Tuesday July 1, 2003
American League Central Review
Well, the Twins have now played 81 games. They are officially halfway through the season, and they have just a half game lead over the Kansas City Royals. So, I figured I would take a look at the 3 teams still in the AL Central race.
Here are the current standings in the AL Central.
Cleveland is terrible and they are just 9 games behind the Twins. That says a lot about the American League Central. So, any AL Central bashing is very fair!
What Iíd like to do is go position-by-position for the Top 3 teams and do some comparing and give an edge to one of the teams. (NOTE - all stats through Sunday, June 29.) After filling out their stats, and entering my thoughts on them, I will give a point grading to each player. Points will be between 1-5. Best player at the position could get a 5, or maybe not. Second best could get a 4, or a 2. So, it wonít be a straight ranking. It will vary depending on how much I think that position or player will affect their teams chances to win. At the end, I will add up the point total, and the team with the highest will be my favorite (most likely, and actually my favorite if itís the Twins!) to win the division.
So, here we go:
Twins - AJ Pierzynski (.283/.320/.465, 12-2Bs, 8 HR, 46 RBI)
AJ is having another All-Star caliber season, adding some power numbers to his average.
Royals - Brent Mayne (.250/.310/.364, 7-2Bs, 4 HR, 20 RBI)
Mayne got off to a great start, but has cooled down toward his career numbers. A very solid defensive catcher who may be perfect for the Royals pitching staff!
White Sox - Miguel Olivo (.227/.280/.378, 11-2B, 5 HR, 26 RBI)
Miguel is playing approximately 2 out of 3 games, with veteran Sandy Alomar backing him. Olivo isnít hitting much, but his arm is great! Baserunners donít run on him!
Grading - Pierzynski (5), Mayne (3), Olivo (2).
FIRST BASE -
Twins - Doug Mientkiewicz (.304/.366/.483, 20-2Bs, 7 HR, 32 RBI)
Doug has shown again that he has the ability to hit. His plate discipline is impressive, and he is very much still a Gold Glover on defense.
Royals - Mike Sweeney (.321/.440/.540, 11-2Bs, 12 HR, 50 RBI - 47 BB/29 K)
Sweeney is one the best hitters in the league. His only problem has been injuries, and staying in the lineup. Definitely not a strong defensive first baseman, but more than makes up for it with his bat!
White Sox - Frank Thomas (.281/.426/.555, 19-2Bs, 17 HR, 39 RBI ), Paul Konerko (.185/.260/.265, 8-2Bs, 3 HR, 17 RBI)
People were talking about how Frank Thomas was done! Well, just look at that on-based percentage and slugging percentage! Heís having a great year. And, I included him at 1B, because he will probably be playing there a lot the rest of the year. Why? Because Paul Konerko has been the most disappointing hitter in the big leagues this year. After 3 very solid, consistent seasons, Konerko has struggled to produce anything this year.
Grading - Thomas (5), Sweeney (4), Mientkiewicz (3).
SECOND BASE -
Twins - Luis Rivas (.271/.326/.362, 8-2Bs, 1 HR, 14 RBI)
After an awful first month of the season, Rivas has really improved his game since May. Doesnít hit for a lot of power, but his plate-discipline has really improved.
Royals - Desi Relaford (.288/.344/.440, 14-2Bs, 6 HR, 33 RBI)
Relaford finally has a full-time gig with Kansas City after being a platoon player the last few years. Heís taking advantage of it.
White Sox - DíAngelo Jiminez (.255/.332/.410, 11-2Bs, 7 HR, 26 RBI)
They got him a year ago from the Padres, and he won the 2B job this year. He certainly hasnít been spectacular, but not terrible. Basically, heís Rivas, with more homers.
Grading - Relaford (3), Jiminez (2), Rivas (2)
THIRD BASE -
Twins - Corey Koskie (.308/.402/.505, 17-2Bs, 12 HR, 50 RBI)
Also got off to a slow start, but Koskie stayed in the 3-hole and had a great month of June. Should be an All-Star this year. Defense continues to be gold-glove caliber!
Royals - Joe Randa (.241/.296/.396, 15-2Bs, 9 HR, 30 RBI)
Randa is not highly thought of by stat heads, and theyíre not really wrong. But, Randa is a solid hitter, and a very good defensive third baseman!
White Sox - Joe Crede (.230/.271/.348, 11-2B, 7 HR, 32 RBI)
Given the 3B job after a great second half last season, Crede is another offensive disappointment. Not getting on-base much, and his power is down too.
Grading - Koskie (5), Randa (2), Crede (2)
Twins - Cristian Guzman (.259/.288/.348, 9-2Bs, 9-3Bs, 0 HR, 19 RBI)
We have bashed on Rivas for a long time. Now compare his numbers to Guzmanís. That tells you how well Guzman is playing this season.
Royals - Angel Berroa (.275/.339/.449, 16-2Bs, 8 HR, 29 RBI)
The rookie Berroa has put up very good numbers, especially for a rookie. Iím sure the Royals are very happy with his production.
White Sox - Jose Valentin (.240/.326/.458, 17-2Bs, 12 HR, 35 RBI)
Valentin was moved back to SS, with Crede taking over at 3rd. Valentin is a bad defensive SS, but usually can hit, and with some power. His batting average is down, but his power numbers are good.
Grading - Valentin (3), Berroa (2), Guzman (2)
LEFT FIELD -
Twins - Jacque Jones (.299/.314/.473, 20-2Bs, 10 HR, 35 RBI)
7 BBs/63 Ks - No wonder his OBP is just .015 higher than his batting average. But, hitting nearly .300 with 30 extra base hits. Best defensive left fielder in baseball.
Royals - Raul Ibanez (.288/.340/.454, 20-2Bs, 9 HR, 42 RBI)
Ibanez is a very underrated player. He burst on the scene last year, given full-time player status. Not a great defensive left fielder.
White Sox - Carlos Lee (.270/.325/.459, 17-2Bs, 13 HR, 49 RBI)
Lee is basically having the same season as Jones. He has more RBI, just because he bats down in the lineup. Not a good defensive outfielder though.
Grading - Lee (5), Jones (5), Ibanez (4)
CENTER FIELD -
Twins - Torii Hunter (.257/.330/.442, 17-2Bs, 11 HR, 50 RBI)
Although he still swings at bad pitches frequently, his 31 walk rate is well up from previous years! Heís clearly the best defensive center fielder in the American League (sorry Mike Cameron fans). Power numbers are still good.
Royals - Carlos Beltran (.289/.394/.476, 5-2Bs, 11 HR, 41 RBI)
Beltran was injured and missed the first few weeks of the year, but he has come back and been very solid. Iím astonished that he has just 5 doubles though. Great on-base percentage. Not Torii Hunter, but Beltran is a very good defensive outfielder. Big question is if he will be with the Royals the whole season, or if heíll be traded?
White Sox - ????????
Center field has been a mess for the White Sox. Willie Harris, Aaron Rowand, Armando Rios and Joe Borchard have all played out there, and none have done much at all. Combined, those 4 are hitting under .220, with 6 homers.
Grading - Beltran (5), Hunter (4), White Sox (1)
RIGHT FIELDER -
Twins - Dustan Mohr (.283/.330/.463, 13-2Bs, 8 HR, 22 RBI), Bobby Kielty (.253/.370/.432, 10-2Bs, 8 HR, 30 RBI)
Twins started the season giving Michael Cuddyer the RF job, but he was sent down after not getting enough playing time. Mohr and Kielty (mainly at DH) both had a very strong May performances. Neither has really contributed much in June. Mohr is better defensively. Kielty has a stronger arm.
Royals - Michael Tucker (.276/.341/.471, 17-2Bs, 10 HR, 41 RBI)
I happen to think Michael Tucker is very underrated. Heís solid defensively, and his offensive numbers wonít blow anyone away. But, he does a little of everything!
White Sox - Magglio Ordonez (.285/.360/.503, 19-2Bs, 14 HR, 46 RBI)
Magglio has been, and continues to be, one of the better hitters in the American League for the past four seasons. Just a solid all-around player.
Grading - Ordonez (5), Tucker (3), Mohr/Kielty (3)
DESIGNATED HITTER -
Twins - Matthew Lecroy (.299/.331/.479, 8-2Bs, 6 HR, 28 RBI), Justin Morneau (.294/.321/.451, 2-2Bs, 2 HR, 8 RBI)
Lecroy also is now serving as the backup catcher. Heís had his moments, but with the callup of Morneau, Lecroy will lose bats. Hopefully Gardy will keep Morneau in the lineup!
Royals - Ken Harvey (.253/.306/.410, 15-2Bs, 7 HR, 35 RBI)
The rookie was the MVP of the Arizona Fall League last year. His numbers arenít great, but he has come up with big hits in really big situations for the Royals.
White Sox - Frank Thomas (see 1B), Brian Daubach (.238/.350/.371, 8-2Bs, 2 HR, 11 RBI)
Again, with Konerkoís stuggles, Daubach will get more and more playing time. Thomas is a far better hitter when heís playing 1B, rather than DHíing, which is interesting!
Grading - Thomas/Daubach (3), Harvey (3), Lecroy/Morneau (3)
STARTING PITCHERS -
Brad Radke - (5-7, 5.64 ERA, 18 BB/52 K)
Joe Mays - (8-4, 5.77 ERA, 28 BB/36 K)
Kyle Lohse - (6-6, 3.96 ERA, 23 BB/73 K)
Rick Reed - (3-8, 4.83 ERA, 19 BB, 38 K)
Kenny Rogers - (7-3, 4.93 ERA, 23 BB, 60 K)
Absolutely the most disappointing part of the Twins season has been their starting pitching. Reedís been hurt a few times. Radkeís great on the road and terrible at home. Mays has a good record but has been awful. Rogers has done very well at times. Lohse was potential All-Star until his last three starts which have been terrible. Johan Santana is the Twins best starter, and heís being wasted in the bullpen. With the exception of 3 starts, in which heís 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA, heís been in the pen! We have to assume these guys will get better. I still think Radke will turn out fine. Lohse has great stuff and will turn around soon. Reed is fine, and Rogers is a tough lefty who finds a way to win. Based on strikeouts, he has the ability to get a big strikeout, an ability Mays and Reed don't have. Mays is the one who has me worried!
Runelvys Hernandez - (4-3, 2.79 ERA, 22 BB/31 K)
Jeremy Affeldt - (4-4, 4.82 ERA, 24 BB/52 K)
Chris George - (9-5, 6.86 ERA, 37 BB/37 K)
Jose Lima - (2-0, 3.44 ERA, 7 BB/5 K, in 3 starts)
Derrell May - (1-4, 4.05 ERA, 24 BB/53 K)
Kyle Snyder - (1-4, 4.33 ERA, 14 BB/30 K)
Hernandez started out great, but an arm injury curtailed his season. Affeldt has amazing stuff, but is very inconsistent. George has 9 wins, but has the worst ERA of any starter in the American League, and you can see why. (Just check out his walks!) May has good stuff too, and pitches great against the Twins. Lima-Time arrived in Kansas City, after a stint with the Independent Leagues, Newark Bears. Theyíve been solid, but theyíre really young. Can they continue?
White Sox -
Mark Buehrle - (5-10, 4.59 ERA, 39 BB/59 K)
Bartolo Colon - (6-7, 4.20 ERA, 39 BB/87 K)
Esteban Loaiza - (11-3, 2.18 ERA, 27 BB/94 K)
Jon Garland - (6-6, 4.65 ERA, 33 BB/54 K)
Buehrle got off to a terrible start, but has won 3 straight starts now and is looking like the 19 game winner he was last year. Colon is solid. His numbers though are never as good as you would assume they would be. Loaiza has been the story though. I canít believe his stuff. 93 mph fastball and a sharp cutter! Garland got off to a very slow start, but heís been very good the last month!
Grading - White Sox (4), Twins (3), Royals (3)
SET UP -
JC Romero - (2-0, 4.18 ERA, 23 BB/24 K)
LaTroy Hawkins - (5-2, 1.79 ERA, 9 BB/48 K)
Johan Santana - (4-1, 2.41 ERA, 22 BB/68 K)
Juan Rincon - (1-3, 3.44 ERA, 18 BB/24 K)
Michael Nakamura - (0-0, 7.94 ERA, 1 BB/11 K)
Twins bullpen hasnít been what it was a year ago when it carried the Twins for most of the season. JC Romero is not near the pitcher he was last year. Look at his walks, and he has been battling a groin injury all year. Tony Fiore ha already been demoted. Santana has been great again and should be starting. Nakamura has a good BB/K ratio, but has been giving up a lot of hits. As bad as Romero has been, Hawkins has been amazing! Rincon has been a good surprise, even with the struggles he encountered a couple of weeks ago.
DJ Carrasco - (3-4, 3.61 ERA, 23 BB/35 K)
Jason Grimsley - (2-3, 3.89 ERA, 12 BB/36 K)
Miguel Asencio - (2-1, 5.21 ERA, 21 BB/27 K)
Kris Wilson - (3-0, 5.79 ERA, 10 BB/24 K)
Jason Gillfillan - (2-0, 7.71 ERA, 10 BB/12 K)
Grimsley throws pretty much every day. The other guys have done well too, especially considering how young they are. Itíll be interesting to see if these guys can keep doing the job. Albie Lopez is gone, but thatís a good thing for the Royals!
White Sox -
Damaso Marte - (2-1, 2.10 ERA, 4 saves (in 10 saved attempts), 15 BB/36 K)
Tom Gordon - (4-5, 3.86 ERA, 20 BB/50 K)
Rick White - (0-1, 6.06 ERA, 11 BB/24 K)
Kelly Wunsch - (0-0, 1.15 ERA, 9 BB/12 K)
David Sanders - (0-0, 4.86 ERA, 8 BB/10 K)
Gary Glover - (1-0, 5.65 ERA, 10 BB/17 K)
Marte is a great lefty reliever, as is Wunsch. Gordon is back to healthy and back to pitching well. The others, average at best.
Grading - Twins (4), White Sox (4), Royals (2)
Twins - Eddie Guardado (1-2, 2.76 ERA, 20 saves (in 21 opportunities), 6 BB/29 K)
Eddie has been solid. He isnít walking many, his ERA is OK. Heís certainly not dominant, but for the most part, he gets the job done!
Royals - Mike MacDougal ( 3-3, 2.95 ERA, 20 saves (in 25 attempts), 20 BB/30 K)
MacDougal, like the Royals, has been inconsistent. He throws as hard as Koch, but when he has his curveball going, MacDougal can be really tough.
White Sox - Billy Koch (4-4, 4.63 ERA, 11 saves (in 14 chances), 17 BB/26 K)
Koch struggled so much early in the season, that Damaso Marte was given a number of chances to close. Koch throws hard, but straight, and doesnít have much for a 2nd pitch. But, heíll be solid in the 2nd half of the season.
Grading - Twins (5), Royals (3), White Sox (3)
Final Totals -
White Sox 39
So, by that, the Twins should win the division by about 8 games over the White Sox and 10 over the Royals! Weíll see. How often do we hear it? ďThe baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint.Ē For the Twins, I think it should be called a Roller Coaster, full of ups and downs. Hopefully in the 2nd half, the starting pitching will be more consistent. If they are, I think that the Twins will run away with the division. If not, itíll be a tight race. That said, if some of the White Sox who are expected to hit actually start hitting, theyíve got a shot too, especially if Buehrle and Colon pitch like they can AND Esteban Loaiza can keep it up. And, I apologize, but Iím still one of the non-believers when it comes to the Royals. I just think their pitching staff (as well as DH and SS) is just too young to last the full season. But, maybe young means naÔve, and possibly too dumb to realize whatís going on. All I know, is that it could be very fun to watch!!!
Any questions or comments, please e-mail me!
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