Just to be clear, this is a completely biased article. Do not expect the same "unbiased" opinions and content that the mainstream media will provide, such as a certain four-letter word headquartered in Bristol, Connecticut.
This article is unusual, but in a way you might not expect. I am just about the biggest Twins fan you will ever know. That's right, I am a Twins fan, but I expect the White Sox to win the AL Central. Here is why...
This is one of the biggest reasons the Twins will fade. There is a huge difference between a great team and a young team with promise. The Twins fall at the wrong end of this spectrum.
The average age of the Twins is 2.4 years less than that of the White Sox. At first glance that may not seem like much, but it is the difference between a Dustin Pedroia batting .191/.258/.303 and a Dustin Pedroia batting .317/.362/.479.
Statistics aside, there is also postseason and September-stretch-run experience to consider. The White Sox won the World Series in 2005, proving that they were the best baseball team in the entire league, much less the American League Central. Seven position players and three pitchers from that championship team are currently on the White Sox active roster.
Minnesota, on the other hand, have had players from the 1991 World Series die.
Clearly, this Chicago team knows how to play both during this stretch run in September and into October.
Weakness of Schedule
The White Sox do not have an easy September schedule by any stretch of the imagination. It pales in comparison to that of their rivals', though. Minnesota recently took off on a 14-game West Coast road trip, having been kicked out of the Metrodome because of the Republican National Convention.
So far the Twins are just 4-5 through nine games. Yes, they did split a series against the Angels, but they dropped two-of-three to the lowly Mariners. After four games against Oakland, and three at Toronto the Twins head home for a week. Then it's off to Baltimore for another marathon road trip.
To say that the Twins are not at their best while on the road would be an understatement. While 46-23 at home, the Twins are 30-36 on the road. The fact that 15 of the next 27 games are away from Minnesota makes the Twins' road to October very difficult.
Chicago is also a different team away from U.S. Cellular Field. They have the same number of road games ahead of them, but face far less intimidating opponents. Kansas City and New York are both among those who come to the South Side to receive an expected battering.
Bullpens, Bullpens, and Bullpens
Being a Twins fan, I could go on forever about how inept the Minnesota bullpen has been lately. The acquisition of Eddie Guardado is probably the best move that rookie GM Bill Smith has made this year, but that's not saying much. Smith has basically been sitting on his hands until this point and missed some key opportunities that could have really helped out this Minnesota team; namely, their bullpen.
Obviously, the loss of stud set-up man Pat Neshek to injury has something to do with the drastic decrease in ability this bullpen has experienced. Without him Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Craig Breslow, and even former Twin Juan Rincon have been forced to rotate the responsibility.
None have consistently been great.
Guardado arrived in Minnesota appearing as a 6'0'', 193-pound savior. In reality, he is nothing more than a washed up veteran with a little remaining in his left arm. When compared to the rest of this shambled bullpen his stock clears unreached territory.
There is also talk about the White Sox bullpen being an Achilles heel down the stretch. People have waited for it to collapse like Minnesotas', but it hasn't happened yet. In fact, the bullpen has done very well lately - save for one or two instances in the past few weeks.
The bullpen is the key to the division. It all comes down to which relief staff can turn in good outings night in and night out and constantly back up solid appearances from their starting pitchers.
When other elements are considered, such as experience and upcoming schedule, the AL Central can be likened to a race. So far, Chicago is in the lead.
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