Thursday, March 03, 2005

AL Central Preview

Wow, I haven't done this in a while. But I've still got 5 divisions to go.

1) Cleveland Indians --Before you start thinking how crazy I am, let's look at some numbers. This team won 80 games last year, while blowing 28 saves. If they win 10 of those games, they'd have 90 wins last year. Not bad, eh? And there's reason to believe they'll get better this year. Veteran additions Aaron Boone, Alex Cora, and Kevin Millwood add depth. Millwood, along with C.C. Sabathia, Jake Westbrook (3.38 ERA last year) and Clifton Lee provide a solid, though unspectacular, rotation. The bullpen should improve behind a healthy Bob Wickman and newcomer Arthur Rhodes. The team batted .276 last year, and as the young players like Casey Blake, Grady Sizemore, and that Jhonny guy (who spells it funny) keep improving, that number will go up. They'll get knocked out in the first round, but the Tribe is back.
2) Minny should make a run for it again. Santana and Radke lead the rotation, and they should have a healthy Joe Mauer behind the plate. But they'll miss Guzman and Koskie, and I see Joe Nathan as another Jeff Zimmerman: good closer for a year, but not long-term material. A close second for these guys.
3) The Chicago Mets will bumble into third again. They'll contend till early August, when El Duque will tire and that'll be the beginning of the end. The Sox are doing their best '82 Yanks imitation, losing sluggers like Carlos Lee, Jose Valentin, and Magglio Ordonez and getting speedsters Podsednik and the Japanese second baseman Iguchi. The pitching should do well (go Jose Contreras!), but the lineup has lost some depth. And the White Sox always find ways to screw things up. Plus, those hitters strike out way too much.
4) Tigers- another big signing in Magglio brings this team closer to relevance, but not much. The pitching is still a mess, even though Bonderman and Nate Robertson look promising. Percival and Farnsworth boost the pen, but this team doesn't quite have it yet.
5) Royals - back in their 5-month run in 2003, everyone was talking about what a genius Tony Pena was. Everyone's been real quiet since then, however. This team has made their share of mistakes, like signing Mike Sweeney to a long-term deal, but unlike the limitless payroll team in the Bronx, KC has no margin for error. They can't just buy another player after they make a mistake. The Royals may not be baseball's best-run team, but they're clearly a sign of the Yankees' negative impact on the game.

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