Wednesday, March 30, 2011
AL Central Preview
Whoever wins the AL Central this year better be prepared to play 163 games to do so. Three of the last four years, this division has ended the regular with two teams tied. And with the White Sox,Twins, and Tigers all improving their rosters over the offseason, it wouldn't surprise me to see it happen again. I won't waste time or space talking about the Indians and Royals and all their up and coming talent. Both these teams suck, and both will win less than 75 games.
Who will win the most games? Well it should be no surprise that Vegas has this as a tie. Both the Sox and Twins have an over/under bet of 85 games this season, with the Tigers at 83.5. But they do seperate these teams with odds to win the AL pennant. The Twins are 8-to-1, Tigers are 12-to-1 and the Sox are 15-to-1.
So lets start with the Twins. With a very well balanced offense and a solid rotation its easy to see why Vegas likes them so much. Speed at the top of the lineup in Denard Span and Japanese import Tsuyoshi Nishioka, followed by Joe Mauer,Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel, and Delmon Young. With Michael Cuddyer hitting 7th, this may be the best lienup the Twins have had in years.
Their starting rotation is also a strength for this team. Fransisco Liriano is aguably the best pitcher in the divison. He is followed by Scott Baker, Carl Pavano, Brian Duensing and Nick Blackburn. Its not the best rotation in the division, that clearly belongs to the Sox, but its closer than most think. Both Pavano and Liriano are capable of winning 18 games and the Duensing is going surprise people this year.
The Twins will be in the race all season. Their defense is better than anyone's in the division and their manager Ron Gardenhire always seems to make the right move at the right time.
The White Sox have a much improved lineup with the addition of Adam Dunn this offseason. A low average, high power bat, you know what you're gonna get from Dunn: .240/40/105. And I know Dunn gets a bad wrap for his strikeout totals each year, but also walks 100 times a year too. And his presence alone should help guys like Carlos Quentin and Alex Rios immeasurably. Pauley is gonna get his, even with his predictable slow starts. I believe if Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez can take the next step, this team could score the most runs in the division next year.
The rotation definitely took a hit with Peavy going on the DL to start the season. But their top 3 arms are better than everyone else's in the central. Danks is the teams ace, and rightly so, as most expect at least 18 wins from the southpaw this season. Their bullpen should be much improved with fatty gone. Thornton and Sale are the two best left handed duo in the game. Not the division, not the league, the game. Book it.
This team will score runs, this team will have great starting pitchers, this team will win more games than it loses. They only thing stopping them from being favorites to win this division are injuries and their hole at third base. Peavy and Quentin must stay healthy for an entire season if this team is going to be playing in October.
The Tigers made a great move this offseason signing Victor Martinez. He and Miguel Cabrera form the best 3-4 hitters in the division. Surround them with Austin Jackson, Magglio Ordonez, and Brandon Inge and you have lineup that will score a lot of runs. However, this lineup lacks speed and has holes at the top and bottom. They will rely heavily on guys like Carlos Guillen, Jonny Peralta and Ryan Raburn to have career years.
Their rotation also is filled with question marks. Obviously Justin Verlander is a stud. Max Scherzer is on his way to being an ace in this league as well. But after that they go Rick Porcello, Brad Penny and Phil Coke. Porcello is only 22 and is a promising young arm, but I'd be surprised if he won 12 games this year. And as for Penny and Coke , they don't deserve to start on National League staffs let alone AL.
Jim Leyland is one of the best managers in baseball history, yet he is probably the third best in his own divison this year. The Tigers will go as Martinez and Cabrera go, but they just don't have enough pitching to win this divison.
Predicted Final Standings:
White Sox 90-72
NL Central Preview Tomorrow