Sunday, March 11, 2007

American League Breakdown (Part II of III)

A.L. Central:

The division that has produced the A.L. rep to the Fall Classic the last two years, could very well make it three in a row. The Central, if its not the best division in baseball, it is certainly the most competitive.

The Kansas City Royals will be the cellar dwellers in this division. The good news for the fans of KC is that it appears that smaller market franchises like the Royals are for the first time spending the luxury tax proceeds on talent (The signing of Gil Meche to mad levels of jack). So over time, that will get them to compete and back into the mix at some point - just not this year. With Meche as their number 1 starter, and Dotel as their closer there is not much else to look forward to. One bright spot is center fielder David DeJesus and that's about it. Last place again for these guys. Where have you gone George Brett?

The Chicago White Sox will extend last season's pass for under performance with another one in 2007. Maybe they were a fluke in 2005. The starting rotation's top three in Contreas, Buehrle, and Garland are inconsistent at best. The closer, Bobby Jenks has an ERA of 4 - not lights out by any means. On the plus side, they have a first class GM, and three ultimate players that anyone would love to have their team in the likes of Thome, Dye and Podsednic. The manager, the unpredictable Ozzie Guillen will be fired and the White Sox finish 4th in the division in 2007.

What can you say about the Minnesota Twins? If you love baseball, then you love their manager, Ron Gardenhire. In fact, when Torre's gone at the end of this season, I hope he gets an interview (a story for a different time). Conventional wisdom says the Twins will find a way to get it done and defy the odds yet again. Realism says they are over due for a regression back to their true talent level. Look, Santana is the man - there is no way around that and very few are in this guy's league. The Closer Joe Nathan is above average (no where near the best) but you need more than that in your pitching ranks to get the job done and have a realistic shot at the championship. Hunter is world class. Morneau and Mauer - who knows? And you know what? It doesn't matter as they are not enough to win in this division or the playoffs in 2007.

The Detroit Tigers are the easy pick to return to the post season heading into April. I don't trust Kenny Rogers as a number 1 starter but they have some young and already battle tested starters after him in slots 2 through 5. Bonderman, Robertson, Maroth, and Verlander are quality pitchers that know how to eat innings even if they are error prone in the field. In the bullpen they primarily have good and at best, questionable players. The good is the flame throwing Joel Zumaya. The bad is the closer, Todd Jones, like the Chicago closer he has an ERA closing in on 4 and that has to get better in order to take home the big prize. More though then just a solid starting rotation, the Tigers have the best shortstop in the league in Carlos Guillen. Craig Monroe is a budding superstar, and they have a pair of elder statesmen with championship experience in Ivan Rodriques and Gary Sheffield. This team and their odds, look good.

The Cleveland Indians have much to be optimistic about heading into 2007. The Tribe made late season pushes the last two years, but may have the lineup to get it done now. 4 of the 5 starters are durable veterans that will have given and will likely continue to give, 30 plus starts. The closer in Borowski is on par with the others in the division, and has veteran Roberto Hernandez to help out when he can't. The offense is good - not great. Josh Barfield will be the leagues next great second baseman and Grady Sizemore in center continues to improve. At the end of the day though, the difference maker is Travis Haffner - simply put the guy is an offensive machine. Albert Pujols he is not - but is damn close and is easily the front runner for AL MVP.

Final Prediction: This is a great division, and as long as its not the Royals, any other team winning it would not be a total surprise. The two that will pace the Central though is the Tigers and the Indians. There will be some meaningful games down the stretch between these two, that will be blown by the Tigers bullpen. The 2007 Central Division Champ will be the Cleveland Indians.

11 comments:

old professor said...

Mid relief, your projection regarding Cleveland is based on their bullpen holding up. They have added three good (not solid - remember Joe B. could not make it with the Yankees and pitched well with a second tier team for the last two years)relievers.

Last year their starting pitching staff was good (I believe third in the AL in ERA)and their offense was second in runs scored. It was their defense and bullpen that killed them.

If those last two items have been addressed, they could challenge for the division title.

Minnesota's starting rotation with the loss of Radke and Lariano could be a source of a problem for that team.

Detroit still has the arms, lets see if they can perform two years in a row.

The Scooter said...

Tough to pick against the Tigers with the quality of their young arms and a lineup that boasts some serious pop.

Sheffield is good for 30 and 100 when he gets out of bed in the morning.

Here's the lineup:

Curtis GrandersonCF
Placido Polanco 2B
Carlos Guillen SS
Gary Sheffield DH
Magglio Ordonez RF
Ivan Rodriguez C
Sean Casey 1B
Craig Monroe LF
Brandon Inge 3B

I hate to say it but this rivals anything the Yankees can put out there.

This looks like the best division in baseball.

Mid. Rel. said...

Pitching roughed up in exhibition with the Sox tonight - Pavano and Rassner go 5.1 innings and give up 5 earned.

Score is tied at 4.

old professor said...

Mid-Relief,

Exactly what game were you watching. Pavano was not roughed up. He pitched three innings gave up four hits and two runs. He struck out Manny and J.D. and got Ortiz to ground out. Rasner was ineffective as was the pitcher they got from Arizona Russ O.(who happened to take the loss).

The Scooter said...

Mid,

Pavano looked alright last night. He got ahead a lot with his fast ball and he stayed on the field. His velocity and movement arent there yet, but that's to be expected. We are still early in the game.

While Torre is saying all the right things about he needing Pavano to be the #4 starter in front of Igawa at #5, I still think it would be a surprise if Carl was on the opening day roster.

Crash said...

First let's address the Central mess put up by our host. The Royals may be the surprise team this year in the Central. They may still finish last but they will be competitive. You ask where George Brett has gone...look no further than Alex Gordon. This kid is amazing and will be better than Brett if he remains healthy (no joke). Spending on Meche is not at all a good sign. It was the most ridiculous signings...ever. KC had a payroll of $45 mil last year. Spending $11 mil on Meche equals losing season. When 25% of the payroll is spent on a "star" player (if you call Meche a star) the team doesn't finish above .500. If the Royals could develop pitching like they do hitting they would be in contention next year.

The rest of the league you could really flip a coin. I think it will come down to the Twins and Indians. I think the Sox and Tigers are overrated. The Twins have real good young pitching this year behind Santana. Mauer and Morneau will continue to produce.

NO ONE SHOULD REFER TO THEM AS THE M&M BOYS...EVER!!!

It's going to be a tight division race but in the end it just doesn't matter.

I'm thinking Pavano will be the #4. Igawa will be #5. I'm forecasting 3 starts before Igawa is sent to triple A and Hughes is called up.

MR said...

Karstens has been performing better than Pavano, Mussina, Hughes, and Igawa combined!

The Scooter said...

Mr,

Yea that's because Karstens in used to facing minor leaugue hitters. It bodes well for the kind of year he is going to have............In Colombus.

Crash,

"NO ONE SHOULD REFER TO THEM AS THE M&M BOYS...EVER!!!"

I have a problem with them calling Ladanian Tomlinson "LT" too.

Crash said...

Karstens is frickin' unbelievable right now. He pitched 4 innings giving up one hit. He's 3-0 with an ERA of 0.00!!! Slightly better than Hughes' 7.71 ERA. Mussina got smoked again too. He's been terrible. I know it won't happen but if it were an open competition Karstens would probably be your #2 guy right now (behind Pettitte 2-0 ERA 0.00).

Scooter, I second that motion. There's only one LT in my book.

old professor said...

Karstens has pitched well and should be given consideration for the number 4 or 5 spot on the roster. However, there are two free agents sitting in his way - Pavano and Igwa. Because they are free agents with big contracts and Karstens still has options, don't expect him to be in the starting five.

In all likelihood, he will be put in the pen as the long reliever or the occassional spot starter. He will stay there until (a) Pavano gets severly injured while making his way from the mound to the dugout, (b) Igawa completely implodes or (c) one of the front three suffers an arm injury.

Since there seems to be this need by all to look at numbers being generated in spring training. How about Bronson Sardinha (okay so my spelling my be a little off- the kid from Hawaii). Here is a former #1 pick for shortstop, who has been moved to the outfield and can DH. He is hitting over .400 this spring and has shown some pop in his bat. They say his swing and concentration is similar to Abreu. Maybe he should be given a spot on the roster.

There are still some unanswered questions once the Spring raps up. (1) Who will the backup catcher be - of Davis, Nieves and Pratt, only Davis has been able to go the entire Spring without an injury. Nieves has an elbow that is barking and Pratt has problems with his heel. My bet is Davis - at 28 he is a switch hitter and has good mechanics behind the plate.

Pratt is too old (40) for catching which could make him Torre's favorite to catch with the team. (2) How many first basemen will the team carry. The defensive replacement that was signed this winter has not hit the weight of a newborn. Phelps and Phillips are reliable, but you can't carry four first basemen.

There is only one spot left in the bullepen so it looks as if Briton, Bruney, Henn and probably Rasner are all headed to the minor leagues.

Anonymous said...

check out lead story on yankees .com!! you heard it here first!!!!!!!!!

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