Wednesday, March 16, 2011

AL Central Preview

2010 Standings

Minnesota 94-64 (.580)
Chicago 88-74 (.543)
Detroit 81-81 (.500)
Cleveland 69-93 (426)
Kansas City 67-95 (.414)

Season Recap

Despite facing some adversity in the form of injuries, the Minnesota Twins won the division by a comfortable margin of six games. They made the playoff but lost to the Rangers, who would later appear in the World Series. Their closest competitor all year was the Chicago White Sox and they didn’t go down without a fight. What else would you expect from a team led by Ozzie Guillen? The truth is, the Sox just didn’t have enough pitching down the stretch to get it done in 2010 while the Twins had a solid decent rotation and a surprisingly strong bullpen. Both teams slugged well and put runs on the board, but the Twins did a better job of keeping their opponents off the board. The Tigers looked good on paper but never seemed to really get it going in a serious way. Miguel Cabrera carried the team offensively and Verlander had another solid season, but the bullpen was rocky at times and the rest of the rotation was simply mediocre. Cleveland had another down year and was never really in the race. Kansas City is still rebuilding and breaking in their young talent.
Those two teams occupied the cellar all year long while the top three teams at least had some say over the division throughout the year.

Big News for 2011


Adam Dunn is likely to be the biggest addition to any club in this division. He was signed as a free agent by Kenny Williams and the White Sox to DH and occasionally see time in the field to give first
baseman Paul Konerko and left fielder Carlos Quentin some time off.
Victor Martinez signed with the Tigers and hopes to give them another quality bat in the lineup, which could prove to be critical if they face some of the injury problems they did last year. In a somewhat surprising move, the Royals traded away former Cy-Young winner Zack Greinke to the Brewers for prospects. It’s a long-term minded deal that will have some negative results in the short term. Minnesota brought over infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka from Japan to replace the departed Orlando Hudson. In other words, the rich got richer in this division while the lower-tiered teams continue to try to upgrade their talent level through developing their own talent.

Injury Notes

The Twins were without closer Joe Nathan all year after he had shoulder surgery and they were without all-star first baseman Justin Morneau for most of the season, too, after he had a couple concussions. The big question was weather or not the Twins could still compete without these two and they surprised some folks when they won the division without these stars. Several other regulars, including Joe Mauer, missed time throughout the year as well. Nathan,
Morneau and Mauer all appear to be in good shape to start the year.
Jake Peavy only started 17 games for the White Sox in 2010 after dealing with intermittent stints on the DL. Grady Sizemore struggled through another injury-plagued season and only played in 33 games for the Indians, which didn’t help their cause at all, while Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen were in and out of the Tigers lineup all season. All signs point to these guys being ready to give it another go this upcoming season.

Up and Comers

The division has some strong young talent that will be getting
considerable experience in 2011. Carlos Santana, the catching
prospect for the Indians, will be the opening day starter for the club this season and e everyone is buzzing about this young man. He can flat-out hit the baseball. Tigers outfielder Brennan Bosch had a breakout rookie season in 2010 by posting an all-star caliber first half of the season. He fell off big time in the second half, however, and it will be exciting to see if he can bring the level of play he showed back for a full season in 2011. Danny Valencia will start at third base for the Twins after showing that he can hit for a solid average in some late-season action last year. The question is whether or not he can develop some power along with his contact skills.

Prediction Time!!!

Not a lot was expected of the Royals and Indians in 2010 and that
should remain the same in 2011. Both teams are a long ways from
competing with the big guns in the division. Cleveland could be improved, especially if they get a solid season out of Sizemore and the rest of their rotation behind Fausto Carmona. The Royals shouldn’t see much of a rise in terms of win total, especially without Zack Greinke in the rotation. The top three are potentially interchangeable and are all talented. The Twins are probably in the best shape heading into the season but the Tigers and White Sox will certainly challenge.

Projected 2011 Standings
1. Minnesota
2. Chicago
3. Detroit
4. Cleveland
5. Kansas City

My money is still on the Twins to take the division over Chicago and Detroit. Since Minnesota is getting healthy again, and if they can stay that way, they have to be the favorite. Chicago will put a ton of runs on the board this season, especially with the addition of Dunn. The question will be their pitching and a solid year out of Peavy would do wonders for them. Detroit seems to underachieve every year and there are still questions on that team, but if they get it dialed in they are capable of winning the division, as well. I expect a bit of an improvement from the Indians but not by much. The Royals are in a worse position than last year, so I don’t expect them to sniff the top teams any time soon.

Up Next: NL West

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