Welcome to Part Three of our Community Roundtable series. Or, for the several of you, welcome back. It's been a pleasure.
Part 1 decided the winner of the AL East.
Part 2 focused on the NL East, and represented a much tighter race.
Alas, it would seem that many of you are Recency learners. Well-played.
Today, we shift focus away from the eastern corridor into America's heartland, and move toward the unenviable decision of trying to decide who will win the American League Central.
My deep and abiding affection for Vance Worley took a nosedive last year, as he moved from being a dependable #4 starter to possibly not even making the rotation this season, thanks to injuries and ineffectiveness. Oh well.
Joe Mauer is still creeping around, threatening to get on base 40% of the time and hit a dozen or so home runs.
They also got an interesting season out of Brian Dozier, wherein he hit .244/.312/.414. Other than Justin Morneau (who was traded) and Josh Willingham (who was injured), the Twins didn't really come close to having average offensive production last year.
At least they make up for it by not being able to pitch very well. They did bring in Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, though. Which is to say they were able to upgrade their staff considerably by bringing in Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes.
Quick, who was the White Sox best (qualified) offensive player last year?
Correct. It was Adam Dunn, and his 105 wRC+ and .219/.320/.442 triple slash. If his defense weren't so awful, he may have actually been an average player.
And therein lies Chicago's biggest weakness. Though Dunn managed to create more runs at slightly better than the league average, when you include his base running he actually returned negative value to the Sox. Alejandro De Aza was the only qualified player to have a positive offensive impact. Coming up closely behind was Alex Rios, who was limited to just 109 games before being traded, but was averagely productive when available.
Chris Sale and Jose Quintana are turning into a very good Ace/#2 combination, and Chicago will hope that John Danks can come back strong and that Felipe Paulino's injury-laden past was a product of more than just his own fragile, imperfect human form.
Cleveland's offense, on the other hand, is kind of scary. Kind of real scary. Scary Door scary.
Alright, that might be an overstatement, but they are very, very good at getting on base. Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, and Nick Swisher all have a BB% north of 11.5. Yan Gomes turned into some kind of monster after coming over from Toronto; he hit .204/.264/.367 with the Blue Jays in 43 games, and then hit .294/.345/.481 in 88 games with the Indians.
The pitching staff was adequate to plusgood, but Ubaldo Jimenez and his 3.2 WAR are shipping off to Baltimore it would seem, and Scott Kazmir's 2.5 WAR has been spirited away by the Oakland Athletics, which leaves Cleveland with Justin Masterson, Cory Kluber, Zach McAllister, and Danny Salazar, and the acquired services of Shaun Marcum's Shoulder.
They won 92 games last year, but it seems like they are more due for a step back than a step forward.
Ervin Santana is (probably) out, and Jason Vargas is in. Three steps back, two steps forward. The Regional Nightmare that was Jeff Francoeur has finally ended. Another step forward. Bruce Chen has been given a starting rotation spot hat-in-hand. Step back. Wade Davis and Luke Hochevar might vie for the 5th spot. Back and back.
Danny Valencia was brought in as platoon insurance for Mike Moustakas. Step forward. Norichika Aoki was traded for and Omar Infante was brought in. Two steps forward. The Royals state that they have reached their payroll limits, despite $25 million more to spend and being only $7-$9 million higher than they were last year. Back and back we go.
Not sure what that adds up to. It just feels like a lot of running around in circles without really getting anywhere.
Prince is out, Kinsler is in. Fister is out, Drew Smyly is in. Miguel Cabrera is back at first, which is a Win or two just by getting him off of third. Jhonny Peralta is gone, but the effects of that are undecided, depending on if/when he tests positive again. Victor Martinez, Torii Hunter, Austin Jackson. They've quite a bit of firepower.
Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez, and Justin Verlander head what should still be the best rotation in the majors. If they can figure out their bullpen defects - which they hope Joba Chamberlain and Joe Nathan will do - they could easily repeat their 93-win season.
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