I know this is about a week late but I still stand behind what I say.  It’s too early to win the AL Central and it’s also too early to write someone off.  I don’t like everything I’m seeing from the Chicago White Sox but nothing has changed my mind on this season.   

The Chicago White Sox will win the American League Central.  And, as Billy Packer used to say, “Let me tell you why.”  Unlike Packer, I will try not to be (too much of) an a-hole and condescending.  Plus, unlike our old friend Billy Packer, you will not hear me say, “Do you know who I am?”  

The White Sox are stacked. They have the best starting pitching in the division and their lineup is strong.  Sure the Detroit Tigers will score more runs but they’ll need to in order to win with that suspect pitching.  The Minnesota Twins were picked to win the division, then Joe Nathan went down and that’s a huge blow for them.  The guy’s almost automatic.  Cleveland is far from being a contender and Kansas City is, well, Kansas City.   

Pitching:  

Starters  

White Sox: Buehrle, Peavy, Floyd, Danks, Garcia  

Detroit: Verlander, Porcello, Scherzer, Bonderman, Willis  

Cleveland: Westbrook, Carmona, Masterson, Huff, Talbot  

Minnesota: Baker, Blackburn, Pavano, Slowey, Liriano  

Kansas City: Greinke, Hochevar, Davies, Bannister, TBD  

The White Sox have four solid starters.  If Garcia can pitch at least six innings in his starts it will be a plus.  Peavy threw a lot of pitches in his first start but when he’s on he’s unstoppable.   

I'll take Buehrle in a big game any day of the week.

After Verlander and Porcello, the Tigers don’t look good.  Scherzer has a losing career record, Bonderman hasn’t been the same since his surgery and Dontrelle Willis hasn’t been relevant in three years.  I would be surprised if Willis is still in the starting lineup at the All-Star break.     

I used to be somebody. The D-Train is off the tracks.

I like Jake Westbrook for the Indians but let’s not forget that Carmona was so bad last year that he was sent to single-A to get his stuff back.  Masterson came over in the Victor Martinez trade and I don’t think Boston’s missing him.   

Minnesota has Baker, Blackburn and Slowey and they’re solid but I’m not sold on Pavano and Liriano.  I’ll be surprised if Pavano doesn’t get hurt.  He can pitch but he has to be on the mound to be effective.  I bet the Yankees wish they hadn’t spent all that money on him.  Francisco Liriano was supposed to be the “it” guy a few years ago and then he went south.  He just made the starting lineup because Minnesota had no other options and nowhere else to put him.   

Remeber this guy Yankee fans?

This may surprise you but I really like Kansas City’s starting pitching.  They don’t have a #5 but those four are going to be good.  Greinke was on fire last year and Hochevar is coming around and will live up to being the number one pick.  These four pitchers are all young and have a great future.  They will get paid very well in the future.  Unfortunately for Royals fans it won’t be in a KC uniform.   

Greinke will look good in a Yankee uniform

 Closers  

White Sox: Jenks  

Detroit: Valverde  

Cleveland: C. Perez  

Minnesota: Closer by committee  

Kansas City: Soria  

This is close but I give a slight edge to Kansas City and Detroit in the closer role.  Bobby Jenks is good but when he’s off, he’s way off.  He had a bit of a shaky end to last season and he’s got a slight calf strain but that should heal up very soon.  He lost some weight and maybe that helps him.  Joakim Soria was injured for part of last year but he should be fine this year.  He throws hard and strikes people out which is what you want from a closer.  Jose Valverde is unstoppable at times but is known to blow a save here and there.  He already has one blown save in this early season.  Chris Perez is listed as the Indians closer but Cleveland is waiting for Kerry Wood to come back from (another) injury.  Don’t get too attached to Wood Indian fans, he’s a china doll.  

 If Joe Nathan doesn’t hurt his elbow we’re not even having this conversation.  He’s about as automatic as you can get.  As soon as Nathan would come into the game you knew it was over.  Now, Minnesota is still looking for a closer and none of the guys on their roster looks promising.   

Automatic. Just not this year.

Hitting:  

Check out this lineup:  Juan Pierre, Gordon Beckham, Carlos Quentin, Paul Konerko, AJ Pierzynski, Mark Kotsay/Andruw Jones, Alex Rios, Mark Teahan, Alexei Ramirez  

Juan Pierre has gotten off to a slow start but he can turn it around and be a terror on the base paths.  Gordon Beckham is going to be a stud in this league and he’s gonna be better at the plate than last year.  He’s got star written all over him.  If Alex Rios can go back to his old form, this lineup will be hard to pitch around.  It’s pretty nice being able to platoon Kotsay and Jones at DH.  Jones is getting up there in years (and weight) but he still has a little life left in his bat.  Plus, Kotsay can pretty much play anywhere on the field.   

The next big thing?

Detroit will lead the Central, if not baseball, in runs scored but they will need to in order to stay in games.  Miguel Cabrera and Magglio (Fagglio to White Sox fans) Ordonez will carry the team.  Cabrera will be flirting with the Triple Crown all season and Maggs will find his form again as long as he’s healthy.  The Tigers will miss Curtis Granderson for sure.  Austin Jackson hasn’t proven anything except that he can strike out a lot and that’s not good for your lead-off man.  Brandon Inge will flirt with .300 for about two months and then fall back to his career average of .234 with a ton of strikeouts.  How many chances does this guy get?  Fan favorite or not, he sucks.  A black player wouldn’t have been given this long to try to make it.  I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’.  

Nice tattoos loser! Scott Spiezio is not impressed.

Minnesota has a lot more than Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau.  Those two guys alone would be enough to carry most teams but there’s also Delmon Young, Jim Thome, Orlando Hudson and Denard Span.  Jim Thome is not gonna hit for average but he’ll knock in runs when they need him to.  Span is coming off a good year and is a .300 hitter in his first two seasons.  Can this team produce some insurance runs for a suddenly questionable bullpen?  

Mauer OWNS Minnesota

Cleveland was just awful last year.  Grady Sizemore has to bounce back or it will be another long season for the Indians again this year.  Shin-Soo Choo was Mr. Everything for the Tribe last year and I think he’ll have to do more of the same this year.  Travis Haffner hasn’t lived up to they hype and probably never will.  He was supposed to be a poor man’s Jim Thome but now he’s more like a poor man’s poor man’s Jim Thome.  The Indians added Austin Kearns but that’s not much of a boost considering he had two terrible seasons for the Nationals before going to Cleveland.  Maybe a change of scenery will help.   

Breaking hearts instead of getting hits

Kansas City isn’t stacked but they have some bright spots.  Rick Ankiel will probably hit very well for this team.  Jason Kendall should be solid even though he’s on the downside of his career.  David DeJesus is a career .290 hitter and Jose Guillen, as long as he doesn’t do any home surgeries or go ballistic, should provide some punch to the lineup.  The wild card in the lineup is Scott Podsednik.  He revived his career with the White Sox last year and can still get on base.  The speed is still there but defensively, he’s not that great.    

That’s the American League Central in a nutshell.  This race should last the whole season.  There’s no way anyone is running away with this division.  Some teams will drop out sooner than others (Cleveland and Kansas City) but it should be a three team race for the entire season.  Chicago, Detroit and Minnesota will be within striking distance of each other going into September.  A trade or non-trade might make the difference in the end.  If the Tigers falter, they’ll look to unload some of their high-priced guys.  That team is bleeding money and fans will stop going if the teams not contending.  Miguel Cabrera is on the Red Sox wish list and would love nothing more than to have the Tigers fall off the AL Central pace.  Minnesota has a new ballpark and that will be huge for them.  No more baggies in the outfield.   

In the end, the Chicago White Sox have too much pitching and too much depth in the lineup.  This team knows how to fight and win games when the time comes.  I fear an early season slump because that’s what they’ve done lately.  Don’t get too excited or too bummed in April because you can’t really figure out what’s happening until June.  

Fagglio!!!!

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Comments
  1. Masked Marvel says:

    I have loved the Tigers for as long as I can remember, but it’s not a question of IF they falter, rather WHEN they falter. It’s what they do, post all-star break.

    And D-Train makes me sad.

    • The Mark says:

      I grew up a Tiger fan but they frustrated me way too many times and the constant giving of chances to Brandon Inge was the last straw. Now I loathe them and am anticipating their demise and their sell-off.

      Too bad my White Sox absolutely suck right now. It’s still early though.

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