Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Wanna Make a Cool $300,000?

The odds are in and you can quite easily win $300,000 just by placing a $1,000 bet on the Houston Astros, newly of the American League West, to win the 2013 World Series. Yes, the odds are rather long (300 to 1 according to BETVEGA) but sometimes you need to take a risk to win big.

Brother John is doing a fine job of analysing the American League East (the Blue Jays are somewhat less of a risk at 7 to 1) so I shall appraise the American League Central and West, starting with the Central this week. I'll do so by looking at which teams have the most highly ranked players according to MLB.com.

We'll proceed alphabetically. The numbers after the players' names are their ranking among all American League players, including those in the AL East. If you don't see a number after a player's name, he isn't among the top at his position. (I consider the top 15 to be better than average at all positions except the outfield and starting pitcher, where I figure you're pretty good if you're in the top 30.)

The White Sox have former backup Tyler Flowers (14) doing the catching. A. J. Pierzynski left for Texas and his 27 home runs will be missed. Flowers had seven in just 136 at bats, however. Paul Konerko (8) and Adam 'Big Donkey' Dunn (13) are at first base. Dunn is often the DH, but Konerko is now 37 and may DH more often.  Gordon Beckham (10) at second and Alexei Ramirez (9) at shortstop make a smooth double-play combination. Note: the Chisox led the majors in fielding in 2012. Jeff Keppinger (14) is at third. and Alex Rios (11), Alejandro De Aza (16), and Dayan Viciedo make up the outfield. It's a strong but not awesome lineup. Their pitching is among the best in the AL Central with Chris Sale (7), steady Jake Peavy (11), and John Danks (33).

Chris Sale with a White Sox prospect
Projected Opening Day White Sox Lineup

CF    Alejandro De Aza
3B    Jeff Keppinger
RF    Alex Rios
1B    Paul Konerko
DH   Adam Dunn
LF    Dayan Viciedo
 C     Tyler Flowers
2B    Gordon Beckham

The Cleveland Indians have Carlos Santana (1) catching, Nick Swisher (9) at first, Jason Kipnis (6) at second, Asdrubal Cabrera (3) at short, Mark Reynolds (9) at third, and Michael Bourn (7) in the outfield. Also in the outfield is Drew Stubbs, newly acquired from Cincinnati, where he hit some home runs, but mostly struck out.

A few weeks ago I wrote about which teams had the strongest 'meat of the order'. Well the Tribe, with  Jason Kipnis, Nick Swisher, Carlos Santana in the 3-4-5 slots may have one of the weakest. Their pitching is weak too, with Justin Masterson (37) and Brett Myers (38), though Chris Perry ranks eighth in the AL among relievers. The Indians were three games above.500 in mid-July last year. From there on they were just 18-45. The Tribe scored the second fewest runs in the league in 2012. A lot will depend on how Mark Reynolds and Nick Swisher Mike Aviles do this year.
Nick Swisher

Projected Opening Day Cleveland Lineup

 CF    Michael Bourn
SS     Asdrubal Cabrera
2B     Jason Kipnis
1B     Nick Swisher
 C      Carlos Santana
3B     Mark Reynolds
LF     Michael Brantley
2B     Lonnie Chisenhall
RF     Drew Stubbs

Detroit seems to have a bit of talent. They have Alex Avila (6) catching, Prince Fielder (2) at first, Omar Infante (9) at second, Jhonny Peralta (10) at shortstop, Miguel Cabrera (1) at third, and Austin Jackson (10) and Torii Hunter (19) in the outfield. Their designated hitter is Victor Martinez (1). For starters they have Justin Verlander (1), Max Scherzer (10), Doug Fister (13), and Aribal Sanchez (16). In relief they have nobody but old guys like Phil Coke. Flame-throwing Bruce Rondon, the heir apparent to closer Jose Valverde, is having a rotten Spring. Jim Leyland says they will not bring Valverde back even though no one else has signed him.

The Tigers may have a lot of fun at the plate again in 2013.
Projected Opening Day Lineup

 CF   Austin Jackson
 RF   Torii Hunter
3B    Miguel Cabrera
1B    Prince Fielder
DH   Victor Martinez
LF    Andy Dirks
SS    Jhonny Peralta
 C     Alex Avila
2B    Omar Infante

Kansas City is surprisingly strong, with Salvador Perez (5) catching, Billy Butler (4) at first, Alcides Escobar (6) at shortstop, Mike  Moustakas (7) at third, and Alex Gordon (20) in the outfield. KC is now a lot stronger at the starter position thanks to the acquisition of Ervin Santana from the Dodgers and James Shields (9) and Wade Davis (16) from Tampa Bay. Only Jeremy Guthrie and perhaps Bruce Chen remain in the rotation. Shields and Davis cost the Royals their top hitting and pitching prospects, but consider this. Their Opening Day pitchers since 2005 have been: Bruce Chen, Luke Hochevar, Scott Elarton, and Jose Lima. Ouch. KC's closer is Greg Holland (9). The Royals have given up a lot of great prospects for established major leaguers and it may produce their best season in a while. KC has finished over .500 just once in the last 20 years! And Blue Jay fans think they've had a bad stretch.
Salvador Perez

Projected Opening Day Royals Lineup

LF    Alex Gordon
SS    Alcides Escobar
1B    Eric Hosner
DH   Billy Butler
 C     Salvador Perez
3B    Mike  Moustakas
RF    Jeff Francouer
CF    Lorenzo Cain
2B    Chris Getz

The Twins have Joe Mauer (3) and Ryan Doumit (7) to share the catching responsibilities, at first is Justin Moreau (14) or Joe Mauer or Ryan Doumit - when they aren't behind the plate. At third they have Trevor Plouffe (11) who hit 24 home runs last year and in the outfield they have Josh Willingham (14). Tellingly, the Twins have no second basemen, shortstops, or starters among the top players in the AL.

Their starting rotation of Vance Worley, whom they got from Philadelphia, Kevin Correia, whom they obtained from Pittsburgh, Mike Pelfrey, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and Liam Hendriks (1-8, 5.59 last year) will be an improvement on 2012 but will not strike fear into opponents' heart. The Twins have Glen Perkins (13) in relief. The Minnesota starters had the second worst ERA in baseball last year. The staff gave up the second most home runs in the Majors last season, behind only Toronto. Minnesota's in trouble unless Mauer and Moreau can carry them. Maybe they could pitch when they aren't behind the plate or at first.

Trevor Plouffe
Projected Opening Day Minnesota Lineup

CF     Darin Mastroianni
2B     Jamey Carroll
 C      Joe Mauer
LF     Josh Willingham
1B     Justin Moreau
DH    Ryan Doumit
RF     Chris Parmalee
3B     Trevor Plouffr
SS     Pedro Flormon

This is one of the weakest divisions in baseball. Detroit was 20-18 against the AL East and Chicago went 20-12 against the West. Apart from that no AL Central team played .500 against another division. My prediction is Detroit, Chicago, Kansas City, Cleveland, and Minnesota. Next week it's off to the left coast. You can read about how likely it is that the Astros will win their division, the ALCS, and the World Series so you can collect that $300,000.

1 comment:

Rick Blechta said...

The Indians have Carlos Santana catching? Wow! I didn't know.

Is he going to have his guitar in the dugout, playing tunes for the guys when they're at bat? What about the rest of his band? Are they in the bullpen or something?