Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Some (Very Premature) Pre-Spring Training Analysis (and a Prediction or Two)

Tim Kurkjian outlines why the AL Central will most likely be the most interesting and brutal division this year. Nobody's absolutely amazing, but at least right now, no other division in baseball looks like it has four extremely serious competitors for the division title, and even the Royals are poised to play much better and be a season-long spoiler in the Central (and if they win the title, well, stranger things have happened....the 2008 Rays, I'm looking in your direction).

Still, I have to say that I'm really excited at the Indians' prospects right now. Picking up a full-time, 100% legit closer who relies on his actual pitches, rather than will or a sketchy location (a la Wickman and Borowski) is hugely important. I don't see Lee being as good as he was in 2008, but I don't see Carmona being as bad, either, and they have an extremely deep bench and farm system both in terms of pitching and fielding. Pavano could be the dark-horse signing of the year ($1.5 million guaranteed, with incentives adding up to $5.3 million). Hafner and Martinez are looking and (at least saying they're) feeling healthier than they have in a couple of years. Sizemore is still stupid-good. And Shin-Soo Choo was an absolute beast once he became a full-time player last year (thanks Seattle!). It's going to be an absolute brawl for the division title, but I have to say, I'm actually as excited this year as I was at the beginning of last year (when, if Sabathia could have simply won one playoff game in Cleveland, the Indians most likely would have been World Champions for the first time in 60 years). And no matter who wins the division, I wouldn't be surprised if A) they had the "worst" record of any of the AL division champs, and B) if they made it to the World Series. Yes, the Yankees and Red Sox are still there, as are the Rays, and the Angels are filthy good, but given the competition they'll have with their intra-division rivals, it wouldn't shock me in the slightest to see the AL Central finish with an 87-91 win team and go far in the playoffs.

Now we just have to wait another couple of weeks for pitchers and catchers to report, and our annual 4-month national nightmare will be over...