Thursday, February 7, 2008

American League Preview: Central Division

Kansas City Royals

2007 (69-93) 5th Central
2008 Projection: 70-92 5th Central

After another disappointing year for the Royals, and another off-season waiting for deals to be made. Well no deals were made, a couple contract extensions for pitchers that produced sub par stats. The Royals were 7th in ERA, 12th in BAA, 13th in OPS, 11th in Saves, 10th in WHIP and 13th is Quality starts. The Royals went out and picked up Brett Tomko from the Padres on a one year contract worth 3 million, and signed Ray Mahay and Yasuhiko Yabuta to two year deals. This provides a little more help to their rotation and bullpen but not enough to carry them by any means. On a side note, they did sign pitcher Hideo Nomo to a minor league contract (Comeback player of the year anyone?).
On the offensive front their biggest move was picking up Jose Guillen on a three year contract worth $31 million. Last year Guillen hit .290 with 23 HR and 99 RBI’s for Seattle. This should get them some much needed support in the lineup. The only problem with Guillen is that he is also facing a 15 game suspension for violating the leagues drug policy, which of course has been appealed. Other than that their lineup is filled with young players with potential, we’ll just have to wait and see if they can overachieve.

Bottom Line: New Major League Baseball manager Trey Hillman has his work cut out for him. After being in Japan managing the Nippon Ham Fighters for the last five years being thrown in the bottom of the AL Central will be a true test.

Minnesota Twins:
2007 (79-83) 3rd Central
2008 Projection: 74-88 4th Central

Lets face it, the loss of Santana is a devastating blow to a pretty decent rotation. Add the loss of Hunter and were looking a crippled Twins ball club. The offseason acquisition of Delmon Young should help a little, as should locking down Morneau to a six year deal. Another good move for the club was picking up Craig Monroe from the Cubs in addition to Jason Pridie and Brendan Harris from the Rays. It is a tough call predicting whether a decent lineup and decent rotation will be enough to be competitive in this division. At best the Twins will be looking at a race for third with the underachieving White Sox.

Who to Watch:
Francisco Liriano will be taking over the one spot in the rotation after Santana’s departure. The reason to be skeptical is that he hasn’t pitched in a year due to Tommy John surgery. In 2006 he posted a 2.16 ERA, .205 BAA, 1.0 WHIP, and a 12-3 record. If his progress is as good as they say it is then Liriano will be the Ace in this rotation and one of the best in the AL.

Chicago White Sox:

2007 (72-90) 4th Central
2008 Projection: 82-80 3rd Central

Three year removed from a World Series championship, saying the White Sox didn’t play to their potential last year is an understatement. With a lineup containing the likes of Thome, Konerko, Dye, Uribe, and Pierznynski they were ranked 12th of lower in every major Batting category last year. With no major moves during the offseason these boys need to star hitting or end up with the decisive label of past their prime and end up at the bottom of the central, again.
They were also ranked towards the bottom of the AL in pitching statistics, failing to get the job done week in and week out. However, with a likely rotation of Buehrle, Vazquez, Danks, Contreras, and Floyd they hope to not fall to the same fate as their lineups productivity.
Bottom Line: Play to your potential and your back in the hunt, don’t and you will be gracing the bottom of the division once again.

Cleveland Indians:

2007: (96-66) 1st AL Central, ALCS Visit
2008 Projection: (94-68) 2nd Central, Wildcard

After being one win away from the World Series last season the Tribe didn’t make a whole lot of moves during the offseason. Other than resigning Casey Blake to a one year deal as well as securing our bullpen by exercising contract options on Borowski, Byrd, Betancourt, and Fultz. the Tribe only made one notable move. They acquired second basemen Jamey Carroll from the Rockies for the always interesting player to be named. This move is interesting for Indians fans because that brings a veteran player in to backup Cabrera.
Look at the Stats for Cabrera and Peralta:
Peralta: .270 21 HR 72 RBI
Defensively he posted a .974 Fielding % with 19 errors.
Cabrera: (Keep in mind this is over 45 games as a rookie)
.283 3 HR 22 RBI with .995 Fielding % and 1 error

I have had the feeling that Cabrera was being groomed to take over at shortstop because of his defensive attributes. I think that there are two scenarios that are not out of the question:
1. Peralta and Cabrera switch positions
2. Cabrera moves to short, Carroll takes over second and Peralta gets sent to the highest bidder.

Bottom Line: C.C Sabathia and Carmona need to perform like last year while getting the wiley vets like Westbrook and Byrd to perform like they did in the postseason. If this happens and Hafner has a year closer to what he did two years ago then the Tribe contends again.

Detroit Tigers:

2007: (88-74) 2nd Central
2008 Projection: 97-65 1st Central

Were looking at a Tigers team who won the ALCS two years ago, put up a decent record last year but failed to make the playoffs mostly due to two factors. First the Indians surged and pulled away. Secondly, the Tigers allowed this to happen by basically posting a post all star break slump and giving the division race to Cleveland. The Tigers didn’t sleep during the offseason though, working hard to make sure an 07 repeat is unlikely.

Offseason Acquisitions:
Miguel Cabrera
Jacque Jones
Edgar Renteria
Dontrelle Willis

This should supplment losing Sean Casey, Andrew Miller, Chris Shelton, and a few others.

Justin Verlander
Jeremy Bonderman
Dontrelle Willis
Kenny Rogers
Nate Robertson

Combine that with a lineup that includes Gary Sheffield, Pudge Rodriguez, Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, and Edgar Renteria and you have the ingredients of an ALCS appearance.

Bottom Line: If everyone stays healthy and they can keep their momentum through the all-star break then they not only are the favorites in the central, but possibly the American League as well.

4Real Out....