ESPN Watch: Central Controversy

After this article, I swear I'll write about something other than ESPN for awhile. However, they've managed to get it all wrong again. Jerry Crasnick published an article yesterday about who he saw as the two surprise teams this year. The Brewers and the Twins. Now I actually think his comments on the Brewers were well thought out, and there is some evidence to suggest that they could be good enough to pick up a Wild Card berth. The Astros lost a piece or two, and will need another starter to stay in contention. The Cubs always find a way to blow it, and the Reds and Pirates suffer from a complete lack of an organizational strategy, and the West and East in the NL haven't been very good, as a whole recently.

But the Twins? The Twins would be a surprise to contend in the AL Central? The Twins who won the division three years running (2002 to 2004)? The twins who added a .313/.348/.489 slugger and a .301/.391/.374 leadoff man? By the way, only three regulars in the offense posted any one stat better than White, and none posted a higher overall line (Mauer and LeCroy had better OBP, Hunter had a slightly higher SLG), and White's one liability, his defense, is mitigated by the fact that he will be playing as a DH. Castillo's OBP is easily higher than any Twin last year, and his career average for SB is almost double the highest Twin total. True, they did lose Jacque Jones, but he hit .249/.319/.438 last season and hit 254/.315/.427 the year before. Mauer should also be better than he was last season, with men on base to drive in and protection behind him in the order. All the intentional walks for Mauer should go down too. Opposing teams took the bat out of his hands last year, knowing he was the only real power threat on the team. Now that he should have more opportunities to hit in situations where the pressure is on the pitcher, he could do some damage.

And let's not forget the 2004 AL Cy Young winner (who was damn close this season as well) and his backup Radke. This is a 1-2 punch that most teams would kill to have. The bullpen, even with the loss of Romero, is rock solid, and should remain so for a long time.

So, no, the Twins don't surprise me, and I think they have an excellent shot to win the AL Central. When you take into account that the White Sox had 36 one-run victories in the regular season (over 36 % of their wins), and if you believe in the Bill James wisdom on one-run games (that they're luck), they don't look that dominant. They're dangerous, as are the Indians, but the Sox aren't the juggernauts they're made out to be, and the Indians didn't do enough to improve. I expect to see a three horse race, and if the Twins come out on top, well, I wouldn't be surprised.

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