Lynn Henning Drinking the Kool-Aid

It seems everyone is getting into the spirit of the upcoming baseball season. With the Detroit Tigers roaming all over Michigan during Day Two of the winter caravan, everyone is optimistic about their chances this year. Not one to be left behind, this afternoon, Lynn Henning came out and proclaimed the Tigers as his pick to win the AL Central in 2011.

Henning’s declaration is based upon his belief that the Tigers have the division’s best pitching staff. What’s more, he said they have the best starting rotation. Well, his words were “they have five starters who are more impressive than anything the Twins, or the White Sox, offer.” Sorry, Lynn, I just can’t get behind that one.

Sure, as a fan I’d like to say the Tigers are the team to beat. I’d like to say that there is no one who can match their arms with those in the Olde English D. It’s just that I’m not so sure that’s true. Minnesota possesses an ace in Francisco Liriano who has the ability to match Justin Verlander pitch for pitch in terms of effectiveness. Sure, he’s undergone Tommy John surgery which coast him a good two years, but prior to the injury he was tremendous and last season he showed he’s all the way back to where he was in 2006.

While I’d still take Verlander given the option, and I do believe that Max Scherzer is the best number two in the division, questions abound thereafter. Minnesota has many of the same questions facing their staff beyond Liriano and Carl Pavano, but Chicago has no holes in their starting five. the only real question is how Jake Peavy will rebound from yet another injury, and when he might be available to do so.

The White Sox have the steadiest left hander in baseball in Mark Buehrle, they have John Danks, who is in my opinion the most underrated southpaw in the game. They have Gavin Floyd, who has struggled at times, but has also had dominating seasons, and they have Edwin Jackson. All he did was handcuff the league in the season’s final two months last year.

Meanwhile, the Tigers have Rick Porcello who was very good as a rookie, then not-so-good a year later. They have Phil Coke, who has made exactly on start (1.2 innings on the season’s final day) since Double-A ball, and they have Brad Penny. penny has the potential, like the other Tiger starters, to be a very good hurler when healthy. But to say that Detroit has a better rotation that Chicago is being far more optimistic than I’m comfortable with.

Henning goes on to discuss the fireballing relievers employed in Motown. I agree that if all goes well, there shouldn’t be a ‘pen that can match these guys. But can Joel Zumaya finally put together a healthy season? Can Daniel Schlereth step into the void left by Coke’s departure from the bullpen? The Tigers might have more pure stuff among their relief corps than the other clubs, but again, Chicago won’t be far behind there either.

The White Sox won’t have Bobby Jenks this year, but they added Jesse Crain and Will Ohman to the mix. they still have Matt Thornton and Chris Sale from the left side and Sergio Santos from the right side. There’s no shortage of stuff there, folks.

If the Central comes down to pitching, the Tigers could have an advantage, if all goes according to plan. But that’s rarely the case. I’ll take Chicago’s staff as a whole, there’s fewer question marks. To be honest, the White Sox probably have a better offense as well. Adam Dunn will make a much bigger impact than people realize. US Cellular Field plays like a bandbox anyway, just wait ’til Dunn steps into the box there.

I do think Detroit will compete for the crown. I think that if everything goes right, this club has plenty enough talent to win the Central. But I also am wise enough to know that Chicago also has a very strong squad and that Minnesota has a beast of a lineup. They always seem to find enough pitching up there as well.

But I’m sorry, Lynn, I just haven’t had enough Kool-Aid to glaze over the obvious question marks that could easily cause Detroit’s season to fall short yet again.

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Tags: Adam Dunn Chicago White Sox Detroit Tigers Edwin Jackson Francisco Liriano Justin Verlander Lynn Henning Max Scherzer Minnesota Twins

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