previous years, I’ve used the six divisional columns to predict
records and make comments about the teams. This year, I’m debating
the records part. There will still be a summary column… so I’m
thinking of putting records over there if I do them.
now… let’s take a look at the AL Central. The listing of teams
is in the order I’m predicting the division to finish…
division overall scares me to predict probably more than any of
the others. And here’s why… there is no favorite, at least not
a consistent, proven one.
team except Kansas City has performed well… made the playoffs…
been a disappointment… exceeded expectations… played well… played
poorly… and basically has done anything they could to make the
playoffs and then mess things up the next year. And Kansas City
has a shot not just in this division, but in the entire American
League, at turning in the most improvement compared to last season.
I can show you multiple examples of each of these concepts relating
to every one of these teams without going back any further than
2005. Detroit and Chicago have been to the World Series. Cleveland
had knocked off Goliath only to fall apart about a week later.
Minnesota has challenged for the playoffs in years when people
didn’t expect them to sniff 80 wins.
pick one… to win?
least in the confusion that is the NL Central the Cubs appear
a bit better than everyone else. They just collapsed in the playoffs.)
let’s see what we can make out of this mess…
Indians ~ I’m not thrilled about having them lead this
kidding… Carl Pavano.
would love to see him go 16-9 and make 30+ starts. It would drive
folks in New York to the point of jumping off a bridge. I just
don’t think that’s possible. So instead of more Pavano jokes,
let’s take a look at Cliff Lee.
I finished the
NL Central preview, I had written about Ryan
Dempster and how his history suggests a 40% chance he’ll mange
to turn in an average season. Not great… not good… not a comparison
of this season against his personal previous performances… compared
to every other pitcher in the league, a less than 50-50 shot at
Lee made his first appearance in 2002. Only in 2007… with 20 appearances
and 16 starts… is there anything but starter in his record. And
he’s 76-41 doing that. Good stuff.
Hold on a second. 22-3 last year… 18-5 in 2005. That’s 40-8 over
his two best seasons. So now he’s a much more modest 36-32 when
we consider 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007. A third of the time… seems
really, really good. Two-thirds of the time… well, that divides
out actually to four years of 9-8. Still a winning record though.
But dominant? Hardly.)
good news is that I think Lee will be ok. But I’m talking 12-15
wins ok. Not Cy Young repeat. Dempster is 40% to reach average…
Lee is 50% to be decent.
if that’s the case… Pavano isn’t making New Yorkers cry and Lee
is not much better than average… why would I be picking Pavano
and Lee to win this division?
for once… the team might legitimately have a closer. If Kerry
Wood stays healthy, I’m ok with the bullpen.
outside of Lee and Pavano, we’re talking Jake Westbrook and Fausto
Carmona as starters… which could be nice. More likely it means
that the Indians are going to have some good days… and some bad
days… but through all five slots of their rotation they won’t
be too overmatched by any other club. The problem with pitching
is… they don’t have a sure-fire ace of the staff.
it comes to regular position players, there’s Grady Sizemore.
He’s arguably the best outfielder in baseball right now. Kelly
Shoppach is emerging. I actually like the defense here. And if
either Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner has a solid season, the
batting order could be really good.
admit that this isn’t much of an argument in favor of Cleveland.
I gave Texas no love based on what happens if everything goes
right. But as opposed to those other clubs, here we have a superstar…
Sizemore. And, the rest is a bunch of parts where everyone could
be seen as contributing equally. If Lee isn’t winning 15-20… well…
that’s better than what I see in the rest of these clubs.
Twins ~ If I trusted their starting rotation just a wee
bit more, I’d probably take them to win the division. But instead,
I don’t know what to make of the pitching. Talented… very talented…
but in places a bit young… and are they ever healthy at the same
time? I simply don’t see much depth that can be relied on for
2009. I understand, they have alot of good young arms, but none
that I can point to and count on for 10… 12… 15 unexpected wins.
Similar issues plague the bullpen… capable of very good efforts,
trustworthy in general, but there are a few question marks that
will be on the roster when they get started.
do like the pitching. Kevin Slowey might be that missing piece
of the puzzle for them. And while you may not recognize the names,
there are several arms in line with Slowey. The Twins do have
pitching. They do have good pitching. They just don’t have battle-tested,
injury-free pitching. (Hello Mr. Liriano… not implying anything
since it was just one injury-filled season and you’re just starting
your career… but they need 30 starts from you.)
Twins look ok defensively… which I think matters. You know that
old adage that momentum is the next day’s starter? Well… I agree
with that in general. But I would add to it that a decent team
defensively can be just as important to season-long momentum.
Teams playing well defensively, in my opinion, seem more consistent.
I don’t have the time I’d need to do the stats on this… it’s one
of those things that you never notice when it’s there, but always
see when it isn’t… teams that play solid do lose games, but they
don’t seem to hit “how will they lose today” extended streaks.
Crede was a decent addition at third base. Other than that though,
not much was really added to the Twins.
me… this whole season comes down to Joe Mauer. If this injury
is something major, Minnesota just doesn’t have the roster to
win the division or contend for the wild card. If he returns quickly
and lasts the year, this club should be able to grind out 88...
maybe 90 or so wins, and be in contention when September arrives.
Tigers ~ I refuse to fall for it. Not again. Not after
last time. Not after the time before last time. I refuse to believe
this team will win the division. But damn… it’s just so hard to
look at this roster and not think big things.
Jackson added to Justin Verlander, Nate Robertson and Jeremy Bonderman
should give you two starters that are above decent. Unfortunately,
inconsistencies and injuries have been associated with Detroit
pitching more than quality since the World Series appearance.
Lyon and Gerald Laird are some of the more interesting additions
to this team. And… well… that’s not so interesting… so, look…
have Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera. You don’t have Edgar
“oh crap, I can’t play in the American League” Renteria or Kenny
“why doesn’t anyone appreciate me” Rogers. This absolutely should
be the foundation of a 90 win team.
history suggests they will underachieve.
economy suggests that not only will they move Ordonez in July,
but Cabrera might be available for a discount price as well.
I’m not falling for it. They’re good enough to stay out of the
basement, but I won’t pick them to win it.
White Sox ~ I always regret not taking Chicago seriously.
When the season ends I look back and think crazy things … and
a few times since I started doing these columns, the season has
ended with the White Sox in the playoffs.
Buehrle? I like Mark Buehrle.
Jenks? Eh… take him or leave him personally… but the guy had 40
or more saves in 2006 and 2007, looked good in 2008, and he’s
only 28. (In fact, the more I think about it, I’d say take him.)
then Thome, Konerko and Dye? Got it… aging… but at least the pieces
fit and aren’t forced the way other teams have 4 or 5 1B/DH types.
And they can all have good days.
this is a team to be looked at seriously. Right?
Colon will be fine, for 5 or 6 starts. He’s not giving you a full
season ever again.
Contreras? Does anyone remember when there was alot of excitement
about this guy? I do. Seems like it was a heck of a long time
ago… but wait, it was actually the 2003 season!
suppose… lightning in a bottle… this is a club worth respecting.
But I’m not going to be placing them near the playoffs at all.
still looking for starting outfielders… which, depending on how
we count, makes this at least season three of that problem. And
that’s just an example of what I mean here. I’m not crazy about
City Royals ~ Here’s the question I have when it comes
to Kansas City… are the Royals seriously trying to get better,
or are they just adding some bells and whistles to give off the
appearance of trying to get better?
Crisp doesn’t impress me… but… you know… whatever. Have a ball.
thing is… Coco really doesn’t have a place in a batting order.
He doesn’t produce enough to hit in a slot of major responsibility,
like leading off… and he’s too enticing, too much of that magic
potential, to feel comfortable leaving him hitting in the bottom
of the order. Again… you know… whatever. That’s me. Not the true
statistics I suppose. But what I’ve seen suggests when he gets
hot, he’ll be very hot… but when he gets cold, he is bru-tal.
(On the other hand, the supposed true statistics also say he’s
a good defensive player. Yeah. Sure. No arm and does it all with
speed, smoke and mirrors.) So if you want him… enjoy. I’m not
look in another direction. Kyle Farnsworth? Why? Was there something
at Kaufmann Stadium that needed to be burned beyond the recognition
of any realm of science? Didn’t they do enough demolition work
there before the season began?
short, on the surface, I do not see where people are claiming
improvements worthy of note on this club.
but change your perspective. Don’t look at the additions for this
year, look at what existed before, and suddenly there is some
Meche has been better in Kansas City than I ever expected him
to be. Zack Greinke deserves far more credit than he gets… apparently
Tampa gets better press than Kansas City, because Greinke against
Kazmir, don’t be so fast to pick between the two by taking Kazmir.
Joakim Soria may be the best unknown reliever in baseball.
think there is room for improvement and it’s possible good things
are closer than you might think… and for reasons that aren’t being
not winning record in 2009.