AL Central Preview/Win Total Predictions

Reno

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Chicago White Sox Over 91½ Regular Season Wins – Last year was a great one for the Sox, so this win total by Vegas has me confused. After a 99 win season, this team adds Jim Thome, Javier Vazquez and Rob Mackowiak. Those 3 should keep the White Sox strong for this season. The loss of El Duque, Aaron Rowand and Carl Everett are insignificant in my opinion. The starting rotation of Buehrle, Contreras, Garland, Vazquez and McCarthy should net 75 wins by themselves and its not unreasonable to think the bullpen can get another 25. The division around them is still a tough one and the Indians will most certainly be better. The two big questions I see are 1) can Bobby Jenks be a force again this year in closing out games and 2) can the Sox be road warriors again this year and win 50+ on the road. How these play out in 2006 will go a long way to determining whether the Sox repeat. These issues not withstanding, I look for a 93-97 Win season by the Chisox.

Cleveland Indians Under 89½ Regular Season Wins – The Tribe lost three pitchers, Scott Elarton, Kevin Millwood and Bob Howry. Of the three, the loss of Howry hurts the most even though Millwood led the AL in ERA. Howry posted a 2.47 ERA and was rock solid in games where they handed him the ball. In fact the bullpen posted an ERA of 2.80, best in the majors. It does appear that Millwood’s spot will be adequately filled by Paul Byrd who had his usual better than average but not stellar year last season. On the offensive side, the Indians do have a powerful lineup. This team will hit so the loss of Coco Crisp should be minimal. Cleveland got hot down the stretch and made a race out of the AL Central, but I don’t think it will be that close this year. The Tribe was another team who had a great year on the road in 2005 but I don’t think they have the pitching to carry better than .500 away from the Jake. Expect the Indians to win 84-88 games.

Detroit Tigers Under 77½ Regular Season Wins –
So the Tigers didn’t lose anyone of significance this offseason. They didn’t add much either, unless you think Kenny Rogers and Todd Jones are the answer. The Tigers had an 8-24 September after hanging around .500 most of the year. They were okay at home just 4 games under .500 but this is a team built for that ballpark. The Tigers were dreadful on the road last season. They are hanging their season on a healthy Magglio Ordonez and the emergence of youngster Curtis Granderson. The farm system is just starting to produce some real talent, but it wont save them this year. Jeremy Bonderman is the one bright spot on the pitching staff. Mike Maroth and Nate Robertson are just mediocre starters who would not be better than 5th starters on a majority of teams. The hidden jewel of that staff may just be Justin Verlander who was 11-2 in the minors with a ridiculously low ERA of about 1.5 last season. In 2005 this team won 71 games. Any improvement over this number will be slight and I am calling for a 72-76 win season.

Kansas City Royals Over 64 Regular Season Wins –
The revolving door was spinning this offseason in Missouri as KC made a lot of changes. Unfortunately there was more form than substance in these maneuvers. Adding Joe Mays, Elmer Dessens and Scott Elarton to the rotation should be an improvement but again the Royals only won 56 games last season. Mark Redman and Zack Grienke will be back at some point and that should really give this team a boost. Runelvys Hernandez is on the DL because he is too overweight, a team first. The offense is in rough shape, no one other than David Dejesus excites me too much and he will be pitched around with no protection in this lineup. If Angel Berroa can hit for power and they get anything at all from Reggie Sanders, this team actually may be able to scratch out some runs. The defense is not bad and that may be their saving grace. This team only won 56 in 2005 so the expectations are low. That being said, with a little luck this team should be able to bounce back and avoid 100 losses. I am looking at 65-69 wins for an improving KC group.

Minnesota Twins Under 83 Regular Season Wins – This is a team that seems to find a way to stay competitive. This offseason they lost Jacque Jones, Joe Mays and JC Romero, but they did pick up Luis Castillo and Tony Batista. Additionally, Joe Mauer is a year better at calling games and at the plate. The outfield seems pretty solid. The big problem with the Twinkies is their offense. They hit .242 as a team with a .300 OBA with the bases empty. Not a good start to winning games. Castillo will help them play small ball while Batista goes long ball. At least that is the plan on paper. Minnesota has never been a great road team and the only chance they have to beat .500 is if their starters can pitch lights out. With Santana and Radke they have a pretty good 1-2. The next two guys, Carlos Silva and Kyle Lohse have had flashes of brilliance but are unproven and inconsistent. Scott Baker has a nice arm and may be the #3 guy a year from now. The number Vegas hung on this is pretty close to correct and I’ll call for 79-83 wins in 2006.
 
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