things about this division…
the Little Sisters of the Poor jokes will not play here. I get
it… Cleveland and Kansas City are spending slightly more than
nothing. Very slightly. That’s true. Those two teams combined
are not spending what any of the other clubs in this division
are spending individually.
the other side though, that combined-payroll wiseass comment means
that it’s also true that the top three teams… Minnesota, Detroit
and Chicago… all have payrolls above $100 million. And while all
of them are much closer to $100 million than the stratosphere
occupied by New York (the Yankees, at $200-plus), Philadelphia
($170-ish), and Boston (just over $160), no other division in
baseball has more than two teams spending as much.
second… yes, I’m predicting a three-way tie.
the reason is simple. I’m just not comfortable picking specifics
for these clubs.
expect consistent production from the Twins. Balanced club… a
couple of stars… but I don’t see them running away or being able
to ridiculously outperform expectations again.
White Sox are easily the most capable of surprising everyone and
turning in an effort that leads the league in wins. For while
Boston, Tampa and New York might knock each other around enough
to prevent any of the AL East from reaching 100-wins, in Chicago
I see a team that… with everything working right… could send two
big guns to the mound, has power in the batting order, and a deep
enough roster to drive opponents nuts.
Detroit… well… top notch starter and potentially the most feared
hitter in the division. Add to that two very, very good offensive
players. And, not just hitting… as a catcher, do not underestimate
Victor Martinez and his role with a staff. Just go back and see
how many pitchers have won Cy Young awards throwing the majority
of a season’s starts to him. Just go back and look at Clay Buchholz
emerging with him behind the plate.
of these teams would stun me by taking the division title.
What I expect in 2011: 88-74, playoffs
they did in 2010: 94-68
personnel changes: Kept Pavano and Thome… and I’d say
there is zero else to discuss here after that. (Unless you want
to talk about J.J. Hardy being traded to Baltimore. I’m open to
it if you are. No? Ok. Not much else here then.)
expectations: I’m going to take the Twins to win the
division. Even with a few potential MVP candidates on these teams,
the only player from the AL Central I expect to get top-five mentions
on ballots at the end of the year is Joe Mauer. I also believe…
and I can’t believe I’m saying this either… the best combination
of starting pitchers is led by Liriano and Pavano in Minnesota.
(I just don’t trust Peavy until he proves he’s healthy.)
let’s not make the mistake of believing the Twins are awesome
and all that. At best, the AL Central has the fifth-best team
in the American League… behind Texas, New York, Boston and Tampa.
And that is at best. No one is going to run away and hide… despite
the 2010 results and the return of Joe Nathan.
yet… give the Twins some credit. Because they will run the most
fluid and steady ship to be found on a 162-game journey. That
is an amazing credit to Ron Gardenhire and their roster. They
won’t complain about problems… they won’t get down about falling
a few games off the pace… and I don’t believe they’ll be overconfident
if they can extend a lead in the division. Oh yeah… the division…
Twins destroyed their divisional opponents last year. They went
47-25 against the teams in the AL Central. (And if you aren’t
sure if that’s a trend worth noting… they won 46 games in 2009,
when no other AL Central club hit 40 wins against divisional opponents.
In 2008 they won 43… but lost the division by one game (when Chicago
won 44 in the division).)
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): Last year
the Twins rode Carl Pavano and a nice rotation to the playoffs.
And then, as I recall, the sudden realization was that Minnesota
was entering the playoffs and their hopes rested on… you got it…
all nice to talk about Joe Mauer and Joe Nathan and Justin Morneau
and what will or might be. In the end… same concept… Pavano.
of teams have very talented players. Doesn’t always cover for
is a really good team for the regular season… potentially a division
winner and playoff participant. This is not a team that matches
up well with anyone in postseason series.
noting… while not dominating and in demand stars, the Twins do
have a fair number of starting pitchers. Such a fair number that
they have one likely headed to their bullpen and another on the
way from the minors around mid-season. In short… they could trade
for a piece or two. Just don’t expect them to get solid gold in
What I expect in 2011: 88-74
they did in 2010: 88-74
personnel changes: Brought in Adam Dunn and kept Paul
Konerko. Only major loss was Bobby Jenks… and I say that since
I wouldn’t have spent much energy chasing any of the others departing.
the funny thing about Chicago… they acquired several interesting
names on minor league contracts. Started with Dallas McPherson
last November. And yeah… you’re right… no one is wondering about
a club signing him to a minor league deal. Earns a collective
“so what?” in response. But hold on… because in February another
of those minor league deals went to Lastings Milledge. And if
you check out the five or six deals the White Sox made like that,
where a couple could even make the roster… but more likely will
be stashed in the minors… the White Sox have some strange depth.
could absolutely see Milledge getting called up in a July bench
role, playing in a couple of games, and contributing to a victory
or two. Or even getting hot for a couple of weeks. I would never
have signed him at all, and certainly not to a major league contract…
but Chicago might have a couple of hidden cards to play as the
expectations: If everything goes right, this club could
be very dangerous… and one to avoid in the playoffs.
I tipped the cap to Minnesota when it came to starters… but we
are looking at Mark Buerhle in the Sox rotation, along with some
interesting questions. Those questions include Jake Peavy a potential
ace and Edwin Jackson with loads of talent and the possibility
of emerging to cash in on his potential. If Peavy is healthy,
then he and Buerhle are the best one-two combination in the division.
And if Jackson delivers as well, then the White Sox are on their
way to having a very solid group from beginning to end.
don’t love their bullpen… Nathan could give the nod to the Twins
for closer, and most would say the best closer in the division
plays for Kansas City. But it does have the ability to be better
the offense… well… Konerko and Dunn will provide a dynamite power
duo. And hey… even if Dunn does strike out a ton, that just means
he won’t ground into a double-play and often someone hitting fifth
is going to get a crack as well.
Vizquel and Mark Teahan give the White Sox depth and reliability
on the bench in a division that is sorely lacking in deep rosters.
feel very comfortable placing this club around 88 wins.
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): No question…
just about every way, the Chicago offense is better than anything
else in this division. They match up nicely with speed… their
power from one, two or three players is about as good as anyone
in the division, and likely gets much better than anyone else
when considering four or five guys… and as I mentioned about Dunn
striking out, even a weakness like that could be a positive if
it gets someone else an at bat with runners on base.
hasn’t made more than 17 starts in two years. (16 in 2009 and
17 in 2010.) The guy is dynamite… he’s 29… low ERA and good strikeout
numbers as just two openers to consider when reviewing his stats…
but he scares no one from the disabled list.
is only 26… and has five teams on his resume. You can view those
two opposing ideas (young age, many teams) as a good indicator
of the inconsistencies of his performance. He pitched in the majors
at 19. He’s made 30-plus starts the past four seasons. There is
is a club that legitimately could match up with any other AL team
in the playoffs… and win. It’s also a team that could flounder.
What I expect in 2011: 88-74
they did in 2010: 81-81
personnel changes: Signed Victor Martinez, in a move
I believe could pay off huge for them. Not really changes… but
you will notice names like Magglio Ordonez and Jhonny Peralta
in camp this spring. Who would have thunk that?
attention please… we have a Brad Penny one-year deal winner for
expectations: I absolutely love the Miguel Cabrera and
Victor Martinez pairing. This is a dangerous club.
think Justin Verlander is not only a Cy Young candidate… he’s
one that could win more than 20 games.
trouble is… you get to the question marks (and the lack of depth)
very quickly in Detroit.
Cabrera and Martinez and… you guessed it… Magglio Ordonez! Who
would have thought two years ago that Ordonez would not only still
be in a Detroit uniform in 2011, but hitting in the 3-4-5 section
of their order?
we have with the Twins and White Sox, the Tigers bring a club
to the field that could approach 90-wins. Of the three though…
(1) they have the least potential to actually get to 90… (2) they
have the most potential for not only falling, but falling very
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): Last year
the Tigers won 81. I have always liked Jim Leyland as a manager.
Thing is… I just can’t get over how fast they went from the World
Series to continuously underachieving. And to see this club rise
about 8-10 games with their record seems a bit of a stretch to
me when you spend any serious amount of time considering it.
and please, don’t let it happen… if something does happen to Miguel
Cabrera, the club is toast.
What I expect in 2011: 72-90
they did in 2010: 69-93
personnel changes: Tough to gauge this one… on first
glance, Austin Kearns and Orlando Cabrera are decent flyers for
this club to be taking… and on second glance, they are one-year
flyers, and if either player performs decently in 2011 he will
almost certainly pack his equipment and look elsewhere for 2012.
So… are those really improvements? Nah.
expectations: What’s not to like about Grady Sizemore?
I mean seriously… team up an emerging Shin-Soo Choo and Santana
and there are some nice things on offense. Actually… some might
say potentially good things, and I wouldn’t argue that point.
we’re adding players like Cabrera and Kearns?
nothing to be bowled over by… but better clubs have made do with
problem is… there is just nothing really memorable… frightening…
or even reliable here.
Fausto Carmona? Are you really comfortable relying on Carmona?
if not Carmona… hitting… Travis Hafner continues to get at bats.
an undeserved shot at Hafner. After all… good on-base percentage.
In 2009 and 2010 he cleared .270 in batting average.
thing is… the shot was directed at that memorable… frightening…
reliable concept. And Hafner’s top marks over the past three seasons
are: 118 games played (2010), 16 home runs (2009), 50 RBIs (2010)…
and are you seeing my point? Even when he played in 152 games
in 2007 he hit only 24 home runs. He hasn’t been dangerous since
he was 29 years old in 2006. I wish him the best. Hope he gets
into 140-plus games and tears the cover off the ball. I don’t
expect him to do it though.
a club you want to cheer for… Justin Masterson is a good guy and
I always felt he was a class act. It’s not a club ready to win
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): At best,
the Indians have an ok club. But they are no better than third
or fourth best in the division in any area you want to measure…
offense, defense, speed, starting pitching, bullpen, and the list
goes on. They aren’t really bringing along much youth this year
(at least not a ton you aren’t aware of already) and don’t have
much money available. (And the money part doesn’t really matter…
since they won’t be in contention and have nothing they should
be willing to trade that would involve taking on money.)
top of everything else… the only player most other teams will
be interested in that the Indians would trade is Grady Sizemore.
Let’s say he proves he can stay healthy, becomes productive, and
teams line up in late June to talk about him. If the Indians trade
him, I’m not sure how they will be capable of showing improvement
of any kind in 2011.
What I expect in 2011: 68-94
they did in 2010: 67-95
personnel changes: Gil Meche is gone and Zack Greinke
has been traded.
an addition by subtraction theme?
considering they dumped Yumiesky Betancourt, there was at least
one transaction where they got rid of a player and they will benefit
this year because of it.
Cabrera… ok… that’s it… Cabrera? In Kansas City? I’m done. Let’s
wrap this one up.
expectations: Wow… this club stands to get outplayed
in every way a baseball team can be outplayed. I hate their batting
order… hate their defense… and if you are willing to take a wait-and-see
approach to their starting pitching, you are significantly more
patient than I.
may recall, if you’ve read all of my preseason reviews, that I
said I had the American League way too many games over even and
that interleague play wouldn’t solve that disparity. The Kansas
City Royals may help close that gap for the season.
don’t have much knowledge of their farm system, but everything
I hear is that 2012 is going to be the start of something special
for the Royals. In 2013… 2014… they might get over into winning
record territory and possibly even have some runs at division
awesome. In the future.
2011, the team will try every bit of your patience.
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): About the
only thing would be bringing up prospects and playing the young
guys. Seriously… Melky Cabrera is a big name on this roster. They
will not be playing very good baseball that often.
Soria… great. Bruce Chen as one of your best starters? Umm… yeah…
makes you believe that an elite closer matters.