AL Central Debate: Which Pitcher Will Bounce Back Best in 2009?

Austin DrakeSenior Analyst IMarch 4, 2009

The 2008 season was a down year for most A.L. Central teams. With three teams being under .500 and the division champion White Sox had a win percentage of only .546.

The fall out of arguably the best division in baseball could be put on the arms of key pitchers for each team that faltered throughout the 2008 season.

Well, it's the start of a new season around the majors as spring training is well under way in Florida and Arizona. Our question is, which of these key pitchers who faltered in 2008, will bounce back the best in the 2009 season?


Francisco Liriano, Minnesota Twins
(2008 Stats: 6-4, 3.91 ERA, 76.0 IP, 67 K, 32 BB)

After a phenominal 2007 season, with a record of 12-3, Liriano started the season as the No. 1 starter. After starting the season 0-3, Minnesota sent him to the minor leagues for a little tweaking.

After he returned to the Twins in August, Liriano went 6-1 to finish off the season, proving that he had fixed the few flaws that were noticeable.

His mere six wins ranked him sixth on the team in victories and 67 strikeouts placed him only seventh. With such a young and inexperienced staff around him you would think this guy could put up better numbers as the top-notch starter.


Jose Contreras, Chicago White Sox
(2008 Stats: 7-6, 4.54 ERA, 121.0 IP, 70 K, 35 BB)

I'm not sure if this guy can ever be a consistent major league pitcher, but his 15-7 and 13-9 2005 and 2006 proves that he can be. With his many arm slots that he throws from, Contreras should be able to put up 12 wins a year, easy.

An injury kept him to only starting one game after the All-Star break last season. Contreras has a 2-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio which is, let's just say, not the best, at all. Plus, 130 hits given up in his 121 innings of work is nowhere near great.

His treacherous 4.54 ERA ranked him 12th on the White Sox in that category and his 61 earned runs ranked him fifth most on the team and he only played half a season.


Fausto Carmona, Cleveland Indians
(2008 Stats: 8-7, 5.44 ERA, 120.2 IP, 58 K, 70 BB)

I am sorry to all fantasy owners who drafted Carmona last season thinking they were getting a steal. Now that that's out of the way, what happened after that 19-8 season? Fausto started 10 less games in 2008 then he did in 2007, but walked nine more batters.

More stats to laugh at, Carmona pitched 95 less innings in 2008 than 2007, but gave up two more runs in 2008. The tandem of Carmona and C.C. Sabathia in 2007 was too good to be true for Cleveland fans, and sorry to say it wasn't true.

Carmona went from a 3.06 to a 5.44 ERA in a single season with Cleveland. In the month of July of 2008, Fausto posted an 11.42 ERA, while pitching 8.2 innings and giving up 13 runs. With C.C. now gone, Fausto needs to pick up the pieces.


Brian Bannister, Kansas City Royals
(2008 Stats: 9-16, 5.76 ERA, 182.2 IP, 113 K, 58 BB)

A 12-9 2007 season was promising for Kansas City fans, but after Brian Bannister posted a horrible 5.76 ERA in 32 starts last season, mayday. The only good thing about his 2008 season was that he stayed healthy.

Bannister's ERA jumped up 1.89 points from the 2007 to 2008 seasons. Not just did his pitching drop in 2008, but so did his fielding ability. After posting a 1.000 fielding percentage for his first two pro seasons, Bannister put up a .952 FPCT.

His 29 home runs given up in 2008 ranked him first on the team for most allowed by eight. If Bannister dosen't step up than who will? Aging Gil Meche? Unreliable Zack Greinke? Or immature Luke Hochevar? I don't think so, it's Bannister's time.


Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
(2008 Stats: 11-17, 4.84 ERA, 201.0 IP, 163 K, 87 BB) 

He won the A.L. Rookie of the Year in 2006, then was in consideration for A.L. Cy Young in 2007, then in 2008, he fell apart. His 17 losses were two more than the previous two seasons combined.

Verlander posted one shut out a season in 2006 and 2007. In 2008, Justin pitched just one complete game and no shut outs. He allowed 31 more runs than in 2007, while actually pitching less innings.

Although he led the team in innings pitched, he had the 13th best ERA on the team and players like Denny Bautista, Clay Rapada and Freddy Garcia are ranked higher. Other than Nate Robertson, who had another horrible season in 2008, Verlander gave up the most runs on the team.


After looking through each of these pitchers profiles and stats closely, I believe that Verlander will bounce back the best in 2009. My prediction is that JV gets back to old form and wins 18 games easily.

Don't rule out Liriano or Carmona though, as their repetoires are filthy and with their arm strength, 15 wins a piece should be expected.

As for Bannister and Contreras it's a different story. Kansas City made some upgrades this off-season which could help Bannister, but for Contreras, a lack of additions and him just another year older, won't pose well for the South Side White Sox.