Tuesday, April 28, 2009

An updated look at the AL Central

Minnesota - The Twins didn't realize it, but their bullpen overhaul actually made them worse. Sure, they had to replace the injured Jesse Crain, but Jose Mijares and Juan Morillo (though the Twins went out of their way to get him on the roster, there's a reason the pitching-starved Rockies dumped him last season) have such bad control problems that they may actually pitch BELOW replacement level. R.A. Dickey is fine as a replacement arm, but swapping out Brian Duensing and punting Phillip Humber while relying on three replacement arms is not. The Twins now have a serious shot at 90 losses.

Kansas City - Alex Gordon's injury leads to Mitch Maier's promotion (he's not a bad bench bat) and more time for Alberto Callaspo. The team should see surprisingly little dropoff, as Gordon's defense was simply okay, his hitting was decent but not great, Maier adds some power off the bench and Callaspo isn't terrible at the plate. Brian Bannister supplants Horacio Ramirez in the rotation, and gives a bit above replacement level effort at best. For some reason, I expected Ramirez to be halfway decent. Huh. Anyway, the Royals' chances of .500 baseball go down from these developments, and 85 losses now seems a more solid prognosis.

Detroit - Backup catcher Matt treanor got hurt, and now something called Dane Sardinha backs up Gerald Laird, downgrading the offense just a bit (Treanor is a least a bit above replacement level). Losing Marcus Thames however (ribs) is a huge blow, even if Ryan Raburn's power and better ability to get on base makes him a solid replacement. Thames had other-worldly power, and even the best backup power bat is a big downgrade. Offsetting some of that damage is the return to Joel Zumaya to the bullpen, instantly bolstering an average unit. Also bolstering Detroit's chances is the increased likelihood that the halfway-decent Zach Miner will stick in the rotation, as Rick Porcello hasn't impressed as Jeremy Bonderman's fill-in. As it stands, 85-90 wins and the AL Central title is still an easy possibility.

Cleveland - Scott Lewis will spend a week or two on the DL with a forearm strain, meaning replacement innings from Aaron Laffey. The Indians turned over their bullpen, sending down Zach Jackson and bringing in the likes of Vinnie Chulk, Jensen Lewis and Tony Sipp, slightly above replacement level downgrades. This reduces the likelihood of significant innings from Zach Jackson, as the team likely won't give him a chance to start until later this season, if at all before September. This is the opening the Tigers may need to sneak off with the Central, as when we started the two teams were neck and neck. But this drops the Indians to a solid 85 win team.

Chicago White Sox - The team sent away struggling Mike MacDougal and decided to test drive replacement level Lance Broadway. He's a downgrade but this is already a bleh pitching staff hampered by a bad defense, so not much loss there. Jerry Owens is back as DeWayne Wise hits the DL with a separated shoulder, but it looks like an improved Brian Anderson will soak up most of the starts at CF. This team still sucks, on the 95-100 loss level.

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