - Meanwhile, the Tigers have established what their playoff contender budget is, and it's been nearly infinite. After the most disappointing playoff bounce yet of their run of dominance over the AL Central, the Tigers face a significant crossroads with Max Scherzer and Victor Martinez's oncoming free agency, Torii Hunter's possible retirement, having to factor in what improvements they'll need to make to augment another year of depreciation from an aging core, and that almost everything will need to come from the open market, as they've depreciated their farm system to chase flags this past half-decade.
They can't really turn back, though, not when they're pot committed to Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. Assuming J.D. Martinez is not a total fluke and Nick Castellanos has plenty of room to grow, there should be some offensive production. Even with Verlander's struggles, him alongside David Price, Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello sounds like a very good starting rotation.
The whole Scherzer brouhaha just suggests that the Tigers might be reaching their outer limits, which is unfortunate timing for them, as this postseason is going to produce plenty of demand for bullpen overcorrection.
Both of these teams need to figure out where the line is for them. If the Tigers are moving back, or in any way halting their aggression of the past few years, they're stepping away from their status of obvious favorites. If the Royals line stays where it has been, they will probably be taking a large step back and building from the ground up some more. This wide open range of possibilities inspires the White Sox to be aggressive, which is an odd feeling right after your division produced two playoff teams, one of which is currently steamrolling its way through elite competition.
But neither team is particularly great, and both face an uncertain future, that if anything has been flipped on its head by unanticipated results. The Tigers losing quickly is the best result for 2015, because it might inspire a brief consideration to retool, but having them charge into the wall right until the moment that everyone on their team is 35-years-old would take them out of the competitive cycle longer. The Royals, while their winning is undeniably entertaining, is pretty undeniably bad, as any inspiration they get to stop operating like The Royals can only spell trouble.
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