Monday, August 10, 2009

Pennant Fever - AL Central

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-Digger's Daily-

AL Central is currently engaged in a three team dogfight as Cleveland and KC have played their way out of contention. It'll be a winner take all as I see no way any of these teams will qualify as wild card winners. Detroit, Chicago & Minnesota have motivating managers challenging their teams to step it up in summer months as they claw tooth and nail to become division champs. A long winning streak could very well decide which team heads to the playoffs.

Detroit (59-51) stands alone leading the Central by 3 games. They made a key acquisition before the trading deadline by getting Jarrod Washburn from Seattle. Washburn had been 8-6, 2.64 (1.086 WHIP) before heading to the Motor City. Unfortunately, he's been hit hard in two games for his new squad (0-2, 8.74). Tigers rotation is anchored by Justin Verlander (12-6, 3.45) & Edwin Jackson (8-6, 2.62). Leyland's offense has been inconsistent but gets the job done. AL MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera has been sensational as the lineups lone standout star (.330, 23 HR, 67 RBI). What's happened to Magglio Ordonez? 2007's MVP runnerup has been in Leyland's doghouse and now plays on a platoon basis. Detroit is hungry for another World Series appearance (2006). Mixed results in head to head competition against Minnesota (4-7) & Chicago (7-5). I like the Tigers and believe they'll win AL Central.

Chicago (57-55) has endured a rollercoaster type season. Win a few, lose a few has led to a three game deficit. Front three starters have looked very good at times. Buerhle pitched a perfect game vs Tampa Bay July 23rd. In his next start he had a no-no going vs Minnesota for six innings before getting bombed and it's been a rocky road since losing 3 straight to drop his record to 11-6). Rotations 4-5 starters haven't been good at all and unless they start showing some life, Chicago will be doomed. Ozzie Guillen's lineup has been streaky too which has been giving this firebrand manager fits. White Sox losing record vs both Detroit (5-7) and Minnesota (5-7) will have to change down the stretch or these guys will be cooked. ChiSox are a dangerous team when everyone is contributing. I think they're hitters are just as good as Detroit. For some reason, they just can't seem to get out of their own way which is probably due to lack of consistency from the pitchers.

Low budget Minnesota (54-57) has lost 6 of 8 to begin August and trail by 5.5 games. Twins starting rotation hasn't performed well this season and is the main reason they're in third place. Minnesota plays great defense (.988 2nd), tied for 3rd in AL hitting .270. However, pitchers have a less than stellar 4.66 ERA and opponents are bruising the staff with a .273 average. Only one current starter has an ERA below 4.85... ouch! I've always enjoyed watching this fundamentally sound team play ball. This just isn't their season and didn't make any trades to spark a sputtering rotation. I don't see how they'll be able to cool heavy hitters in Detroit and Chicago.

Prediction: Detroit Tigers will win AL Central in a very close race vs Chicago. Minnesota is out of this race before August ends.

On deck... AL West.

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