the Detroit Tigers and the also rans. This is, literally, the
only division in baseball where I can only see one possible playoff
of that isn’t fair. After all… the American League is loaded,
and that keeps a lot of the National League teams in contention.
And, the Indians were surprising in how they ran their club in
2011… having the look and feel of a team that expected to win.
unfair or not, it is accurate. When Tampa, Boston, New York, California
and the two-time defending AL Champion Texas are playing for division
and wild card slots, you had better be pretty darn good if you
want to get into the discussion as well.
is such a club. One of the best in baseball.
remaining teams are not.
What I expect in 2012: 92-70
they did in 2011: 95-67
personnel changes: Lost Victor Martinez for the year
to injury. Added Prince Fielder during free agency.
expectations: Cruising to a division win… third seed
in the playoffs… home after the first round.
you want more? Ok.
check out the Martinez – Fielder – Cabrera fun.
Martinez is out for the season. That should raise a huge problem
on the offensive side of the world for Detroit. They responded
to that issue when they went out and signed Fielder. And now,
Fielder and Cabrera make up the most potent back-to-back in the
game. (Next season, given Martinez coming back… dear lord, wow.)
accomplishing that though, the Tigers took a weak first basemen
(Cabrera) and sent him back to third base. There, he’ll be a weak
third baseman. And, they added a weak first baseman (Fielder).
Granted… those are the edges of the defensive arrangement, and
normally you look first up the middle. But it still shows that
this is not a balanced club.
Verlander we get questions… questions… questions in the pitching.
I like Max Scherzer and Doug Fister showed more in 2011 after
his trade than I ever expected. Still… the Tigers are not assembling
Weaver, Haren, and Wilson here.
is relying on Octavio Dotel to be the bridge into the set-up and
closer spots. It’s not a bad risk… he’s had 62 or more appearances
every season since 2008. (Admit it… you didn’t know he had become
the AL Central, all of these things are nice. But pound-to-submission
offense seldom wins in the postseason. And I see better pitching
on all of the other AL contenders.
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): The problem
for the Tigers is they are built for regular season success and
Justin Verlander goes to the mound, chances are good that they
will be sending out the weaker starter in any playoff contest.
California and Tampa are definitely deeper and stronger… Boston,
if they make the postseason, should be deeper and stronger… and
New York and Texas could be better as well.
the regular season Detroit will have a ridiculous middle of the
order that will chew up inferior pitching. In the postseason we
could be talking about AL opponents sending Albert Pujols, Adrian
Gonzalez, and what truly amounts to solid lineups of their own
to the plate.
top of that… while I expect Verlander to be fine… the rest of
the rotation is not a strikeout-happy bunch. And what I mean is
that in at least three games out of every five, the defense needs
to make outs. (Remember… I like Scherzer. But I already outlined
where their offense came with defensive sacrifices.)
I enjoy throwing these things out there… Martinez is primarily
a designated hitter, right? Ok then… I’m not expecting a return.
Supposedly his surgical needs are so potentially severe they are
performing it in two separate surgeries. Still… he’s a DH… not
catching… not at first base. And the Tigers are putting Cabrera
and Fielder out in regular positions, likely only giving them
DH days to rest a bit while keeping the bat in the order. So…
what if, when rosters expand (and the Tigers likely have a very
comfortable division lead), they are able to add Martinez? You
know… work him into some hitting shape as a possible pinch-hitter
or even regular DH for the playoffs? And before you tell me to
be quiet… Wes Welker was back on a football field about 8 months
after knee surgery. Depending on his rehab schedule, September
and October offers Martinez a similar time frame from his injury
date, and likely about 6 months from the planned second surgery.
Is it likely? No. But man could the Tigers be looking at a nice
late season possibility.
What I expect in 2012: 84-78
they did in 2011: 80-82
personnel changes: Casey Kotchman? That a big one for
big move is the trade back in late October for Derek Lowe. He
may not be perfect, but he could add a nice bit of depth to the
expectations: I like this club, and I think they are
going to surprise some people with a winning record. They have
two problems though.
the division, I present you with Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera
and Justin Verlander managed by Jim Leyland. Problem number one
– They are not good enough to win the division.
of the division… let’s crown California and New York as division
winners… there remains two playoff spots for clubs like Texas,
Tampa and Boston. Problem number two – They are not good enough
to win 90 games.
a lot to overcome. And once they get outside of the division,
most opponents are better.
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): Ok… first
of all… applause for this organization. They made some really
gutsy moves last summer, and I do believe we are potentially seeing
something bordering on quite special developing. Some improvement
is in order.
an interesting thought… and I couldn’t believe it when I read
it. Apparently, the Indians don’t have a single player under contract
for more than two years. In other words… beyond 2013. They control
some of their younger players. But the longest remaining contracts
are for two seasons and that’s it. How’s that for being able to
turn around your roster in a hurry if you want to?
What I expect in 2012: 84-78
they did in 2011: 79-83
personnel changes: Lost Mark Buehrle, Sergio Santos,
and Carlos Quentin to trades and free agency. Also added Kosuke
expectations: Detroit is just so tough. And I think I
have the White Sox with too many wins.
the AL Central, you could usually point to 88-wins and you’d be
in the hunt. I don’t think that works this year. The wild card
could be at a sick level… possibly requiring 96 wins for either
of the wild card slots. (I doubt it too… the teams will level
that out a bit when very good teams lose games to other very good
teams. But Detroit should clear 90-wins (and take the division).
Chicago will not. And there is no way that I see either wild card
slot being filled by a team with less than 90 wins.)
White Sox need Jake Peavy to start over 30 games and deliver about
210-innings. If he does that, then hold on, because several other
things begin to become a little more likely.
Danks and Gavin Floyd are good starters. The problem? Mark Buehrle
is gone… and he was just a consistent, decent presence. If Peavy
can be that presence… hmm… Chicago with a steady staff? Ok… maybe
things look a bit brighter…
there is a very good possibility the batting order will begin
and end with Paul Konerko. And if that’s true… with players like
Adam Dunn not bouncing back and performing more like 2011 than
the years before… this club is in huge trouble no matter what
and Cleveland may not be perfect clubs either, but they will be
competitive… which spells problems for the White Sox.
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): Peavy and
Dunn. Keep saying that. Peavy and Dunn.
Peavy hasn’t started more than 16 games… or pitched more than
about 110 innings… since 2008. In limited action over the past
three seasons, his ERA has continuously risen while his strikeouts
per nine has gone down. Look at any measurement you want… WHIP,
strikeouts-to-walks, hits per nine… there are reasons to wonder
about what you will get from Peavy in 2012.
thing is… it is pretty much impossible for Adam Dunn to have a
worse season in 2012 than the stink bomb he delivered in 2011.
these two guys can offer anything in 2012… and I mean more than
25 starts and something approaching 180 or more innings from Peavy,
and quite literally anything that allows Dunn to add something
to Konerko in the batting order… then there is a reason to give
them a chance on most nights. And sometimes, a chance is all you
can ask for.
What I expect in 2012: 75-87
they did in 2011: 63-99
personnel changes: Added Josh Willingham, Ryan Doumit
and Jason Marquis. Lost Michael Cuddyer and Joe Nathan.
expectations: I don’t like how much we’ve found out about
the club recently. And by that, I mean how much they require Joe
Mauer and Justin Morneau to carry them. When they aren’t on the
field, the Twins suffer tremendously. And last year they weren’t
on the field much at all.
a positive note… no one was on the field for the Twins in 2011.
I believe they sent more players to the disabled list last year
than any other club. And so… if they are healthy… then using 2011
to predict 2012 is pointless.
even if I tell you everyone is healthy, and Mauer and Morneau
will play in a combined 290-plus games… looking to 2012 as possibly
successful still isn’t easy. And yet…
and Doumit could offer as much pop in the lineup as any options
like Michael Cuddyer. And if Mauer stays healthy and catches more
than anything else, Doumit is a nice option to have available.
just don’t see where Ron Gardenhire can do it once again with
a bunch of guys we haven’t really heard of… or even accomplish
much with those we have heard of. Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano?
Nice stories… but not one of the best pairings in the American
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): Health
a reason everyone in Minnesota holds their breath and crosses
their fingers about Joe Mauer. He gets injured… and as a catcher,
his injuries tend to keep him on the bench.
think a lot of people are underestimating the Twins. I don’t think
a winning record is necessarily a lost cause… and where I have
Chicago with too many wins, I likely have Minnesota with too few.
simply a fragile team though. Liriano is their one shot at a dominant
starter. (Yeah… I said it… Francisco Liriano is the Twins hope
for an ace.)
What I expect in 2012: 64-98
they did in 2011: 71-91
personnel changes: Hard to get excited about much here.
The signings for the big club included Bruce Chen and Yuniesky
Betancourt. And while we could debate it back and forth a bit…
let’s be honest…
brought back Chen because of an interesting set of stats he delivered
in 2011. But is Chen a part of the future? Is he a bridge to the
future? No… and no. Maybe… and we can high-light that in huge
letters, MAYBE… a team gets desperate in the middle of the year,
and he’s turning in an average effort, and the Royals can trade
yawn in this area. Want more? Ok…
traded Melky Cabrera.
you care? Probably not. Does that change 2012 for them? Yeah…
not so much.
expectations: Here’s something to keep in mind about
the AL Central… it’s not a particularly tough division.
sure… it’s good. I like it better than the NL Central. But when
you look at the top clubs in the NL East… the AL West… the AL
East… it should become clear that being the Royals is a hell of
a lot better than being the Orioles, Blue Jays, Mariners, A’s
most nights, against any division opponent, the Royals have a
shot. (Yes… even against the Tigers.)
hear potential and youth kicked around so much when it comes to
Kansas City. Eventually potential and youth have to show up on
the 25-man roster… otherwise, no one cares.
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): I made
this point about Toronto… which, since the AL East is a separate
column, you may not have read yet… that showed how tough it is
going to be for the Blue Jays to reach .500 when half of the season
is played against Boston, New York, Tampa and Baltimore.
City gets the opposite idea. Let’s just say they play hard, play
well, and can reach .500 in a crazy and slightly-open division.
Could happen. (I suppose.)
problem after that involves the juggernauts outside their division.
.500 is about the best Kansas City could ever do in the division.
Of the nine American League teams outside their division, five
are as good if not better than Detroit, and Toronto is better
than Kansas City. They will not play over .500 outside of the
that’s really all you need to know. If this club is going to be
15 to 20 games below .500 against the AL East, AL West and interleague
opponents, they will be at least (and likely more than) 15 to
20 games below for the year.
interesting thing is simple… if the organization would just jettison
Jeff Francoeur and Betancourt (and similar veterans), there is
a possible youth movement that might be able to crack into the
upper half of this division next season.