2006 AL Central Preview
Now is the time for the Indians to take over. They look pretty good at every position not manned by Aaron Boone, and they have players on the uptick with no red flags on the injury front to worry about. The Sox will return to earth a little; too many things went just right for them last year, and i’m not convinced that Thome’s not done. The Twins have Joe Mauer, a good bullpen, and reason to expect Cuddyer and Morneau to come up big. They have a lot of good-enough guys like Lew Ford and Shannon Stewart to hang in there, but if Mauer/Cuddyer/Morneau have big years they could take the division. In Detroit, Bonderman’s for real, Maroth’s career seems like a workhorse/journeyman type rather than a star, and I gotta believe Pudge, Guillen, Magglio, and Dmitri will miss playing time. I dont know what KC is thinking, signing all the 4A All-Stars to play regularly. they’re the Veeck-less St. Louis Browns reborn.
Sox make playoffs, but that’s it. Got career years last year from their starters. Encore? Hmmm. New Indians Hollandsworth and Dubois together cannot fill departed Coco Crisp’s shoes. Twins’ hopes of reclaiming division may rest on Rondell White’s health. Sorry, Minnesota. And Santana’s 2nd consecutive Cy Young snub could start having discouraging consequences. Leyland and Polanco give Tigers some bite but in this division not enough to shake things up. And the biggest shame in baseball (Other than Barry Bonds, that is)? Watching the decline of the once proud organization known as the Kansas City Royals.
Not much change in the pecking order in this division but the bottom of the division should improve. Cleveland and the Chisox will duke it out all year long and the Indians will squeak by at the end. I know Sox fans are going to howl at this prediction because the Indians lost Crisp, Millwood, Riske, Howry and Rhodes. But I’m expecting Jason Michaels to exceed Crisp’s impact and I like the addition of Marte, who will take the 3B job away from Boone. Look for emergences in the Tribe’s bullpen from Fernando Cabrera and Matt Miller.
The Sox will provide a formidable opponent to the Tribe, but I anticipate a bit of a sophomore slump and a few more injuries.
Minnesota will take third just because they haven’t changed all that much; look for Detroit to improve slightly because of the impact of future star Curtis Granderson. Kansas City will be vastly improved so it’s possible that they could surpass the Tigers for fourth.
If Jim Thome really is healthy, the White Sox offense will be better than last year. Some people say that they’ve messed up their chemistry by trading Rowand and El Duque, but if their top 4 starters all pitch 200 innings with sub 4.00 ERAs again, it won’t matter. Cleveland almost caught the Sox last year, but I think their pitching is a little worse. I see them winning the Wild Card. The Twins still have good pitching, and Luis Castillo fills a hole at 2nd base, but they needed a power hitter and they got Tony Batista?!? I cant pick them higher than 3rd after than move. I think Detroit’s pitching will improve but their main problem is that their best hitters are Carlos Guillen, Pudge Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez and Dmitri Young, and all are starting to break down physically (none of them played 130 games last year). Anyway, this division is too good for them to break through. Kansas City is bad. Real bad.
The White Sox have the best SP in the AL Central and perhaps all of baseball. When you factor that in with a lineup that is slammed full of guys that can just flat out play baseball, you have got to like the Sox chances. I personally believe it’s a no brainer in the division there and it could turn into a repeat of the Sox winnin’ ugly days if the Central is not careful. Where I differ from my partners is that I have the Twins slightly ahead of the Tribe based totally on the young players in Minnesota. When you look at Mauer and Morneau, they just seem ready to shine. I think they’ll propel the Twins just past the Indians. As far as Detroit and KC, the Tigers have some decent pitching and KC is just plain BAD!!!
Wednesday – AL West
Thursday – NL East
Friday – NL Central
Saturday – NL West
Sunday – Awards and Playoffs
Monday – Book Review “The Last Nine Innings” & Guest Stats Column
In other news, I was on Sports Bloggers Live last night talking about my take on the NL Central. If you can’t wait until Friday to hear about it, go to www.sportsbloggerslive.com and find the link.
Todd Wellemeyer has been traded to the Florida Marlins for two minor league pitchers.
Marquis Grissom has announced his retirement.