I originally did just one post for the AL Central preview but it was long, really long. Think The Postman long (seriously, has any footage ever been left on the cutting room floor in any Kevin Costner movie?). I really didn't want readers to start skimming through it because some insightful people helped me out and I would hate to see any of their comments go unnoticed. So I broke it into two parts hoping that every word gets read and enjoyed.
In part 1 Ray from Royals on Radio etc joins me to answer some questions about the division and in part 2 I'll ask the same questions to two of my recent guest bloggers. Joining them will be the assistant sports editor of a northwest Missouri newspaper and a Kansas City radio talk show host so I'm sure they will be as objective as I am biased. So lets get started as Ray and I answer five questions about the American League Central.
1. Who will be the surprise team?
Ray - Ah good one I'd love to say the Royals but I'm inclined to say the Twins. I think everyone has wrote off this year for the Twins but I think they'll be in the thick of the Central divison race till the end.
Jeff - Well I am biased so I will say the Royals. Most analysts are prediciting a 4th or 5th place finish for our boys in blue but I actually think they are going to win 80 games which will be good enough for 3rd place. This team is really set up nicely for 2009 and 2010 and this is the year the team comes together before becoming contenders next season.
2. What team will disappoint?
Ray - The Indians, I think they'll have a falling off year I can't put my finger around why but I believe they will have a pretty disappointing year overall.
Jeff - I was all set to say the White Sox because by adding Swisher and Cabrera they seemed like they were trying to make one more playoff run with their aging offense. But then I read where Joe Crede may start and Josh Fields may end up in AAA and now they seem like a team that would rather amass some trade Value for Crede instead of win. So if they are already throwing in the towel last place will be expected.
So instead I will go with the Indians just because I don't expect a repeat performance from Sabathia or Carmona. I think they finish in 2nd place 10 games out.
3. Who will be the best pitcher?
Ray - The D-Train Dontrelle Willis. He'll be aided by his unique delivery which will be hard to catch for many of the newer AL players who haven't seen him pitch before in person. And the awesome Tigers lineup should give him plenty of Offense.
Also expect a great, no awesome, year from CC Sabathia
Jeff - Justin Verlander. I think he is ready to dominate this season and that offense is going to get him plenty of wins (which Cy Young voters love and overvalue). His stuff is just filthy and when he is on he is unhittable. Another pitcher to watch this year will be Zack Greinke and I am going on record that at least one time this season Verlander and Greinke will face off and the final score will be 1-0.
4. Who will be the best hitter?
Ray - No clue but I'll go.......... Jim Thome or Miguel Cabrera, I'll go with Thome to have another great year 35+ HR's 100+ RBI or maybe Joey Gathright..................
Jeff - Definitely Miguel Cabrera, his OPS+ the last three years are 151, 159, and 150. Those are just sick numbers for a guy who isn't even 25 yet. I think he will probably win the MVP and outside of that guy in St. Louis is arguably best right handed hitter in baseball.
5. Who wins the division?
Ray - The Detroit Tigers, if they don't well something obviously went wrong.
Jeff - I'm going with the Tigers too and I think they win it going away. I know the bullpen is a wreck but their starting pitching and offense will easily offset some bad performances by their pen.
Thanks to Ray for helping me out with part 1 and be sure to come back tomorrow for part 2, which is still long but not Kevin Costner long.