2010 Forecasts: AL Central

Having picked Tampa Bay to upend the Yankees in the East, we move to the AL Central.

I’m less
confident about assessing CHICAGO than I am about any other team in the majors.
Here is a team with the terrific burgeoning talent of Gordon Beckham and Carlos
Quentin – yet its success will depend much more on virtual castoffs like Andruw
Jones, Juan Pierre, Alex Rios, and Mark Teahen. Here, if Jake Peavy rebounds,
is a four-man rotation as good as any in the game, but a bullpen where only one
guy (Matt Thornton)
does not
start
the season as a question mark (how could you possibly get as many ex-studs in
one place as Kenny Williams has in Scott Linebrink, J.J. Putz, and
Tony Pena?). The White Sox could
easily win the division, but I would hesitate to bet on it.

Everybody
scratches their head at the quick demise in CLEVELAND – except I appear to be
the only one who’s doing the scratching in surprise that everybody else is so
confused. What do you suppose happens
to a team that is just one game from going to the World
Series, and then fire-sales Cy Young Award winners in consecutive season – and also
gets rid of their
catcher (who just happens to be the second-best offensive weapon at his
position in the game)? While the Indians may see some pay-off from these deals
this year (LaPorta at first, Masterson pitching, and, at least for the moment,
Marson catching), there is no reason to assume that the Indians have simply
corrected a temporary two-year blip. It is plausible that returns to form from
Fausto Carmona, Grady Sizemore, and Travis Hafner could propel this team to the
flag, but it is just as plausible that the bullpen will again be its undoing.
Remember, this is a team that has not had a reliable closer since Joe Borowski
in ’07 (and this requires you to believe that Joe Borowski was a reliable
closer). There is the one wildest of wild cards: the chance that the Kerry Wood
injury is the ultimate blessing in disguise – that it shelves Wood and his
not-so-awe-inspiring 20 saves of a year ago and forces Chris Perez to live up
to his talent. Of course as Winston Churchill answered that cliché 65 years ago,
“if it is a blessing in disguise, it’s very effectively
disguised.”

What if
Dontrelle Willis really is back? What if Miguel Cabrera’s career flashed before
his eyes over the winter? What if Scott Sizemore and Austin Jackson are actual
major leaguers? If Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski come up trumps with those
four names, DETROIT should walk away with the division, because the rotation
seems outstanding, and the Tigers may have created its best bullpen (mostly by
default, and even though they’re about to find out what the Yankees did late
last year: Phil Coke can’t really get good lefties out). There are reasons to
suspect Johnny Damon will not be the kind of all-purpose threat he’d developed
into in the Bronx; 17 of his 24 homers in 2009 were hit at Yankee Stadium. It’s
possible Ryan Raburn or Wilkin Ramirez might have to be rushed into the
line-up. Then again it’s possible Alex Avila may force himself into it, behind
the plate.

When the
A’s still played there KANSAS CITY was the club on whom the Yankees palmed off
the guys they didn’t want any more. Funny that this year’s Royals start Chris
Getz and Scott Podsednik, and have Josh Fields on the
bench and Brian Anderson in the convert-to-pitching Skinner Box. The excuse that the Royals are the quintessential victim of the small market/big
market divide is nonsense: according to the Forbes figure filberts, the Royals
profit about ten million a year, gain at least thirty million more from revenue
sharing, and the franchise is worth three times what David Glass paid for it a
decade ago. So the free agents brought in to surround the American League’s
best starter, second or third best closer, fifth or sixth best first baseman,
and third or fourth best DH – are Rick Ankiel and Jason Kendall? It’s pitiable:
with a little investment from management the Royals could contend in this
division.

Manager
Ron Gardenhire of MINNESOTA knows 447 times more about baseball than I do. But
there is one fact that has been irrefutable since Tony LaRussa began to use
relievers on schedule, rather than when needed: Bullpen By Committee Does Not
Work. Gardy steered out of the skid just in time last night, designating Jon Rauch as his closer after weeks of saying he’d try the committee route. 
Do not be fooled by
reminiscences of the “Nasty Boys” – the 1990 Reds had 50 saves, 31 by Randy
Myers, 11 by Rob Dibble, 4 by Rick Mahler, 2 by Tim Layana, and 2 by Norm
Charlton. The Reds would trade Myers within a year and Charlton within two.
Minnesota’s committee could have been Jeff Reardon, Rick Aguilera, Eddie Guardado, and
Al Worthington, and it still wouldn’t have worked. There are reasons to fear this team might not be competitive -
the tremendous home field advantage that was the Metrodome is gone (although
depending on how the wind current works – see “Yankee Stadium, 2009″ – it could
turn Joe Mauer into a 50-homer man). The new double-play combo is also symbolic
of some serious problems. It is made up of two very nice men named J.J. Hardy
(who was run out of Milwaukee even before the ascent of Alcides Escobar), and
Orlando Hudson (who has been run out of Arizona and Los Angeles and who somehow
lost his job to Ronnie Belliard in the middle of the pennant race last
year).
It is also
the direct result of what must be viewed as two disastrous trades (Jason
Bartlett and Matt Garza to Tampa for Delmon Young, and Johan Santana to the
Mets for Carlos Gomez – now swapped for Hardy – and nothing of even impending
value). Nothing would please me more than to see the Team They Tried To
Contract rear up and fulfill its potential. I don’t think they have the front
office personnel to pull it off.

PREDICTIONS:
I like Detroit to get more lemons out of the slot machine of chance that is
this division, than I do Chicago. Thus, the Tigers, close, over the White Sox.
Minnesota and Cleveland will spar for third place and whether the Twins get it
will largely depend on how Target Field “plays” as a new home. Kansas City is
last again, which offends me, because there is as little excuse for this
perpetual state of suspended animation as there would be in Cincinnati or
Milwaukee or maybe even Denver and Tampa.

 

9 Comments

the al central is my home division and i hope my white sox win it, but i think it’s going to come down to who wants to lose it the least. (and as far as brian anderson switching from of to pitcher, he might as well… he couldn’t hit his weight anyway!)

We’ve got a Fox freak (msdnc@live.com) on here…… There are so many things wrong with that post that it would sap my energy to type up all of my responses to it. I’ll say this. You’re a hypocrite and a moron. Anybody who sees your post is going to know you’re pathetic.

Oops…..Oh boy…..He’s going to probably waste time by sending me some sort of lame email.

Go watch some more lies now……

Anyway….I agree with the comment before mine. “I think the only way someone could know 447 times more about baseball than you do would be to have a computer chip implanted in his/her brain”.

I think if I read more than one of his blogs in a row my brain would hurt. : (

Keith, I liked the story you read. : )

unpaka27 – don’t feel too bad about not knowing about Hudson – I just about fell out of my chair reading that Johnny Damon is with Detroit!! I guess it’s time I allocate a little time to baseball with the season opener bearing down eh? Yikes!!

I had the same thought about the Gardenhire statement “How is is POSSIBLE for anyone to know 447 times for about baseball than Keith??!”

Looks to me like this division is more about who doesn’t suck it up as badly as the rest. I certainly would be shocked to see whichever team does rise to the top have any sort of success in the post season.

I wouldn’t say I’ve been out of touch with sports lately (I’ve been following politics closely since the ’08 election), but I didn’t even know Orlando Hudson was with Minnesota! *facepalm*

You wrote, “Manager Ron Gardenhire of MINNESOTA knows 447 times more about baseball than I do.” Which reminds me of that joke from The Young Ones, “I’ve told you a million times, stop exaggerating!” (Sorry…couldn’t resist.) Seriously, I think the only way someone could know 447 times more about baseball than you do would be to have a computer chip implanted in his/her brain…with about a terabyte of RAM. :-)

Dear Mr. O:
I love your MSNBC show, your political orientation, your attacks on rightwing nut cases, and your writings.

I’ve been a White Sox fan since 1957. The Yankees ruined my childhood and much of my adulthood as well. I just hope you’re wrong about the AL Central and correct about the AL East. Like elections, those with the most $ tend to buy sports championships as well, but not always. Baseball contradicts with monopoly capitalism at many points, sadly.

Would love to hear from you!

Your loyal fan,

David R. Simon, Ph.D./Postdoctoral Fellow

KO, normally I really, really, like it when the two of us are in perfect accord on a topic. Except today, when you’ve essentially said everything about my Indians that I’ve been saying over the course of the last two years, though you did it w/o swearing. (The amount of profane invective that spews out of me every time I see Victor Martinez in a Red Sox uniform is astonishing; it’s usually enhancing the bellowed question “Why? For (bleep)’s sake, WHY?” If I can grind my personal ax just a teeny bit more, let me add that the Tribe traded Martinez the day before his freakin’ bobblehead night. Sheesh.) So, Keith … I’m scratching my head right beside you. You know, when I’m not banging it against a wall. Waaaaaaaaah.

On other topics, I’m betting that not even Ron Gardenhire knows about that lovely old-time phrase “figure filbert.” An oldie but a goodie (“figure filbert,” not Ron Gardenhire).

Unpaka27, anyone who can quote from The Young Ones is a friend of mine.

Joy on the south side of Chicago will depend, in large part, on how well Ozzie Ball works. The rotation is strong, and the defense should be improved. If this team can score some runs, and the bullpen can avoid self destruction, they should walk away with this division.

If they don’t make the playoffs, I believe that this will be Ozzie’s last year as manager.

http://southsidehitmen.mlblogs.com/

@Jasmineruth: Yes, I saw that troll post and reported it immediately……glad to see it’s gone.

I’m personally hoping for Detroit to win this division, if only to not have to endure the loud party that would ensue over in the next block……I live in a very small town and it be impossible NOT to hear it ;) There’s a big fan of the White Sox living over there…..even has the logo painted on his garage.

RE: Target Field. Small sample size, but based on being there for the two exhib games, and sitting on the right field overlook, the wind blows in considerably from the right field Plaza. I think lefties are going to have a hard time getting a lot of would-be-homers to clear the wall here. Alternately, it seems as though pop-ups to left are traveling much farther than they have any business to. I think it’ll favor righties and hamper lefties. We’ll see once the weather warms up.

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