March 31, 2006

AL Central

This should be a rollicking division, and the more I think about it, the more clueless I am as to who will win it. The White Sox and the Indians are two very good teams, as are the Twins. Detroit and KC should also be better than they were last year.

I still feel like the Sox have the best chance to win the division due to their phenominal starting pitching. But, as many people pointed out last year, they were quite lucky to win as many games as they did due to their weak, weak offense. Their offense should only marginally improve - they picked up Thome but lost Aaron Rowand. Their pitching should backslide a little too - Buerhle and Garcia should have similar years but I would be surprised if Contreras and especially Garland have another season like last year's.

This leaves them vulnerable to Cleveland and Minnesota. However, I don't think Cleveland has the pitching to win the division this year (and maybe not even the wild card). They lost Millwood, and while they have many quality pitchers, Millwood was their Ace last year. Byrd and Johnson are innings-eaters and the team will definitely lose more than half their starts. Their bullpen is also a question mark - Wickman had a great season last year but has proven in the past that he cannot stay healthy. They have several decent relievers but do one is really closer stock.

As for the Twins, I think this is the year they finally take a huge backslide from their 'perennial contender' status that they've enjoyed the past few seasons. Santana is money, as will be Liriano once they finally put him in the rotation (didn't they learn their lesson with all that time Johan freaking Satana spent in their bullpen?) Radke will likely decline, and the rest of their rotation has never been good to begin with. Their bullpen at least is better than the rest of the division, but they will ilkely be seeing lots of work. The real problem with this team though will be offense. Mauer and Morneau will be expected to carry this team, and they had awful seasons last year (along with Hunter). I expect them to improve, but this team will surprise everyone with the scarcity of runs they score. They will get off to a terrible start and then start playing .500 ball once Liriano gets in the rotation.

So in summary, I expect all three of the 'big' teams in this division to decline, and the Sox will win due to the fact that they will decline the least.

White Sox - 86 Wins
Indians - 82 Wins
Tigers - 80 Wins
Twins - 75 Wins
Royals - 68 Wins