AL Central Preview 2009

This is probably the most competitive division in baseball. I think I can make a strong case for all 5 teams to win the division but also a strong case for all 5 teams to not win the division. I think this will be close throughout with as few as 85 wins claiming the division.

1. Twins Minnesota Twins – The Twins consistently have one of the most accurate pitching staffs in baseball, having ranked first or second in fewest walks for six consecutive seasons. The pitching staff is great with closer Joe Nathan and set up man Matt Crain. The starters are all good pitchers when healthy, especially Francisco Liriano. If Joe Mauer gets healthy the solid starting 5 should these the Twins to a division title. I expect 88-90 wins to win the division.

2. Royals Kansas City Royals – This pick may surprise a lot of people but I think the Royals are similar to last year Tampa Bay Rays. No, I don’t think they will get to the World Series, or win the division this year but I think Gil Meche, Zach Greinke and Brian Bannister will keep them in the race all season. The lineup is potent with an underrated CF in Coco Crisp batting leadoff and superstar in waiting Alex Gordon playing 3B. Billy Butler will need to emerge this year to keep the Royals contenders but I think he is ready to show the power he exhibited in the minors. I expect 85-87 wins.

3. Indians Cleveland Indians – The addition of utilityman Mark DeRosa should prove huge for the Indians who didn’t have much consistency in the lineup other than All-Star Grady Sizemore. Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez are coming back from injuries and Kelly Shoppach emerged last year as the successor to Martinez at catcher. Cliff Lee had a great season for the Indians last year but he was the only bright spot on the pitching staff, the addition of closer Kerry Wood should help them close out games but I don’t see more than 81-83 wins this year.

4. WhiteSox Chicago White Sox – The White Sox choked down the stretch last year only to win a one game playoff to squeak into the playoffs. Rookie Alexei Ramirez has been pegged as a breakout candidate at SS but he’s going to need a lot of help from the aging bats of Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye, and Paul Konerko. I don’t think there is enough power in the lineup or depth in the pitching staff to get the White Sox more than 79-81 wins this year.

5. Tigers Detroit Tigers – Oh how the expectations have fallen. Jeremy Bonderman (when he pitched) and Justin Verlander struggled mightily last season and I think the pitching staff is the definite weakness of this ballclub. They have a decent offense with underrated catcher Gerald Laird and potential MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera but they can’t do it themselves. The Tigers may have the best defense in the majors but unlike in the NFL, defense doesn’t win championships. They’ll be better than last year but I see 76-79 wins for them.

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