Baseball: AL Central Preview

By and

Everybody who thinks there are about five unexplainable flukes happening right now in the AL Central, raise your hand. Now pat yourselves on the back because you are only about half right. First-place Kansas City isn’t going to play .714 baseball all year long, but the Royals have good enough pitching and enough guys (like Tony Pena and Billy Butler) who are trying to make it in the MLB, so they aren’t going to finish 24 games below .500 either.

On the other hand, Detroit’s 0-7 start isn’t as unlucky as it looks. Detroit has arguably the second best lineup (behind the Yankees) in the big leagues this year, but has about eight question marks for every solid hurler in its pitching staff. According to my count, Justin Verlander is the Tigers’ sure thing, leaving Jeremy Bonderman, Fernando Rodney, Todd Jones, Kenny Rogers and Dontrelle Willis as the question marks. If Willis and Rogers can grab ahold of their respective control and age/velocity issues, the Tigers are the only team in baseball with three starting lefties, which will either equal scary for their opponents or doom for their playoff hopes.

I know it doesn’t make much sense to give a team that starts 0-6 at home much benefit of the doubt, but with the exception of left field, the Tigers are loaded at every spot and will claim the wild card.

The Indians repeat as division champs because of two numbers — one and zero.

The tribe fell just one game short of the World Series last year and made virtually zero changes to that club. Factor in the likelihood of Travis Hafner rebounding from a year-long slump in 2007, and the only true weakness Cleveland has is at the closer spot.

Although the White Sox made key additions (Orlando Cabrera and Nick Swisher), the heart of their lineup is old and injury prone, leaving Chicago at the No. 3 spot in the best division in baseball.