That's Why They Play The Games: '08 AL Central

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american+gothic.jpgEvery Monday until opening day WoW will present our division previews and predictions.

The Tigers went into August '07 with a 1 game division lead. They went into September behind by 5.5. Cleveland's youth, both in the lineup and in their lethal 1-2 rotation punch held up better in the dog days. That momentum carried the Indians all the way to an impressive 3 games to 1 ALCS lead against the Red Sox!

But like Nancy Pelosi, my devotion to my job, and (hopefully) Justice, that's sooo last year. Detroit has done some heavy remodeling. Speckalate with me by clicking below.

5. Minnesota Twins

The Good:

  • The lineup. Morneau and Cuddyer got $104M in extensions (6 and 3 years, respectively). Although I still kind of resent him for not going to FSU, Joe Mauer is one of 2 or 3 position players I'd build a team around. This, and they added Delmon Young.
  • Francisco Liriano returns from Tommy John surgery... but he's being kept out of camp by Condoleeza Rice. Perhaps he should hijack a plane.
  • Joe Nathan is still one of the best closers in baseball.
The Bad:

  • It doesn't get any worse than losing Johan Santana. The guy won 71% of his last 122 starts. The finished 17 games out first place last year with him.
  • Carlos Silva gave up more hits than a Juggs machine, but was still a valuable piece of the rotation. He, his 4.31 career ERA and 1.39 career WHIP got a 4 year, $48 MILLION DEAL from Seattle. For this reason, his departure just barely makes the "Bad" list. If the Twins had given him that kind of money the deal also would have landed here.
  • The two most experienced starters are Boof Bonser and Scott Baker.
  • Mauer and Morneau have both proven less than durable early in their careers. What happens when/if they go down?

I'm sorry Twin Cities. You're my favorite place in the whole country. Nicest people, great arts and music scenes, one of my favorite radio stations AND one of my favorite pizzas (mushroom and sauerkraut please). But, I'm picking you to finish behind the Royals. I can't imagine this team's ERA under 4.90.

Predictions: 70-92 record; Ron Gardenhire starts drinking Cutty Sark out of a grocery bag in the dugout; Bert Blyleven circles some white people.

4. Chicago White Sox

The Good:

  • The addition of Orlando Cabrera and Nick Swisher. Both guys that get on base and produce runs. Quality players at a good price. Like Yuengling. Can I coin that?
  • Josh Fields looks to have his breakout season... if he can take third base from Joe Crede. I believe Crede reported to camp in a wheelchair that he powers by blowing on a straw. Fields needs to get his strikeouts down but he hit 23 HRs in 373 ABs in 2007. His BA in 3 1/2 seasons in the minors was .280 so improvement is certainly possible.

The Bad:

  • With a few notable exceptions (Jerry Owens in CF, Cuban defector utility man, Alexei Ramirez), key roster spots just look so old and potentially tired. Thome, Konerko, Dye, Pierzynski. Buerhle, Vasquez, and Contreras in the rotation. These guys make jokes about old people look young.
  • Ozzie Guillen. I have a hunch this fag is going to get fired before the all-star break. Once a couple of the aforementioned veterans go down and the losses pileup, Guillen's pores will sweat crazy and he'll do something that will make it easy for management to drop the axe. The only question is... what is he gonna do?

Long, hot summer on the south side. Hopefully a shot of excitement will come in the form of a Lance Broadway call-up. Apparently he's a finesse pitcher, but you gotta believe anyone with that name brings the heat in other parts of his life. Like public fornication or identity scams.

Predictions: 73-89 record; Upon Lance Broadway's arrival he immediately challenges Gavin Floyd to a cologne chugging contest.

3. Kansas City Royals

The Good or The Bad?: The season hinges on the answers to the following questions.

  • Will Zack Greinke channel some of the energy he uses to be batshit crazy into harnessing what most observers think is #1 stuff?
  • Will number 2 pick Alex Gordon be more comfortable at third, and improve on a lukewarm debut?
  • Can righty slugger Billy Butler deliver on promise and fill the void left by Mike Sweeney's limbs falling off departure to Oakland.
  • Will Trey Hillman have a hard time coming from Japan and dealing with the culture shock that comes from being a white man in Missouri? Also, will he be a shitty manager?
  • When Jose Guillen returns from a season opening 15 game steroid suspension, will he find better, harder to detect steroids?

Enough of these things are going to right (don't press me on which, it's the Royals for Christ's sake), and the Twins and Pale Hose could be seriously bad. The Royals are going to get out of the cellar and instill some actual hope for '09. When your organization is this perennially awful, it's all about baby steps.

Predictions: 79-83 record; Hillman puts soy sauce on a corn dog and blows peoples' minds; Crowd adopts 'Hey There, Delilah' for 7th inning stretch.

2. Cleveland Indians

The Good:

  • Year 2 of C.C. Sabathia having it all together. On top of that he's an almost certain free agent at the end of the year. Unquestionably the best pitcher in his division with Santana gone, this sumbitch (I've been writing this while watching Smokey & The Bandit) could grab a second Cy Young and assert himself as the best pitcher in the American League.
  • Fausto Carmona anchors the rest of a deep staff, provided Paul Byrd doesn't miss too much time due to suspension or crippling bacne.
  • Lineup is solid top to bottom with several All-Star quality position players. Travis Hafner needs a rebound year, and apparently Steve O. thinks the half-donkey man has it in him. That's good enough for me.

The Bad:

  • You have to think there's more pressure on this team and manager than just about any other in baseball. The collapse against the Red Sox is going to be a talking point in camp and early in the season. Sabathia's potential departure adds an element of urgency to get it done while they still have him. All of this has the potential to weigh on Eric Wedge and his relatively young team.
  • See below: Tigers, Detroit

The Indians are still a very good team, and if we were picking wild card teams (Rob, are we picking Wild Card teams?) they'd have to be the first choice. But, I'm fully on the Tigers' jockstraps.

Predictions: 91-71 record; Masahide Kobayashi's first English words will be "I barely even speak English but I know that hot dog joke is fucking hack."; They trade for Kenny Lofton.

1. Detroit Tigers

The Good:

  • I've kind of been thinking about this lineup all Winter. I'm not a Tigers fan. It's dirty, I know, but I like hitting. The Detroit News thinks the lineup has teeth .
    • A: That's a gross understatement made at the expense of a lame pun and,
    • 2: I hope they're not anything like Jim Leyland's oily brown Full Flavored Winston teeth. He looks like he could gargle with bong water and it would freshen his breath. I fucking hate Jim Leyland.
    But I digress. They added Miguel Cabrera, and Edgar Renteria... Curtis Granderson has turned into one of the most dynamic players in the league...
  • God, they could score 1100 runs. I'm getting so hot. Sigh.
  • Unlike in Minnesota, the rotation is good enough to make leads stick. Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Robertson need to anchor it, and they can. Bonderman is proven, but Robertson, in particular, could win 15 games and have a career year if he locks in and stays healthy. He also has a blog called Gum Time. I hope it isn't about Jim Leyland's gums.

The Bad:

  • Gary Sheffield and Kenny Rogers still have prominent roles on this team, after missing significant time last year. I can't tell if they need more or less steroids.
  • The jump to the AL is tough for any pitcher and Dontrelle Willis didn't exactly do anything last year to inspire confidence. Perhaps unfamiliarity with his windup can offset that slightly.
  • Anytime you go into Spring with Todd Jones as your closer, I'm going to classify your closer situation as tenuous. Joel Zumaya seems to have officially flipped his lid and won't be around to bolster the back end of the bullpen for an indefinite amount of time. I think we can officially call the 'pen the achillies heel. Either that, or Jim Leyland's karma.

Predictions: 100-62 record; Placido Polanco, Edgar Renteria and Carlos Guillen start a Latin Acapella group called Harmony Around The Horn.

Next week: Rob breaks down the NL East

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Yes, we are predicting wild cards, but we'd be nuts not to predict the Yankees or Red Sox to win said wild card.

/AL East bias

Nuts to you, Iracane! As long as Sabathia's arm doesn't fall off after another 145+ inning season the wild card will be Detroit, close behind the Tribe.

73 wins for the Sox? Come on, they only won 72 last year---with Konerko, Dye, Thome and AJ all having below average seasons---and with a bullpen full of garbage. Add Linebrink, Dotel to the pen, and Cabrera at shortstop, not to mention replacing Podsednik with Swisher has got to add more than one to the win total.

The bullpen is better, I'll give you that (although Dotel tends to put a lot of runners on base in the AL). And I said I liked Cabrera and Swisher. But the rotation is suspect (unless one of the young kids shows frontline stuff) and I don't think you can say for certain that Konerko, Dye, Thome & AJ just had bad years. They're all at the point in their careers where that could be a trend and not an aberration.

To me that all adds up to wash.

Agreed, Tiger Claw. If you're expecting increased production from Thome and AJ at this point in their careers you're a bigger optimist than I am.

i'm not sold on KC moving out of the cellar of the al central just yet.....pretty weak pitching staff if you ask me. here's mine:

5. kansas city
4. minnesota
3. chicago
2. detroit
1. cleveland

go twins.

Oh my god these are the worst fucking predictions in history. I'm Nostradumbass.

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