Saturday, April 12, 2008

Al Central 2008 Predictions

Cleveland Indians - 87 wins
Detroit Tigers - 84 wins
Chicago White Sox - 74 wins
Minnesota Twins - 74 wins
Kansas City Royals - 69 wins

CLE: Two things should stand out to you. The first is that I only picked Cleveland to win 87 wins, despite the fact that they easily have the best pitching in the Central. The second is that I picked them to finish above Detroit. Of the two, I'm more likely to be wrong about the wins total. Although I don't like the offense from their corner outfielders, David Dellucci (.231 EqA - equivalent average) and Franklin Gutierrez (.261 EqA), and we're not sure how rookie Asdrubal (Assdribble) Cabrera (101 OPS+ - adjusted OPS - in 45 games last season), but overall, the Indians have a solid offense, at least solid enough to feast on the weak rotations in the AL Central. They back that up with a good staff, led by C.C. Sabathia 5.65 K/BB - strikouts to walks - ratio) and Fausto Carmona (.309 OBPA - on base percentage against), although there are concerns Carmona's arm may fall off since he more than doubled his innings totals last year (102 1/3 minor/major IP in 2006 to 230 regular/postseason IP in 2007). Rafael Betancourt is a beast in the bullpen (.208 OBPA, 9.1 K/9 - strikeouts per 9 innings, 8.89 K/BB in 79 1/3 IP), although he's probably unlikely to duplicate such great numbers. He did do really well as President of Venezuela, though. Oh wait, that was RĂ³mulo Betancourt.

DET: Ov-er-rat-ed, clap clap clapclapclap. Not their offense, mind you. Their offense is huge. Curtis Granderson (.300 EqA), Miguel Cabrera (.321 EqA), Magglio Ordonez (.336), and Edgar Renteria (.297 EqA) all had monster years. While they may not all duplicate that this season, they'll still be good. In fact, the only truly weak hitters for Detroit are Ivan Rodriguez (.237 EqA) and Jacque Jones (.248 EqA), although maybe there's an argument for their defense. Not from me, of course, but from someone. Where the Tigers fall apart is in their pitching. Justin Verlander (.309 OBPA but only 2.73 K/BB) and Jeremy Bonderman (3.02 K/BB but .453 SLGA - slugging against) lead an otherwise unimpressive staff. Dontrelle Willis (1.60 WHIP - walks & hits per innings pitched, 1.68 K/BB) died a long time ago, and no one told him. Even the bullpen is unremarkable, topped off with Todd Jones (1.59 K/BB, 4.8 K/9), who kinda sucks.

CHI: The White Sox have an NL line-up, by which I mean one that isn't very good. Nick Swisher (127 OPS+), Jim Thome (150 OPS+), Paul Konerko (116 OPS+) and Jermaine Dye (105 OPS+) are basically the only ones that can hit. Every other regular starter put up an OPS+ lower than 100 last season, and remember, 100 is league average. As far as pitching goes, Javier Vazquez (.290 OBPA, 4.26 K/BB) put up the best numbers last year, and will probably be the staff leader this season, especially as Mark Buehrle (5.1 K/9) can't strike anyone out. Bobby Jenks (.242 OBPA, 4.31 K/BB) is a nice closer for a guy that could out-eat David Wells, and Octavio Dotel (12.0 K/9) has the potential to be a great set up, but it will probably be rare that the Sox even get a chance to hand them games.

MIN: The Twins have slightly better hitting than the ChiSox, but slightly worse pitching. The Twinkies should see continued production from Joe Mauer (117 OPS+) and Justin Morneau (121 OPS+), with some help from new addition Mike Lamb (.282 EqA). This is not a team that's going to walk a lot (Baseball Prospectus predicts them to put up a .325 OBP, worse than even Chicago), and that will hurt. It looks like Scott Baker will lead their rotation (.327 OBPA, 3.52 K/BB), but with Francisco Liriano a question mark after missing a year, the ball will fall to guys like Boof Bonser (.350 OBPA) and Livan Hernandez (1.14 K/BB). I like the bullpen with guys like Joe Nathan (9.7 K/9) and blogging legend Pat Neshek (4.05 K/BB), but like Chicago, it will be a rare day when Minnesota can hand them the ball to help preserve a win.

KCR: The Royals have gotten some good press, huh? That's nice. Who do you like in their line-up? Jose Guillen (.280 EqA)? Okay, I'll give you him. Who else? Billy Butler (105 OPS+)? Yeah, he has potential. One more. Mark Grudzielanek (100 OPS+)? Eh. Yeah, the offense is weak. I like the pitching a little more. Gil Meche (.314 OBPA, 2.52 K/BB) will probably drop off, as might dreamboat Brian Bannister (.302 OBPA, 1.75 K/9), but Zach Greinke (7.8 K/9) has some upside, and Joakim Soria (9.8 K/9, 3.95 K/BB) would be a great closer on a team that could give him save chances. Soria won't get many opportunities on this team, though.

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