Wednesday, September 18, 2013

AL North

Next up is the AL North, home to the Twins who made their first playoff appearance in 17 seasons!

Chicago White Sox (AL)
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Chicago White Sox

LAST YEARS PREVIEW: For the first time in 12 seasons, the South Siders missed the playoffs. This also ended their incredible streak of 11 division titles. The White Sox organization knows that they don’t have the same kind of team that had won multiple division titles. While they will remain competitive, it won’t be enough to overcome the Blue Jays and Tigers.


IN: Clint Kirk, Sherman Coleman

PREVIEW:  With the exception of reliever Dick Houck, none of the White Sox young players really took a step forward in their rankings.
The offense was pitiful (only scoring 689 runs), but the pitching staff was actually really good (705 runs). That should have led to an 80-82 record, but they were 15-28 in one run games. Did Jnew COOK up a plan?
The love affair with the over-valued Al Palacios appears to be over, since he is on the trading block. Any takers at $9 mil? Bo Cornelius is set to blast off (predicting over 4 War, 95 RC). Tito Owens got OLD, and is now a replacement level player. Javier Toregas was the South Siders main weapon, and he looks to take a step back from his 85 RC season (4.3 War…don’t expect better than 2.5 this year). PT Rodriguez returns but his health is always in question. A full season would mean replacement level.
“Captain” Clint Kirk was a nice addition. Pitcher Sherman Coleman can contribute, and bolsters the starting staff. So, back to the original question. Fixing the 1 run problem? Defense and bullpen pitching. The Sox have it, so expect a better season.

Detroit Tigers

LAST YEARS PREVIEW: Founding member jdrake hasn’t sniffed the 80 win mark since season 11, but the longtime owner hasn’t given up. It blew away Kinsella when the hapless Tigers made a huge push to sign Pascual Brito and closer Flash Tessmer. Both players come at a substantial cost, and the Tigers raised payroll up to $89 million, with $86 of that used on actual player salaries and not being transferred to prospects. One hesitation I have with the Tigers is how their personnel is used.

OUT: Sherry Pierre, Timothy Wolf, Edwin Duran, Max Harris

IN: Derek Lewis, Gio Lopez

PREVIEW:  How does a team with this much talent only win 74 games? How does an offense that should be prolific, only score 698 runs? There isn’t one totally apparent problem. I’ve searched hi and low, and other than a few misnomers (82 steals vs 71 caught), higher amount of flyballs, no pinch at bats, a fairly high number of GIDPs, can’t hit LHP (.240/.296/.385) especially when compared vs RHP (.267/.328/.415).  Nothing stands out as THE problem. Pascual Brito was really the only player to rise above and perform up to expectations. Two players in particular that killed the Tigers was Mahaffey with his -2.6 War, and Melky Sanchez with his .315 OBP in 677 plate appearances. That’s a whole lot of not getting on base.
The pitching is good. The scouting reports show they should perform. The FIP and WHIP weren’t bad. The defense was better but still one of the worst in the league. A horrible catcher, a right fielder that should be at first base, and a guy playing first base that is probably the best fielder on the team (Ted Lombard). Mahaffey was so awful his job was given to Derek Lewis (great move), and pitcher Gio Lopez was added (another great move). I just don’t trust this team.

Toronto Blue Jays (AL)
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Toronto Blue Jays
LAST YEARS RECORD: 85-77, no playoffs

LAST YEARS PREVIEW: The Blue Jays finally knocked off the vaunted White Sox and took their first division crown since season 8. In a league full of great offenses, the Blue Jays scored the most runs in Kinsella with 890. The Jays have one of the best pitching rotations in the game with the addition of Acker, Grahe, and Villafuerte joining with Ramirez, Jeanmar, and Johnstone. Not to be overlooked is their defense at key positions. The Blue Jays are a terrific team, and they will improve over last year. Instead of rolling with what they had last year they worked to improve their team.

OUT: Cole Acker, Pablo Cruz, Andy Daly, Ken Merloni

IN: Harry Guzman, Ebenezer Lloyd, Malcolm Wilkins, Jolbert Gomez

PREVIEW: Toronto made some early and impactful moves. They cut ties with Acker (that project didn’t work out…he aged too fast), let Cruz and Merloni go elsewhere (not a bad move) and told Daley he can take a hike (121 innings in relief with a 5.27 FIP, and 1.66 Whip..buh bye). In comes Harry Guzman (Mr. Max Contract from Philly) and Ebenezer Lloyd (the new closer???)
Everyone wants to know what the hell happened to Jair Villafuerte. Maybe because he’s a groundball pitcher and the Toronto defense didn’t help him out? My guess is that he and Wally Barton didn’t get along really well. But even his FIP was 5.09…mostly due to lack of K’s and abundance of HR’s given up (33…ouch). Malcolm Wilkins was a steal in rule V. Who cares if he can’t hit? Gomez was a brilliant pick up (but at $4.4 mil, might have overpaid a little). Either way, I’m on the Blue Jays bandwagon. Problems are fixed, team is better. Playoffs and Division title again.

Minnesota Twins
LAST YEARS RECORD: 94-68, division crown

LAST YEARS PREVIEW: The streak continues in the great white north, as the Twins failed to make the playoffs for the 17th consecutive season. Owner thunderdonkey (one of the great Kinsella names!) has had success in other leagues, and life with the big boys in Kinsella is a great challenge to show that the 7 division titles in other leagues weren’t a fluke.

OUT: Gio Lopez

IN: Wade Taylor, Gil Gibson, Brandon Outman

PREVIEW: It doesn’t even matter what I put in here, because the Twins BROKE THE STREAK!!!! I can’t remember a time being so happy for a franchise. From last years preview above can Thunderdonkey (still love the name) prove his 7 division titles “weren’t a fluke”? MISSION ACOMPLISHED! He really deserves honorable mention for the MOONLIGHT GRAHAM AWARD, and if the Twins pull this off again, it would be a travesty not to win the award.
Now on to the team…They get a lot of innings out of their starters, and put an excellent defense behind those starters (could be better at double plays, but 4th in the league in fielding pct is great). They don’t score a lot of runs, but they don’t have to (until you get to the playoffs then all bets are off). The team is basically unchanged. Older and little wiser. No key pieces moved on except Gio Lopez, who simply wasn’t that great. 4.57 fip? 28 homers given up? Thanks for the two draft picks, Detroit.
Taylor was a good pick up, keeping Gibson was a good move (great catcher!), Outman is a gamble for a starter but if he comes back from his injury he’s a steal, Ciraco was an awesome pick up. Overall, I think Toronto is better (sorry). But Thunderdonkey has his guys ready and now they have MORE bulletin board material.
PREDICTION: 92-70, playoff spot

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