Year after year, the AL Central is by far the most unpredictable division in baseball and this year will not be any different.
The Tigers and Twins starting rotations are very similar—the one and two starters are solid where the last three are questionable.
Detroit’s Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello are one of the nastiest one-two punches in baseball (in a good way that is).
Verlander came off strong last year, after a rough 2008 season, leading the league in strikeouts and winning a career-high 19 games.
Porcello also had a great 2009 season, locking down 14 wins in his rookie season and an ERA just under four.
He has a lot of talent and great control over his pitches that will only get better with age.
After Verlander and Porcello is where things get a little foggy though.
Max Scherzer had an alright season last year for the Diamondbacks, but he has more talent than what his numbers say.
It just depends on whether or not that talent is going to show this year or not.
Also, after missing most of last season with a blood clot in his arm, nobody is really sure of what exactly Jeremy Bonderman will show this year for the Tigers.
So far in spring training, Bonderman has only thrown about two innings but did so without giving up any runs and striking out three
Though he is not a given for the fourth rotation spot, the fifth one is even further up in the air.
The number five spot in the rotation is most likely going to be a battle between Armando Galarraga, Nate Robertson, and Dontrelle Willis who all had less-than-stellar 2009 seasons.
And so the story goes for the Minnesota Twins, who have two solid starters followed by question marks.
Despite his slow start to last year, the Twin’s Scott Baker ended the year strong and showed great control over his pitches.
Although Kevin Slowey’s year was cut short by wrist surgery, he was 10-7 on the year and is expected to be fine for this season.
But after Baker and Slowey, that is where Minnesota’s rotation becomes totally questionable.
Carl Pavano is extremely inconsistent—which is nothing new—and is always getting injured, and after him, nobody really knows what is going on with the rest of the rotation.
It is anybody’s guess who will lock down the fourth and fifth spots after okay seasons for Brian Duensing and Nick Blackburn and a rough one for Francisco Liriano.
It is also a toss-up in terms of the bullpen for both the Tigers and the Twins as both of them performed very similar last year.
But the one thing that will give the Tigers the edge over the Twins is in terms of offense.
The Tigers have two corner-fielders who bring power to the team in Johnny Damon and Maglio Ordonez.
Damon had one of the best offensive seasons of his career last year with the Yankees and although there is little chance he will show that same level of power this year, he still has something and will still provide more than enough to help the Tigers win ballgames.
On the other hand, Ordonez had one of his worst offensive seasons last year and saw his numbers drastically drop from what Tiger fans are used to seeing.
Do not worry though—he will come back this year and he will be fine.
Both Damon and Ordonez’s power overshadows Minnesota’s combination of Delmon Young and Michael Cuddyer.
Sure Cuddyer had a more productive offensive year than Ordonez, but do you honestly see that happening again this year?
Because I don’t.
I am not saying that I see Cuddyer drastically falling off the radar but I do see Ordonez coming back strong—stronger than Cuddyer.
Now to the infield.
Infielders Brandon Inge and Miguel Cabrera also bring bats and, more importantly, consistency to the lineup in Detroit.
Inge is one of the most clutch infielders in the game and Cabrera had a monster year last season, with 34 HRs and 103 RBI.
Like Cabrera, the Twin’s Morneau also had a huge year at first base but both Harris and Punto are not as valuable to the Twins as Inge is to the Tigers.
Harris and Punto are both great players but Inge plays a unique—and clutch—role on the Tigers that few players in baseball do.
In terms of DH for both teams, many see Thome as the obvious choice over Guillen but I see Thome’s production dropping this year.
With age, his numbers have dropped consistently and I see them dropping even more this year.
This does not mean that I see Guillen as a better player than Thome but I see their ages catching up with the both of them this year.
Now I will not even bother comparing Gerald Laird to Joe Mauer—as we all know who the better catcher is there.
But in general, I see more power and consistency in the Tigers lineup than in the Twins and think that will be the determining factor in the race for the AL Central.
Before anybody jumps to any conclusions let me just reiterate that I do not see the Tigers winning by a landslide in the AL Central.
It will be a very close race between the Tigers and the Twins and they will more than likely finish within five games or so of each other—I just think the Tigers will come out of the battle on top.
Stay tuned for my pick for the AL East.