TMS MLB Preview '08 - AL Central

Just like last season, TMS is previewing the upcoming 2008 baseball season division by division. So strap in and get ready for some of the worst analysis and lack of insight that only we can provide. Today we look at the AL Central. Chaim, LB, Daft Funk, The Hundley and myself will be breaking down all 5 teams.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

1. DETROIT TIGERS by Lingering Bursitis
2007: 88-74 (2nd)

So Long: P Jose Capellan, 1B Sean Casey, P Chad Durbin, SS Omar Infante, OF Cameron Maybin, SS Neifi Perez

Welcome: P Denny Bautista, 3B Miguel Cabrera, OF Jacque Jones, P Dontrelle Willis

PROJECTED LINEUP
1. Curtis Granderson CF
2. Placido Polanco 2B
3. Gary Sheffield DH
4. Magglio Ordonez RF
5. Miguel Cabrera 3B
6. Carlos Guillen 1B
7. Edgar Renteria SS
8. Ivan Rodriguez C
9. Jacque Jones LF

Starting Rotation - Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, Dontrelle Willis, Kenny Rogers, Nate Robertson
Setup - Fernando Rodney
Closer - Todd Jones

I don't really like the Detroit Tigers. There's something about the connection between the Motor City and wild cats that unnerves me, much like the time I got duped into watching "Running with Scissors". What the fuck was that shit about anyway?

So, moving on, the Tigers probably like to run with scissors, and I reckon they'll run a train through the AL Central. Their wheeling-dealing ways has brought them the two biggest Marlins assets (besides Hanley Ramirez), and they still have an irritatingly-balanced collection of young talent (Granderson, Verlander, Bonderman) and seasoned, productive veterans (Guillen, Sheffield, Ordonez, Polanco) to get good results.

The back end of their rotation is a little questionable, and their closer is so fucking old. No joke there, he's just really fucking old and his ERA is climbing higher than his cholesterol. However, with a lineup like that, with stratospheric OBPs and the addition of Miguel "Empanada" Cabrera raking in the #5 spot, there will be little need for Todd Jones and his mustachioed chicanery on the mound.

Seriously though, fuck this team. They'll win 90 games, most of them with big scores, but get swallowed up in the playoffs when the bats cool down.

PRESEASON AWARDS
Mr. Sexy Time: 3B Miguel Cabrera - Um, he's 24, he's a little tubby, but he plays a decent third base and cannot. stop. fucking. hitting. Baseball Reference compares him to Hank Aaron and Ken Griffey Jr at this age, and it's hard to dispute it, averaging 31 HR, 118 RBI, a .313 BA and .388 OBP through just 4 1/2 seasons in the majors. Fuck. Gary Sheffield can go suck a cock if he thinks he's the alpha dog on this roster any more. They don't need his whining ways. Cabrera's sexy now.

I think that I piss excellence, but mostly I just piss: OF Jacque Jones - Jesus Christ. To think this hapless fuck has swanned his way onto another team on the way up is to not think at all. How did he parlay two mediocre seasons with our lot into a contract with Detroit? He plays a lot of games, has a terrible outfield arm, can't hit a lefty to save his life, and now he'll earn a pretty penny to platoon in left with Marcus Thames. It's just good to know there's a weak link on this team, and he's not named Brandon Inge.

Potential Scapegoat: RP Joel Zumaya - He's the key to a bullpen that's pretty shit. You've got Fernando Rodney who can throw hard, you've got Jones who can just about throw, then you have a mish-mash of AA- and AAA-relievers who haven't really found their feet in the majors yet (punished steroid user Francisco Cruceta, Yorman "Small Sample Size" Bazardo, Zach Miner, former Cub prospect Clay Rapada, Jason "Average" Grilli, Macay "Uncontrollable" McBride, Tim "Who?" Byrdak, Jordan "Titties" Tata, and Bobby Seay). Plus, you just signed Denny Bautista. The dude's "pitched" for Baltimore, Kansas City, and Colorado. 'Nuff said.

So, if Zumaya plays too much Rock Band and the Tigers lose the use of his 100mph fastball for any period of time and their season goes to shit, look no further for the root cause of evil, syphillis, ebola, the Great Depression and the death of New Coke. Joel will have to answer for all of it.

FOR MORE READING
Roar of the Tigers
TigerBlog
Tiger Tales


2. CLEVELAND INDIANS by Daft Funk
2007: 96-66 (1st)

SO LONG: P Keith Foulke, 3B Chris Gomez, OF Kenny Lofton, OF Trot Nixon

WELCOME: IF Jamey Carroll, P Brendan Donnelly, P Jorge Julio, P Masahide Kobayashi, OF Jason Tyner

PROJECTED ORDER
1. Grady Sizemore CF
2. Asdrubal Cabrera 2B
3. Travis Hafner DH
4. Victor Martinez C
5. Casey Blake 3B
6. Ryan Garko 1B
7. Jhonny Peralta SS
8. Franklin Gutierrez RF
9. David Dellucci LF

Starting Rotation - C.C. Sabathia, Fausto Carmona, Jake Westbrook, Paul Byrd, Aaron Laffey
Setup - Rafael Betancourt, Jorge Julio, Rafael Perez, Masahide Kobayashi
Closer - Joe Borowski

With a young team playing for cheap over the next few years, Cleveland looked like a new AL Central dynasty at the end of last season. The fact that they took the eventual World Series champs to the brink of elimination only strengthened their case for being a force in the AL and World Series contenders in 2008.

Then Detroit traded for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. Now the Indians seem to be fighting for the Wild Card.

This whole "No respect" thing is played far too often in sports, but in Cleveland's case, I think it's true. After the Cabrera/Willis trade, everyone and their mother wrote off everyone else in the Central. But if you think about it, Detroit might not want to start printing up Division Champ t-shirts just yet. Sure, dropping an MVP-in-waiting player like Cabrera into an already stacked Tigers lineup is huge, but Detroit had no problem scoring runs last year. They didn't have the pitching to win the division, and Cleveland has it in spades. With the two-headed beast of Sabathia and Carmona leading the way, a lights-out bullpen (aside from Borowski, that is), and bats that can hang with Detroit in a short series, Cleveland may actually have a better shot at the Central than anyone else.

PRESEASON AWARDS
Mr. Sexy Time: The City of Cleveland - Face it, haters, Cleveland is on the upswing in a big way. Remember all those years ago when Drew Carey was on TV and every week the Presidents of the United States of America had to remind us that "Cleveland Rocks"? Well it may have taken about 10 years to happen, but Cleveland is rockin' again. The Indians are poised for a huge season, the Browns are relevant again, the Presidents have a new album coming out next month, and King James is holding court in the NBA. Plus, who doesn't want to 'Flee to the Cleve'? When someone asks you "What's that smell?", you can confidently tell them "Cleveland".

Hey, Aren't You Ray King?: SP C.C. Sabathia - C.C. Sabathia may be the only player to win a Cy Young award and the International Federation of Competitive Eating Overall Championship in the same year. Tipping the scales at close to 300 pounds, Sabathia, along with fellow Husky-section shopper Miguel Cabrera, can assure that the AL Central will certainly be a top-heavy division. Get it? Top heavy? Because they're really fat?

Awww...Fuck You!: DH Travis Hafner - Mention Hafner to any of his owners in Fantasy Baseball leagues last year, and that's the reaction you'll most likely get. Proving to be injury prone and a 2nd round bust last year, Hafner needs to have a rebound year or the Indians may do something bad to him. Like sell him all of their land for cheap.

FOR MORE READING
TeePee Talk
Indians Journal


3. MINNESOTA TWINS by Chip Wesley
2007: 79-83 (3rd)

SO LONG: SS Jason Bartlett, P Matt Garza, OF Torii Hunter, DH Matt LeCroy, P Johan Santana, P Carlos Silva

WELCOME: OF Carlos Gomez, 2B Brendan Harris, P Phillip Humber, OF Craig Monroe, P Kevin Mulvey, OF Delmon Young

PROJECTED LINEUP
1. Carlos Gomez CF
2. Joe Mauer C
3. Delmon Young RF
4. Justin Morneau 1B
5. Michael Cuddyer LF
6. Jason Kubel DH
7. Mike Lamb 3B
8. Brendan Harris 2B
9. Adam Everett SS

Starting Rotation - Francisco Liriano, Livan Hernandez, Boof Bonser, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey
Setup - Juan Rincon, Pat Neshek
Closer - Joe Nathan

There seems to be a split in the Saloon over the Twins this season. Some believe they'll have a rough year as they rebuild post-Johan. Others, like myself feel that they'll be just fine. If any franchise has been able to remarkably do more with less, it's the Twins.

Aside from losing Santana (Obviously a big loss) and Torii Hunter, this team still has a lot to look forward to. Francisco Liriano is coming back after missing last season due to Tommy John surgery. It'll take some time before he can get back into full lights out form, but he's the heir-apparent to Santana's thrown in Minnesota. Delmon Young was acquired in a trade from Tampa Bay and should see some nice pitches while batting between Mauer and Morneau in the lineup.

Will the Twins contend for the division with Detroit and Cleveland? I'm gonna say no. But my money is on them still having a respectable year and at least being better than the White Sox or Royals.

PRESEASON AWARDS
Mr. Sexy Time: OF Delmon Young - He was the Mr. ST for Tampa Bay last season and he is once again this season, only for a new team. Looking to put the bat tossing incident behind him, Delmon was a gamer last season, playing in all 162 games in his first full major league season. The 22 year old is only gonna get better.

Throwback Stadiums are so Pre-9/11: The New Twins Ballpark - Have you seen this thing? I say kudos to the designers. The old-timey look fad was getting a little stale at this point, so it's refreshing to see a sleeker, more modern design for the new Twins park. With this park and the giant sailboat Tampa plans to play in, Toronto will be last remaining team to have artificial turf in the majors. Knee cartilage everywhere are rejoicing.

Seems older than Castro:
SP Livan Hernandez - This guy is only 33? He's been around forever. Livan takes over for Carlos Silva as guy who somehow eats up innings but doesn't really strike anyone out. One of the most comparable pitchers to Livan at his current age is Daryl Kile, and we all know how that turned out. The Twins better have someone share a room with him on road trips.

FOR MORE READING
Twins Locker
Twinkie Town


4. CHICAGO WHITE SOX by Chaim Witz
2007: 72-90 (4th)

SO LONG: OF Darin Erstad, P Jon Garland, P Mike Myers, P Heath Phillips

WELCOME: SS Orlando Cabrera, P Octavio Dotel, OF Brad Eldred, P Scott Linebrink, OF Carlos Quentin, OF Nick Swisher

PROJECTED LINEUP
1. Orlando Cabrera SS
2. Nick Swisher CF
3. Jim Thome DH
4. Paul Konerko 1B
5. Jermaine Dye RF
6. A.J. Pierzynski C
7. Josh Fields 3B
8. Carlos Quentin LF
9. Danny Richar 2B

Starting Rotation - Mark Buehrle, Javier Vazquez, John Danks, Jose Contreras, Gavin Floyd
Setup - Octavio Dotel, Scott Linebrink
Closer - Bobby Jenks

Although it seems like ages ago that the White Sox were (grimacing) 'World Series Champs', it was only a scant three years ago. They had a fiery manager, a scrappy team and a enthusiastic fan base. Fast forward to present day and they have a jackass manager, a unathletic team and a apathetic fan base. Ah, the fickle 'What have you done for me lately?' mentality rears it's ugly head again.

Will the Sox be 'Back in Black' in 2008? Oh God no. The signings of Orlando Cabrera and Nick Swisher provide decent upgrades at their respective positions, but lets be honest, when you're predecessors are Juan Uribe and Scott Podsednik, you're naturally going to be considered an upgrade. The Sox may win a few more games in 08 than they did last year, and might even surprise a few people initially. But any momentum will surely be undone by a drunken Kenny Williams trade that will set them back another five years.

PRESEASON AWARDS
Mr. Sexy Time: OF Nick Swisher - This is a bit of an oxymoron, since there is really nothing sexy about the South Siders. The closest thing they have is newcomer Nick Swisher, who brings some of that Oakland/'The Hills' vibe to the a fanbase more accustomed to 'sexy' players like Ron Kittle, Harold Baines, and of course, this guy. Interesting sidenote: Saloon bartender The Hundley is actually Nick Swisher's doppelganger. He'll even be the first to admit it.

Overrated, like Lunch: SP Jose Contreras - With the exception of the second half of 2005, when he was arguably the best pitcher in the AL, Contreras has been a trainwreck. He's never lived up the hype, is 'Sam Cassell ugly' and since he's from Cuba, you can probably add about 10 years onto his stated age. Despite all this, expect him to be quite popular again when the trading deadline rolls around. If Kyle Lohse can be cosidered a valuable commodity, why not?

I'm on the 10-Year Prospect Plan: SP Gavin Floyd - emember when the Phillies considered this guy a top prospect? Yep. Pre-9/11. The White Sox apparently haven't turned over their calendar for about 7 years. This guy has gotten more 'this will be the year' touts than Bobby Crosby. Of course Sox fans probably say the same thing about Angel Guzman. Either way, pay no mind and carry on. He's nothing more than a poor man's Brandon McCarthy, and we all know how that turned out.

FOR MORE READING
Black Sox Blog
South Side Sox
The Bard's Room


5. KANSAS CITY ROYALS by The Hundley
2007: 69-93 (5th)

SO LONG: OF Emil Brown, C Jason LaRue, P Odalis Perez, P David Riske, OF Reggie Sanders, DH Mike Sweeney, P John Thomson

WELCOME: OF Jose Guillen, P Ron Mahay, P Hideo Nomo, C Miguel Olivo, P Brett Tomko, P Yasuhiko Yabuta

PROJECTED LINEUP
1. David DeJesus CF
2. Mark Grudzielanek 2B
3. Mark Teahen LF
4. Billy Butler DH
5. Alex Gordon 3B
6. Jose Guillen RF
7. John Buck C
8. Ryan Shealy 1B
9. Tony Pena Jr. SS

Starting Rotation - Gil Meche, Brian Bannister, Zack Greinke, Kyle Davies, Jorge de la Rosa
Setup - Joel Peralta, Yasuhiko Yabuta
Closer - Joakim Soria

Raise your hand if you've heard of more than three of the Royal pitchers listed above. Oh, you did? Well, then you're a sabermetrician. And yes, it's possible and/or probable that Brett Tomko might be in the rotation, thus, we'll allow a one pick buffer between Saber-guy and normal baseball fan. What can you say about the Royals? The Little Engine That Could in the MLB? A classic example of why money wins in the game. It seems when they develop some good, young talent, they ultimately get swept up by the Big Boys as was the case with Carlos Beltran and Johnny Damon. Things appear to be looking up for KC once they selected ex-Atlanta Braves exec, Dayton Moore. Moore brought in Gil Meche and signed hot prospect Alex Gordon, as well as bringing in Jose Guillen and Brett Tomko. Sad thing is, they finally started spending some decent money, only to yield the likes of the Tomko and Meche, each of whom have career ERAs hovering around four and an 'arf. Though lets be serious here, this is a team whose 93 losses in '07 broke a string of three straight 100 loss seasons. A dynasty you are not.

Also new to the mix is manager Trey Hillman, who took over for the wildly unfullfilling Buddy Bell, who led the Royals to a workman-like career record of 174-262. Hillman has no big league experience, but has managed minor league teams and also had a successful stint in Japan, managing the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters to back-to-back Pacific League championships in 2006 and 2007.

Let's be realistic, barring an unforseen run, the Royals have no shot at the post-season, and would definitely be considered a success if they finish at or above .500. Playing in what may be the toughest division in baseball, it seems that for the next few seasons, the team will have to grin-and-bear-it, hoping that the Indians and Tigers implode, without the Twins and Sox resurging. Bleak to say the least. Perhaps should be knon as The Blue Jays of the AL Central.

PRESEASON AWARDS
Mr. Sexy Time: Tie - This one is a tie. Is this the year that young 3B Alex Gordon finally lives up to the big hype that surrounds him? Or will it be the only thing that gave Royal legend George Brett a run for his money as the hottest thing in KC - the bone-in Kansas City Strip Steak? Tough call on that one, be sure to stay tuned.

Point in their favor: Kaufman Stadium - Located adjacent to Arrowhead Stadium, Royals Satdium is easily accessible and has a pretty dag-gum nice stadium, complete with waterfalls in the outfield and Preparation H dispensers throughout.

FOR MORE READING
Royals Authority
KC's Royal Fan Zone
In Dayton We Trust

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