2010 MLB Preview: AL Central

In order to help get you ready for the MLB season, we’re doing division-by-division rankings with quick overviews on how each club could fair in 2010. Next to each team, you’ll also find a corresponding number written in parenthesis, which indicates where we believe that club falls in a league-wide power ranking. Be sure to check back throughout the next two weeks leading up to the season, as we will be updating our content daily. Enjoy.

All 2010 MLB Preview Content | AL East Preview | AL Central Preview | AL West Preview | NL East | NL Central | NL West

Next up is the AL Central.

1. Chicago White Sox (9)
Some folks will think that this is too high for the White Sox – that they should be behind the Twins and out of the top 10 in terms of the overall power rankings. Some folks will say that Jake Peavy won’t be healthy all season and that the Chi Sox will once again falter as they try to live station to station on offense. Well, I say the folks that disagree with my opinion are friggin idiots. Harsh? Yeah, but it also needed to be said. I realize that I’m taking a risk by moving the Sox to the head of the AL Central, but really, it’s hard to argue that this division isn’t a crapshoot anyway. Every team has question marks heading into the season but at the end of the day, pitching makes or breaks a team. I realize Peavy missed all of last year due to injury, but the Sox were second in the AL in pitching last season with a 4.14 ERA without him. If he stays healthy, Peavy will only add to Chicago’s solid rotation (which also features Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Freddy Garcia) and the addition of J.J. Putz should bolster the bullpen as well. Outside of injuries, the only thing that could potentially hold Chicago back this year is its offense. What do you mean that’s kind of a big deal? I’m banking that youngster Gordon Beckham develops quickly and that Carlos Quentin and Alex Rios return to form. I also think the Sox will get key contributions from the additions GM Kenny Williams made this offseason in Andruw Jones, Juan Pierre and Mark Teahen. I’m not expecting the Sox to magically transform into the Yankees of the AL Central, but I do believe they have enough offense to get by while their pitching carries them to a playoff berth.

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Hot Stove Rumors: Lackey, Guerrero & Doumit

The Red Sox are interested in John Lackey
According to Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald, the Red Sox met with John Lackey’s agent at the GM meetings last week in Chicago. Lackey, 31, went 11-8 this season with a 3.83 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 139 strikeouts but he also battled elbow issues.

The Rangers are showing interest in Vladimir Guerrero
Already stacked with hitters, the Rangers have shown interest in free agent DH Vlad Guerrero according to FOXSports.com. If Texas can afford him, Vlad would be an ideal fit just based on his .394 batting average in 50 career games at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

The Pirates may be open to trading Ryan Doumit
According to FOXSports.com, the Pirates are considering trading catcher Ryan Doumit, who hit .250 last season with 10 home runs and 38 RBI in 280 at-bats. He is set to earn $3.55 million in 2010 and $5.1 million in 2011 and could draw interest from several teams.

Mariners interested in Harden?
According to the Seattle Times, the Mariners have interest in Rich Harden, who went 9-9 with a 4.09 ERA and 1.34 WHIP for the Cubs last season. Despite battling injuries, he was successful in five seasons in the AL with the A’s.

Thome returning to Chicago?
According to the Chicago Tribune, Jim Thome said that he would love to return to the White Sox, who traded him to the Dodgers at the deadline last season. Thome is a Peoria, Illinois native.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Mikey’s MLB power rankings

We are now in September, which means pennant races are becoming reality and every game is more meaningful.

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Dodgers acquire Garland, Thome for stretch run

On the same day that the Giants signed starter Brad Penny and the Rockies added starter Jose Contreras, the Dodgers one-upped their division rivals by acquiring starter Jon Garland from the Diamondbacks and slugger Jim Thome from the White Sox.

From MLB.com:

In return, the White Sox will receive Minor League infielder Justin Fuller. The D-backs will receive a player to be named, who, according to several Dodgers, will be Tony Abreu, but Abreu needs to first clear waivers. Abreu once was considered a top infield prospect, but his progress was stalled by three years of injuries.

The right-handed Garland, 29, moves into a rotation that has struggled to find a fifth starter all season and has been further weakened by the loss of Hiroki Kuroda, who was hit on the head by a line drive. Garland is expected to take the place of knuckleball specialist Charlie Haeger, with Vicente Padilla holding the spot for Kuroda, who could return to the rotation as soon as Sunday.

Thome, 12th on the all-time list with 564 career home runs, will give the Dodgers the left-handed threat that Matt Stairs provides the Phillies, who beat the Dodgers with a home run off the bench in the playoffs last year.

Coupled with their addition of Ronnie Belliard over the weekend, the Dodgers have set themselves up for a World Series run with these two moves. After the Rockies got within two games of the division lead in the NL West last week, L.A. clearly isn’t taking any chances as they head into the final month of the season. These moves fortify the back of the rotation, their bench, and their overall position depth.

Top 10 MLB active free passes

There are some batters that no pitcher wants to face, especially in a crucial situation with runners on base, or with first base open. But some guys are intentionally walked with regularity, and in some cases, even with the bases loaded to give up one run instead of four. Here is the current Top 10 among active players in intentional walks. Pitchers, proceed at your own risk…..

1. Ken Griffey, Seattle Mariners (244)—Of course this guy has always been a feared slugger, but he had a career high 25 intentionals in 1993, and the year he slugged 56 homers with 147 RBI on his way to winning the AL MVP (1997), Griffey was intentionally walked 23 times. Yikes. But before we get all excited about that, consider that Barry Bonds was given the free pass 120 times in 2004, a league record that surely will never be broken.

2. Vladimir Guerrero, Los Angeles Angels (240)—He’s topped 20 seven times and 30 once. Is he that feared or are pitchers tired of looking at that crap on Vlad’s helmet?

3. Manny Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers (199)—‘Roids, no ‘roids, hormones, no hormones, whatever. This is the one guy in baseball I am never pitching to if I don’t have to.

4. Carlos Delgado, New York Mets (186)—As a Mets fan, I’m just glad my team doesn’t have to face this guy. There is always the potential to hit one 600 feet the opposite way.

5. Todd Helton, Colorado Rockies (172)—You don’t give a guy like Helton anything to hit, not with a .329 lifetime batting average, as well as an average of 30 homers and 109 RBI per season.

6. Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals (160)—Oh yeah, screw what I said about Manny. I forgot about Albert. He’s only 29 years old and should easily hit 700 homers or more. THIS is the guy I don’t ever pitch to if it’s not necessary.

7. Jim Thome, Chicago White Sox (159)—It’s interesting to note that in the ‘90’s Thome and Ramirez typically had single digits in free passes. That’s because if you put them on, you still had to face Albert Belle or Eddie Murray.

8. Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves (143)—It’s kind of funny that Chipper’s intentional walks are declining as he’s becoming a better and better hitter.

9. Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners (129)—This one baffles me. Why put a guy on who averages 40 steals per season?

10. Gary Sheffield, New York Mets (128)—A nice, long career, and sheer intimidation at the plate, even today at age 40.

Source: Baseball Reference

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