MLB: Projecting the AL Central at the Halfway Point
It has been a roller coaster ride for teams of the AL Central up to this point.
The Indians near the top?
The Twins in the cellar?
Adam Dunn has one more hit against lefties than I do?
How will things shake out in the rough-and-tumble Central? It seems like every day there is a new face on the DL, off the DL, playing well, playing poorly, etc.
I'll show you how it's all going to pan out.
Currently Fifth: Twins, 32-44 (9.0 GB)
The Twins got off to an awful start and have been decimated by injuries. Michael Cuddyer is putting together a pretty decent offensive year; other than that, there isn't a ton of offense to speak of. Jason Kubel and Danny Valencia need to up their respective levels of play if the Twins are going to continue their quest for the playoffs.
The key player for the Twins in the second half will be Francisco Liriano. He has had some very good starts, and some very bad starts. Consistency will be the key for the Twins' fireballer. The only real chance the Twins have is if they can shake off the injury bug, something that they have been unable to do this season.
The Verdict: 72-90, fourth place
Currently Fourth: Royals, 33-45 (9.0 GB)
The Royals have been a semi-pleasant surprise this season. It isn't reflected very much in their record, but they have contended in most of their games. The future looks bright for these guys, but this won't be their year. Once the top few teams begin to pull away, look for Kansas City to bring up some (more) of their top prospects.
The keys for Kansas City are rookies Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and whomever else the Royals decide to call up. The young talent the Royals possess is second to none, so they are going to be very formidable in the near future. These players need to learn the ins and outs of the pro game so they can be ready to make a run for the division crown in coming years. If these young stars can stay healthy for the coming years, it will be a success for Kansas City.
The Verdict: 70-92, fifth place
Currently Third: White Sox, 38-41 (4.5 GB)
There have been so many disappointments in the White Sox lineup, it effectively cancels out the surprises from the pitching staff. Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, Juan Pierre and Gordon Beckham all MUST step up their games for the Sox to continue to contend. Paul Konerko's back is beginning to hurt from putting the team on his back day-in, day-out. If it weren't for A-Gon going crazy in Boston, Paulie would be my leader for the AL MVP up to this point.
Another kid needing more playing time is Brent Lillibridge. He makes spectacular plays on defense and is evidently the only guy capable of working a pitch count besides Konerko. Somebody has to come out of a slump soon, right?
What is there to say about Phil Humber. The dude wasn't even supposed to make the squad, but now is the Sox best bet for a quality outing. John Danks has turned things around for the better, but was recently sat down with an oblique injury. Sergio Santos seems to have righted the ship after a rough week were he got hit hard nightly. If the bats (especially Adam Dunn) can start backing up the pitchers, look out.
The Verdict: 87-75, first place
Currently Second: Indians, 40-36 (1.0 GB)
I think it's fair to say that nobody saw Cleveland's success coming. Asdrubal Cabrera has been having a fantastic season and should be on his way to the All-Star Game. I think the Indians are in store for a rocky second half, mostly because they simply aren't that good. They got off to a ridiculous start and have been coasting ever since.
One person that can go a long way in saving Cleveland's season is Fausto Carmona. He, much like Francisco Liriano, needs to get his act together on a consistent basis. You can usually tell in the first inning whether he will be lights out, or if he's going to be taken deep all night. If the Indians can't field 25 overachievers, they won't be much of a factor in the home stretch.
The Verdict: 78-84, third place
Currently First: Tigers, 42-36
Detroit has been on a tear lately, and they look to stay hot. They are a pretty star-laden team, but their biggest question is the role-players. Can Ryan Raburn, Alex Avila, etc. keep the team on the right track? Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander are going to get theirs; there's no doubt about that. I saw Verlander in person recently; he's the best pitcher in baseball. Doc Halladay might have something to say about that, but I doubt he'll read this.
One big addition, or re-addition, to the ballclub is Magglio Ordonez. He is getting up there in age, but he can still swing the bat. Miguel Cabrera could use a little more help in the lineup, even though Boesch, V-Mart and Avila have done a respectable job. What lineup would complain about a new bat in the lineup for the stretch run?
The Verdict: 86-76, second place
Projected AL Central Champion: White Sox 87-75
They got off to a horrendous start, but they have too much talent to be kept down all year. Adam Dunn WILL turn it around (can't get any worse), Mark Buehrle WON'T be traded and the bullpen will continue to stay hot.
Ozzie has got the boys playing well, and I see no reason that can't continue.
The trade deadline is coming up, a fun time for GM Kenny Williams; he needs to look into a potential upgrade at 3B.
If that can happen, watch out for the White Sox in October.