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AL Central Predictions

Less than 48 hours until the first pitch is thrown....

So here are my predictions for the AL Central

  1. Chicago White Sox -- 94 victories -- Last years champs return the best starting 5 in baseball, makes them tough to pick against.
    Why they win the central:
    • Their 5th starter was the opening line favorite to win the AL Cy Young in '04. He's still young and healthy. His skills haven't eroded, despite his poor performance the last two years.
    • While many are predicting less offense for the Sox this season, I think the club will be better offensively. Uribe and Crede, in particular, should both post around .800 OPS while providing excellent defense.
    • Ozzie and Kenny won't let them lose. These two will do everything in their power to keep the Sox at the top of the AL.
    How they can lose the central:
    • Losing to the Indians head-to-head
    • Shaky bullpen -- The 6 members of the Sox pen may be more volatile than any other pen in baseball.
    • Injuries -- Thome, Podsednik, Konerko and the starting staff need stay healthy for the Sox to repeat.

  2. Cleveland Indians -- 93 victories -- The Vogue pick of '06.
    How they can win the central:
    • Beating the Sox head-to-head
    • The bullpen matches their '05 effectiveness
    • Andy Marte steps in for someone who falters offensively
    Why they finish second:
    • Too many high-leverage innings given to Bob Wickman
    • Back end of starting staff is comprised of merely innings eaters.
    • Jason Michaels doesn't make the jump to full-time regular.

  3. Minnesota Twins -- 86 victories -- It wouldn't surprise me to see the Twins allow the fewest runs in all of baseball in '06.
    How they can win the central:
    • Kyle Lohse gets relegated to the bullpen or he pulls a Jon Garland.
    • Liriano and Baker experience no growing pains in their first exposure to the bigs
    • Luis Castillo represents the biggest upgrade at a single position that any team made in baseball.
    Why they finish third:
    • Tony Batista's OBP and defense.
    • Juan Castro appears to be the opening day shortstop
    • Terry Ryan's refusal to upgrade obvious holes at the trade deadline.

  4. Detroit Tigers -- 80 victories -- This team would be competing for division titles if they had a time machine to take them back to 2002-04.
    How they can win the central:
    • Bonderman, Verlander, and Zum become three aces a couple of years ahead of schedule
    • Magglio, Pudge, and Guillen return to their offensive peaks.
    Why they finish fourth:
    • Not enough pitching. Bullpen appears especially weak.
    • Not enough plate discipline. They had the lowest ISOD in baseball last season, and I don't see much that's changed.

  5. Kansas City Royals -- 63 victories -- Hey, I didn't pick 'em to lose 100 this year.
    How they can win the central:
    • They cant
    Why they finish last:
    • Their best pitcher is AWOL
    • Mediocre offense, and below average pitching doesn't cut it in this division anymore.

Random Predictions
...Jim Thome will play 140 games

...Brian Anderson resembles Eric Byrnes. Which is to say that Anderson will be a capable major league hitter -- nothing spectacular, but not terrible either -- while making some routine catches look more entertaining than need be, but will overall grade out to be an above average defender.

...Joe Crede and Juan Uribe improve on their '05 offensive output, making the Sox line-up have no glaring holes.

...Jose Contreras and Javier Vazquez have end up the season being considered the Sox "#1 & #2" starters.

...Zero of the American League playoff spots will be decided with 1 week left to play. I envision '06 coming down to the final weekend with the Yanks, Sawks, Injuns, Palehose, A's, and Halos all within a couple of games of each other.

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