Mar 11, 2012; Lakeland, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder (28) during the game against the New York Mets at Joker Marchant Stadium. The Mets beat the Tigers 11-0. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

2013 Prediction Time: A.L. Central


In this installment of “Prediction Time” I get to the most important division in baseball for Tigers fans, and probably the most anti-climatic. We all know who I am going to predict for first place here, and it’s not that I am being a homer, it’s just easily the most obvious division to pick in all of baseball. Sorry fellow A.L. Central fans that are reading this…

But if you’re all honest with yourselves, you know this is true. The Tigers are the most likely team to win the Central in 2013.  But, they have to play the games, and stranger things have happened. You can all come back and laugh at me in the end if they don’t win the division.

Here is a little more than rudimentary look at the A.L. Central and where I think they will finish.

First Place- Detroit Tigers

Yeah, I gave this one away, but I think ESPN, MLB Network and the media alike won’t have to drug test their baseball “experts”, they will just have to find the analyst that actually believes the Tigers won’t win the Central. That analyst is clearly a fan of funny mushrooms, or a glue sniffer. I’m sure there are a couple out there.

There isn’t a ton of analysis to do here. They have the best rotation in the division by far, and their lineup stacks up nicely with the rest of the division, and the league. Yes, there is a question about the closer, but we’ve often seen these things work themselves, and two recent World Series winners in the Cardinals and Giants have done just fine without a guy to start the season. I’m confident someone will emerge, and the Tigers have enough in their system to get one if they need it.

Second Place- Kansas City Royals

Okay, this isn’t a fashion pick for me. There are a bunch of people who want Kansas City to do well, and will predict it likely so they can say they were on the bandwagon. For me, this is a case where a strong spring could translate into a strong regular season. If you all haven’t noticed, the Royals are destroying people this spring. While it isn’t a predictor, I have to think the good feeling that has to be going on in that clubhouse right now is a positive thing. Guys like Billy Butler and Alex Gordon saw the trade to bring James Shields and Wade Davis over as a sign the front office is serious, and I think it will make a difference in how the team performs on the field.

The rotation is better with Shields and Davis. Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie aren’t world beaters, but can keep a team in a game most nights, and that is really all the Royals need. Why? I think their offense is going to be pretty fantastic. Gordon, Butler, and guys like Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are either ripened or ripening to the point where they should be a well above average offensive club. Defensively they are strong, and the bullpen is wicked. Wicked good that is.

I just see a club that can win bunch of 6-4 type games, and they might do it late. Sometimes that is a recipe for a winner.

Third Place- Cleveland Indians

Cleveland has no doubt improved their team this off-season. I am rarely complimentary of the things their front office does, because most of the time, their moves stink. Acquiring Drew Stubbs and Trevor Bauer was a coup in my humble opinion (Is it humble if I know I’m right?). Adding veterans Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn is a good idea. Not only are they good players, but they are winners. Guys that are used to winning, and can maybe explain how to do that to Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall in particular. Mike Aviles was a solid pickup and should provide value. But what I really think could go the right way for the Tribe in 2013 is Carlos Santana just taking off and becoming a masher in the middle of that formidable lineup.

While the lineup looks formidable, the rotation does not on the other hand. There really isn’t one guy in that entire rotation that Cleveland fans can look at and honestly call any better than a middle of the rotation pitcher. And beyond Ubaldo Jimenez and maybe Justin Masterson, even that is a stretch. Until Cleveland can prevent runs from crossing the plate, I can’t go all crazy and start predicting a 2nd place finish.

Fourth Place: Chicago White Sox

Fourth place for the team that took the Tigers to the wire last year? Yep, the White Sox had quite a bit of stuff go very right for them last year. Adam Dunn bounced back. That wasn’t terribly unexpected, but Alex Rios had a real good season, and they got really good contributions out of pitchers like Jose Quintana and Jake Peavy. Quintana came out of nowhere and I don’t expect him to repeat. Peavy? I’m waiting for his arm to fall off any day now. John Danks is a huge question mark. Gavin Floyd is consistently pretty mediocre. Chris Sale logged more innings than he ever has by far, and it is going to be interesting to see how holds up for a second straight year of increased innings.

The Sox lost A.J. Pierzsynski and Kevin Youklis to free agency. Tyler Flowers and Jeff Keppinger “replace” them in 2013. How much more can the Sox take of Gordon Beckham? Which Alexei Ramirez are they going to get? Will Peavy stay healthy? How much will they miss their All Star catcher?

There’s a bunch more questions than answers with this team. It’s too bad, because Paul Konerko is a hell of a hitter, and he should be on a better team so he can get the recognition he deserves.

Fifth Place: Minnesota Twins

My first thought when I started doing this was…do I really have to analyze the Twins? Or can I just say the suck and move on? I’ve been incredibly harsh on the Twins the last few years, and they haven’t done anything to make me eat my words. The best I can say about them right now is I did like their off-season. Getting a couple of guys in their system who can pump a fastball over 90mph is a good start. Plus, the Twins farm system is loaded with a veritable sh*tload of offensive talent. If the Twins don’t make some serious efforts to move Josh Willingham, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau over the summer, they should be slapped in the face by all of their fans. The Twins should be more concerned about gearing up for 2016 than winning now.

They can’t possibly win with the rotation they plan on putting on the mound in 2013.

That may sound harsh, but I actually have a ton of respect for this once great franchise. They aren’t far removed from that success at all, and it’s strange to me that the Twins got away from what made them so good. They were pests. They played the game hard. They played it fundamentally sound.

With new guys like Aaron Hicks starting to break in, I hope they find their identity fast, because I liked it better when the Twins mattered.

 

 

Tags: Chicago White Sox Cleveland Indians Detroit Tigers Kansas City Royals Minnesota Twins