Yeah, it was ugly. I knew it was going to be a long day when Contreras gave up a home run on his second pitch.
There were some good points, and some highlights – Erstad’s home run in his first White Sox at-bat, the bullpen’s promise, and others…but 12-5 is just not the way to start it up.
That being said, it’s also only one game. Take a day off, get a breather, and come back strong on Wednesday.
And the final set of predictions: the AL Central, which I originally composed this morning, but for whatever reason it did not post correctly. So here you are, for your viewing pleasure.
Chicago White Sox
Some national pundits a few months ago were claiming that it was the fact that the White Sox did not have enough hitting that contributed to their demise in 2006. This could not be farther from the truth. An inconsistent rotation that had a dismal two-month stretch in the early fall sealed doom for the South Siders. The rotation will need to improve and not give up early runs in order to be successful. The lineup will have no problem – they easily have one of the best offenses in the American League and will continue to improve with the addition of Darin Erstad. The bullpen is vastly improved from a year ago, with additions of Nick Masset, Andrew Sisco, and David Aardsma – all hard-throwers that will confuse hitters with movement on their pitches. Everything hinges on the starting five – they will literally make or break this team in 2007.
Everyone believes that this is the year for the Cleveland Indians, but the pitching has a lot to prove in order to convince this writer. After C.C. Sabathia and Jake Westbrook, the Indians have an unproven rookie (Jeremy Sowers), a journeyman with a ballooning ERA (Paul Byrd), and a replacement fifth-starter with one career win to his name (Fausto Carmona). Cliff Lee can’t return to the rotation soon enough. Joe Borowski was a great addition as closer, though it remains to be seen if he can maintain his production as closer that he showed in 2006 (36 saves in 43 opportunities with Florida). Andy Marte is a subpar option at third base, but the only viable one at this time. Betancourt and Hernandez are great set-up men, but aging and weary. The offense is solid and should produce this year, especially with the additions of Barfield (San Diego), Nixon (Boston), and Dellucci (Philadelphia).
A largely unchanged offense from 2006 will deliver on its big promises in 2007. Granderson will need to cut down on the strikeouts (174 last year) in order to develop further his effectiveness as a leadoff hitter. The addition of Gary Sheffield as full-time DH will add another dimension of power to this solid lineup. Jose Mesa joins an already deep bullpen featuring Todd Jones, Joel Zumaya, Fernando Rodney, and Wil Ledezma. Chad Durbin has a lot to prove in order to remain with the club as the fifth starter. Bonderman, Maroth, Robertson and Verlander have evolved from joke of the league to class of the AL. This is truly an exciting team to watch and one of the teams to beat in the AL.
Kansas City Royals
A roster of parts has no unifying figure to lead them, and it will show glaringly in 2007. Mike Sweeney, Mark Teahen, David DeJesus, and Alex Gordon all post consistently solid offensive numbers, but without a true superstar among them, there will be no one there to help them string together the hits they need to win games. The pitching rotation is also a number of parts, with a number of solid pitchers but no true ace among them. Gil Meche comes over from Seattle to anchor a rotation that is growing and learning. Meche and Odalis Perez must teach the younger pitchers how to work deep into games. Zach Greinke has the stuff to be a 20-game winner but needs to work on his command within the strike zone. Bullpen lacks depth – no consistent relievers beyond Octavio Dotel (closer) and Todd Wellemeyer (set-up).
The Twins always seem to be around when the season wraps up. This year might prove to be their most difficult year yet, as the rotation is as thin and unproven as it has been in the past five years. Beyond Johan Santana, who is easily the best pitcher in the AL (if not the entire MLB), the other starters will have their work cut out for them. Boof Bonser will need to do better than one game over .500 this year (7-6 in limited 2006 action), and Ortiz, Silva, and Ponson will need to improve from last year (all three posted sub-.500 records in full-season action). The bullpen can get the job done in the late game, and the offense will keep the team in any game (the lineup is largely unchanged from last year’s roster), but if the starting pitching cannot keep the game close, the bats will falter more often than not.
5. Kansas City