Friday, April 2, 2010

2010 American League Central Preview

  • This quality gap between the AL Divisions is not that wide:

The American League Central has two very tough, deep and well-run teams with the White Sox and Twins; another team with the talent to cause trouble in the Tigers; a hideously run Royals club that has ability; and a punching bag in the Indians.

Let's dig deep, Mr. Bond.

American League Central

  1. Chicago White Sox----Wins-94; Losses-68; GB ---
  2. Minnesota Twins----Wins-90; Losses-73; GB-4.5
  3. Detroit Tigers----Wins-80; Losses-82; GB-14
  4. Kansas City Royals----Wins-74; Losses-88; GB-20
  5. Cleveland Indians----Wins-63; Losses-99; GB-31

* Denoted Predicted Wild Card Winner

Chicago White Sox:

Overlook the White Sox at your own risk.

I don't think people realize how good this team really is. How deep they are; how well-run they are; and how fearless and brilliant GM Kenny Williams is when making decisions.

Amid all the controversy that surrounds manager Ozzie Guillen, it's easily forgotten what an excellent strategic manager he is. More than any other team, the White Sox clubhouse is rife with players like A.J. Pierzynski who rankle everyone; the whole place appears to feed off the energy of controversy and perceived in-fighting.

None of that would matter if the talent level wasn't what it is.

The keys to the entire White Sox season are Jake Peavy and Carlos Quentin. If Peavy is healthy----and he's shown no reason to disbelieve that he is and ready to have a monster season----the White Sox are a legitimate World Series threat.

Their offense could be short in certain spots, but that would be mitigated by a healthy Quentin hitting as he did in 2008 when he was an MVP candidate.

The starting pitching is six deep; the bullpen is rife with power arms; they're fiery and run by a James Bond villain in Williams and his psychotic assistant in Guillen.

Ignore them. See what happens.

Minnesota Twins:

Despite the loss of Joe Nathan, the Twins are also a serious contender. The under-the-radar additions of veteran bats Jim Thome; Orlando Hudson; and J.J. Hardy bolster an already strong lineup; they have a bunch of mid-rotation starters permeating their rotation, but they deploy their relievers effectively and play the game with great fundamentals.

They're aggressive in-season trying to improve, so if needed, they'll go out and get a closer of the Heath Bell variety. What I'd do if I were the Twins is trust Matt Guerrier as the closer, but for now, they're going with the committee system until everything shakes out.

Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are a devastating 1-2 punch in the lineup and they have bats like Denard Span, Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel among others to bash as well. I'm waiting for the freshly extended Mauer to begin turning on inside pitches to hit more homers. If he does, he's a threat to win the Triple Crown. As it is, I think he'll win another MVP.

The Twins will be there in the end, fighting for a playoff spot even with a patched together closer situation.

Detroit Tigers:

Horrible contracts the Tigers have the Tigers suspended in limbo. The got rid of Nate Robertson's $10 million by dealing him to the Marlins----but they paid almost all of it. They're trapped with declining veterans Carlos Guillen; Magglio Ordonez; Jeremy Bonderman; Dontrelle Willis; et al. Now they're trying to incorporate youngsters Austin Jackson; Max Scherzer; and Scott Sizemore into a somewhat weak lineup. They also signed Johnny Damon to play left field.

There's talent in Detroit, but until they're able to extricate themselves from the massive sunk costs, they're mediocre, period. The enthusiasm with Willis's solid spring, I fear, is going to come apart as soon as the season starts. Joel Zumaya is again lighting up the radar guns with his 102 mph fastballs, but how long before he gets hurt again?

Sometimes it's better for things to come apart completely than it is to flounder along somewhere in the middle, unsure of where to go and what to do. That's where the Tigers are. Mediocrity, hovering around .500.

Kansas City Royals:

The Royals have one of the best pitchers in baseball----Zack Greinke; a great closer----Joakim Soria; some background talent in Alex Gordon; Billy Butler; Luke Hochevar; and David DeJesus; but they're run terribly by an overmatched combination of GM Dayton Moore and manager Trey Hillman and aren't going to go anywhere until they import some competence into their operation.

Even with the shabbiness in management, the Royals actually have enough talent to come close to .500 if everything goes exactly right with Hochevar developing; Kyle Davies pitching well; and Greinke repeating his performance from last season. They have some bats as well; but it's hard to see them being anything more than what they were last year and falling to the lower rung of the division again in a hazardous American League.

Cleveland Indians:

All you need do is look at the "big" acquisitions the Indians made this past off-season and you'll be able to gauge where things are headed.

Their big imports were Russell Branyan and Mike Redmond.


The oft-injured Branyan fits right in with Travis Hafner as a productive player who could end up on the sidelines for extended periods of time at any second (he's already on the DL with a back problem).

The starting rotation is loaded with soft-tossers (Aaron Laffey, David Huff); injury-returnees (Jake Westbrook); and mental cases (Fausto Carmona). A bad bullpen was made worse (or maybe not, which is an issue in and of itself) when Kerry Wood went on the disabled list. The lineup has some talent, but the Yankees wouldn't be able to make up for that pitching staff; forget the Indians.

There are many who are looking at this team as a sleeper.

Sleeper for what?

They're atrocious and are going to lose close to 100 games.

  • An alliance? Could the world handle this?

Talk about a combination of evil ripe for destruction for everything in its path.

It seems that a loquacious former Red Sox star is in total agreement with me about a certain subject that I hammer at repeatedly.


Curt Schilling and I are on the exact same page, saying the same things about the Phillies trade of Cliff Lee to the Mariners.

In this posting on Big League Stew, Schilling says the following:

"I think trading Cliff Lee was the stupidest thing they've ever done, and they didn't have to," Schilling said. "They didn't have to do it. It was a stupid, stupid move. They could've had a World Series berth locked up right now with those two guys at the top of their rotation."

This is almost verbatim to the things I've said immediately upon the completion of the trade.

Perhaps I should approach Schilling about an alliance.

Yes. An alliance. Of course, once world domination was complete, we'd likely attack one another. (I'd win.) But it's all to the greater good, my friends. All to the greater good.

  • Viewer Mail 4.2.2010:

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the AL West:

Yup. The Angels will be there again (Matsui will do his usual 100 RBI thing). The Mariners were very aggressive in the off-season, but it won't be enough.

I don't understand those that underestimate the Angels given their history over the past ten years. It's to their own peril.

The Mariners did a lot of "stuff", but didn't appear to improve anywhere aside from their rotation (and it was a massive improvement with Cliff Lee); but hinging one's hopes on Milton Bradley is a foundation built on quicksand.

Peter at Outside The Phillies Looking In writes RE Cliff Lee, the Phillies and me:

I just think your like a dog with a bone on the Cliff Lee saga, maybe it's time to bury it till later when you need to feed again.

I have to keep banging away at these themes so when people continue agreeing with me long after the fact, that it's understood that I was the one who was so outspoken and adamant about it first. It's not done with an overt agenda to be contrary; I believe with every fiber that it was a gaffe that they're going to pay for in spades.

PairFace writes RE my NL East/NL MVP predictions:

Tough to not call you biased when you:

A) Identify yourself as a Mets fan.
B) Pick the Mets to win the division, coming off last year.
C) Pick Reyes, who hasn't played in nearly a year, as NL MVP
D) Pick Jerry Manuel, who's probably sitting in the hottest seat in the NL right now, as NL MoY.

The Mets are a mess, and will be missing 3 starters in their lineup on Opening Day. Pelfrey and Perez just demoted, and KROD now MIA.

Any accusations of bias or "homerism" are justified, imo.

BTW, I also have the Angels in the AL West. At least we agree on something.

So, based on your fractured logic, I'm supposed to:

A) Hide my team allegiance based on a surreptitious attempt to appear objective to those who are unfamiliar with my work.

B) Make my picks due to what I feel will be more readily received and accepted; and ignore my own in-depth analysis (which you've clearly disregarded) in the hopes that I won't be attacked as a "homer" or fool.

C) Concern myself with what others are going to think and say about what I write.

I make my judgments and calls not by personal feelings, but on cold-blooded and ruthless analysis, like them or not.

No offense, but I couldn't care less whether you or anyone agree or disagree with me about the Angels, Mets, Phillies or whoever. We'll know by October who was right or wrong. Until then, attacking me without context or having read me regularly is the epitome of ignorance and that's on you.

Please check out and maybe purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz's 2010 Baseball Guide available on Amazon and I-Universe. It's good for what ails 'ya!


Jeff said...

Okay, Prince, as Street Boss, I have no choice but to STRONGLY persuade you to stay far, far away from Schilling. I don't wanna be digging a ditch in the middle of the night wondering if I should keep part of a bloody sock as a memento for future doting.

She-Fan said...

I'm with Jeff on Schilling. I don't care if you agree with him about Cliff Lee. You will not be friends with him - ever! Do you hear me? As for the AL Central, I think the Twins are that division's Angels. They always find a way...

Joe said...

Well, Paul. You rip apart the Red Sox more than you rip apart the Mets. So you are not completely ubiased.

Peter said...

I think I have the same for the AL Central except I have the Indians over the Royals... as if those two will matter anyway.. as for Schilling, be careful, he is a nice enough guy, but will sell you out and crucify you for a better deal given the chance.... and he has no animosity towards the Phillies so anything he would say against them must be believable