With the Cleveland Indians in first place and the Detroit Tigers 3 games under .500 (at the time of this writing), White Sox fans have to be wondering, two months into the season, who is the best team in the AL Central?

On paper, the Tigers are the best team. But we all know how much value “on paper” doesn’t have (see: 2011 White Sox). So, how can we determine who the best team is?

By looking at each team’s starting pitching and their xERA and the starting offense’s xBA, we can see if players are currently playing above or below their potential.

The charts below show each team’s starters and bullpen (according to each team’s depth chart on mlb.com), their current BA and their current xBA (along with ERA and xERA). xBAs higher than BAs are good; xERAs lower than ERAs are also good. So that we may study this at a glance, I assigned point values to the difference between actual and expected.

If a player’s variance between their BA and xBA is 20 points in either direction, we can expect a change coming soon. With ERA, if the variance is greater than 1, we can also expect a change coming.

If a player’s xBA is 20 or greater or xERA is 1 or grater than the actual, I assigned the player 2 points; -2 for the other end of the spectrum. Other variations received points between -1 and 1. Finally, I summed up the scores. Positive is good, negative is bad.

Let’s evaluate. (All stats provided by Baseball HQ)

I could evaluate player by player, but that would take awhile. What is most surprising is that Detroit’s offense scored a -2 overall, while the Indians scored a +8. The -2 tells me that most of Detroit’s offense is actually playing better than they should be and Cleveland’s +8 says that they’re just getting started, which, as a White Sox fan, is scary because the Indians good hitters are just going to get better. The White Sox +5 is encouraging, especially when you see the huge, positive difference for Dunn, Beckham, & Ramirez. We can also expect Paulie to come back down to earth at some point, unfortunately.

Pitching (starters and bulllpen) is also interesting. With a -4, Cleveland is going to have to rely on hitting and defense to stay atop of the division, while Detroit’s pitching should see some improvement.

What’s most encouraging is that both pitching and hitting for the White Sox scored positive numbers. An interesting number for the Sox is Peavy, who is pitching 1.12 points better than he should be. If you want to get into why this is, we can discuss in the comments.

Obviously, we should take this with a grain of salt because not only are we dealing with small sample sizes, it’s baseball and anything can happen.

My conclusion here is that there is no dominant all-around team in the AL Central and it’s anyone’s division to win; which I think we all knew already. But if these numbers hold true, it might just come down to the White Sox and Indians with the Tigers remaining comfortably in 3rd.

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