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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White Sox’s Buehrle throws perfect game

With a ton of help from centerfielder Dewayne Wise, White Sox’s starter Mark Buehrle threw a perfect game Thursday against the Rays. He already had a no-hitter on his resume and the perfect game came after throwing 116 pitches and striking out six.

Wise (who was a defensive replacement that inning…nice work, Ozzie Guillen) made the play of the year in the ninth inning, racing back on a Gabe Kapler shot to left-center that looked like it was going to be a home run. Wise leaped up against the wall, robbed Kapler of the dinger and then hung onto the ball (while falling to the ground) barehanded after it popped out of his glove. If you haven’t seen this play yet, do yourself a favor and turn on ESPN News and check it out, because that catch is going to be talked about all season.

It’s amazing how much Buehrle’s perfect game parallels Giants’ starter Jonathan Sanchez’s no-hitter from a couple weeks ago. Sanchez had a no-hitter going into the ninth (he missed the perfect game after Juan Uribe booted a grounder at third) and after retiring the first batter in the inning, allowed a near-home run that centerfielder Aaron Rowand had to snag while crashing into the wall a la Wise.

Another similarity from the two outings is that catcher Eli Whiteside had never caught Sanchez before his no-hitter. Ironically, Ramon Castro had not caught Buhrle this season before his perfect game. One more: both guys did it in their home parks. Pretty cool.

What a phenomenal accomplishment from one of the more steady starters of his time. Jayson Stark of ESPN said it best (and I’m paraphrasing here): ‘Buehrle is what pitching is all about. He mixes his pitches so well and he doesn’t try and strike guys out – he pitches to contact.’

Well said. I’ll add that this guy doesn’t throw 95 mph (he doesn’t even throw 90 mph on most occasions), but he just knows how to pitch. He works the count, he works at a fast tempo and he’s incredibly smart. He’s been solid his entire career and young pitchers could certainly learn from this guy.

2009 MLB Preview: #16 Chicago White Sox

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Offseason Movement: GM Kenny Williams made a pair of trades that could help the Sox in the near future. Williams first traded outfielder Nick Swisher to the Yankees for Jeff Marquez and Wilson Betemit, then dealt veteran pitcher Javier Vazquez to Atlanta for catching prospect Tyler Flowers and infielder Brent Lillibridge. Marquez has a chance to earn the fifth spot in the rotation, although a hamstring injury could hold him back. The Sox also added veteran pitcher Bartolo Colon and young Cuban defector Dayan Viciedo.

Top Prospect: Gordon Beckham, SS
Beckham helped lead Georgia to a second-place finish at last year’s College World Series, hitting .474 with five dingers and 2 RBI in 14 games. At one point during the college season last year, he was also tied for the Division I lead for home runs with 28. Thus far in spring training, Beckham is 6-for-18 with four doubles and two home runs. The 22-year old prospect probably won’t make the Opening Day roster, but once he learns how to play second after making the switch from shortstop in college, Beckham is going to be playing big league ball.

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Top 10 Active MLB Control Artists

Show me a pitcher who doesn’t walk many batters, and I’ll show you a pitcher that wins games. Plain and simple, if you don’t hurt yourself by putting guys on base, you’re going to be in games and win a good portion of them. Here, we take a look at those active pitchers with the best control, i.e. those hurlers who yield the least amount of walks per nine innings. Interestingly, the Top 10 consists of all starting pitchers……

1. Carlos Silva, Seattle Mariners (1.634)–Okay, so Carlos Silva has lost more games than he’s won (59-60), but he’s pitching for the pathetic Mariners this year. What I’m saying is, 4-14 for a team that is 46-75 isn’t bad. And check this out…in 2005 with Minnesota, Silva pitched 188 1/3 innings and walked only nine batters. That’s just sick.

2. Jon Lieber, Chicago Cubs (1.725)–Journeyman Jon Lieber has been in the bigs since 1994, and has never walked more than 51 batters in a season. There’s no doubt his career ERA of 4.26 would be much higher if it weren’t for his excellent control.

3. Greg Maddux, San Diego Padres (1.803)–What, you expected not to see Mr. Maddux on here? Control is to Greg Maddux’ game what hot sauce is to Buffalo wings.

4. Ben Sheets, Milwaukee Brewers (1.960)–Sheets has never won more than twelve games in a season, but part of that is because he can’t stay off the disabled list. Sheets has nearly four times as many career strikeouts (1181) as walks (303) in seven-plus seasons.

5. Curt Schilling, Boston Red Sox (1.962)–It’s too bad that if we play word association, I’ll say “Curt Schilling” and you’ll say “bloody sock.” Then again, that also sums up the grit and determination of this guy. If I need to win a game, he’s one of maybe five pitchers I’ll give the ball to.

6. Mike Mussina, New York Yankees (1.987)–If you can see the concentration in a pitcher’s eyes, you know he’s focused on putting the ball over the plate and trying to get the hitter out. And how about this? In 18 seasons, Mussina has only hit 58 batters and thrown 71 wild pitches. Also, his 265-151 career record shows that my theory above has a bit of validity.

7. Mark Buehrle, Chicago White Sox (2.060)–Though he’s only won 117 games in almost nine seasons, Mark Buehrle is a workhorse (has never pitched less than 200 innings in a full season) who keeps his White Sox in games.

8. Roy Oswalt, Houston Astros (2.084)–Do you get the feeling Roy Oswalt hasn’t yet reached his potential? The guy is 122-62 since breaking into the majors in 2001, with a 3.20 ERA and 1286 strikeouts. And his control (360 walks, 16 wild pitches) isn’t too shabby, either.

9. Paul Byrd, Boston Red Sox (2.119)–I’m not sure that Byrd throws harder than 80 miles per hour, but there’s no doubt he can still get hitters out, which is why the Red Sox just obtained him from the Indians. And he gets better with age….in 2005 with the Angels, Byrd walked 28 batters in 204 1/3 — that’s 1.2 batters per game.

10. Roy Halladay, Toronto Blue Jays (2.127)–With a 124-64 record over 11 seasons with mostly mediocre Toronto, Roy Halladay has consistently been one of the game’s best pitchers during his career.

Source: Baseball Reference

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