Found March 15, 2013 on In The Neutral Zone:
Over the Month of March, I have been psyching myself up for the upcoming baseball season. If you’re not as ready as I am then I’m here to lend a hand. Today, I will provide you with a quick look at the American League Central. I will preview each team and give you my bold predictions for the upcoming season. Here is a quick look at how each team finished last season: 2012 American League Central Final Standings: W  L Detriot Tigers:                      88-74 Chicago White Sox:            85-77 Kansas City Royals:           72-90 Cleveland Indians:             68-94 Minnesota Twins:              66-96 Ah, the 2012 Minnesota Twins. What a major disappointment they were huh? No one was crowning them World Series champions prior to the 2012 season, but I think we all expected them to be above .500. The Twins started out with a horrid record, and as the season continued it only got worse. They finished dead last in the American League Central, a horrible 30 games under .500. There is good news for 2013. I don’t think it is physically possible to be as bad as they were last year. That means there is only one way to go; up. The Twins lost speedy outfielders Denard Span and Ben Revere, and they are hoping Darin Mastroianni can be their starting center fielder of the future, their leadoff hitter, and can blossom into a star. I think he is a nice little player, but his strikeout rate is too high and his batting average is too low for me to say he’ll be a difference maker in Minnesota. They also added Vance Worley and Mike Pelfrey to their starting rotation. Mike Pelfrey after one solid year for the Mets in 2010, has underachieved beyond belief (if only I were 6’7″). I don’t see the change of scenery being the difference for Pelfrey, and I see him struggling mightily this season. As for Worley, after bursting on to the scene in 2011, his 2012 was very pedestrian (where he sported a 4.20 era and only won 6 games). The Twins offense does have a chance to put up some runs, but that all depends on the health of their two former ‘superstars’; Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer. Josh Willingham should have another nice season at the plate, but if Mauer and Morneau can stay healthy they could make a run at that elusive .500 record (hahaha). That’s how good I think they will be this season, their ceiling is a .500 record. When it’s all said and done I do think they improve upon their record from last season, but not by much. They will be a stellar 70-92. Last season the Cleveland Indians showed that they can compete in the American League Central. They held a record of 44-41 at the All-Star break. Then the Indians went on to have a disastrous 2nd half, going 24-53 to close out the season. This forced the Indians owner to fire their manager Manny Acta. Over the offseason, the Indians hired former Red Sox manager Terry Francona. They believe that the combination of Francona and their new acquisitions this offseason gives them a chance to compete for the division title. They added former Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher, home-run hitting Mark Reynolds, speedy centerfielder Michael Bourn, and the power/speed threat of Drew Stubbs (if only Stubbs didn’t strike out a million times he’d have the potential to be GREAT). Between Reynolds and Stubbs their batting average will plummet while their strikeout rate soars through the roof, but they have the potential to be a very good team. If Ubaldo Jimenez can return to All-Star form, watch out for the Cleveland Indians! I think that they will be the most improved team from last season but will just miss out on the playoffs. I believe they will finish with a record of 85-77. The Kansas City Royals have been a model of inconsistency over the years, and that’s exactly what they were last season. I do believe that they are heading in the right direction though and might actually surprise some folks this season. The Royals have a good young team with a mountain of potential. They also added James Shields, Ervin Santana, and Wade Davis to their starting rotation this offseason. I believe this will vastly improve this team, and they will finish with a winning record for the first time since 2003. The Royals have a lineup with a rare combination of speed and power. Between Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jarrod Dyson, and Alex Gordon the Royals should swipe a lot of bases this season. They also have a lot of pop in their bats, with Mike Moustakas, Eris Hosmer, and Billy Butler anchoring the lineup. Expect the Royals to be improved from last year, finishing with a record of 82-80. Outside of Chris Sale, the Chicago White Sox rotation hovered around .500 in terms of wins and losses last season. I believe that is what we will see from this team in 2013. They did not make much noise this past offseason. The only real addition they made was bringing in Jeff Keppinger to play 3rd base. He should help with their batting average but not much more. They do have nice players in their lineup in Paul Konerko, Alexei Ramirez, and Alejandro De Aza, but that won’t be enough to compete in this division. This will be the most improved division in baseball, and the White Sox will finish in 4th place in the division this season. I don’t think their pitching is good enough and it will ultimately be their downfall. I see the White Sox having a disappointing season, finishing with an 80-82 record. This is the Detroit Tigers division to lose. With Justin Verlander heading up a rotation that includes Max Scherzer and Doug Fister, the Tigers rotation should continue to mow batters down. Add that to a lineup that features Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, and I think it’s safe to say that the Tigers will win the American League Central again this season. The Tigers do have a big question mark this season though, that could throw a big curveball into their plans. They don’t have a closer right now. They don’t seem to be interested in re-signing Jose Valverde. Now, I dislike Valverde more than anyone in the world. Watching him pitch makes me want to stab myself in the eyes with a pencil. However, sometimes the scarcity at a position should dictate how you put your team together. Valverde did implode in the postseason last year, but he is by far the best option at closer for the Detroit Tigers (at least right now). Come playoff time, are you really going to feel comfortable handing the ball to a rookie in the 9th inning?? I highly doubt it. I foresee the Tigers holding off the Indians to win the division, but I don’t think they’re going to make it look easy. Their record should be similar to that of last year at 89-73. They will narrowly win the American League Central. 2013 American League Central Projected Final Standings: W  L Detroit Tigers:                    89-73 Cleveland Indians:           85-77 Kansas CIty Royals:         82-80 Chicago White Sox:         80-82 Minnesota Twins:            70-92 Projected American League Central Winner: Detroit Tigers If you enjoy my writing, follow me over to intheneutralzone.com where I am a contributing author there as well. Also you can follow me on twitter @DaveEttinger2 or like me on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/DaveTalksSports. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it!
THE BACKYARD
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