Friday, April 07, 2006
We Need Some Kansas City
It's hard not to think that the AL Central isn't the toughest division in baseball. All those East Coast Media Elites would probably say that the AL East is the best division with Red Sox and Yankees and their proximity to Bristol and all. But, with Minnesota having great pitching, the Toons having great hitting and decent pitching, the Sox with great pitching and good hitting, and the Tigers having very good hitting and a pitching staff with MAJOR upside, I think that the AL Central is, top to fourth place, the best division around. Certainly, the AL Central is tougher now than at any point since its creation in 1994, with the possible exception of 1994 itself.
Notice I said top to fourth place. The Royals are dreadful - and much has been written about that fact. If it weren't for the Nationals, I'd say they were not only the worst team in baseball, but that they were also the worst organization. (Certain bad teams can have good organizations loaded with prospects, like the 1998-2000 Twins). They are going to lose 100+ games this year, if not 110 or 120. By God, Scott Elarton, the fifth starter for the Indians last year, was their Opening Day guy this year. Think of that - the #1 starter on the Royals wouldn't even make the rotation in Minnesota or Chicago, and probably would stay in the 5th spot in Cleveland. In Detroit, he'd be behind Kenny Rogers, Bonderman, Verlander, and perhaps Maroth - not any better than a #4. And then the Kansas City rotation gets much worse.
In terms of pitching matchups, it's hard to see how the Royals can win more than 40-50 games this year. Javier Vazquez matches up with Elarton on Saturday, and Vazquez is by far the better pitcher. When your #1 guy is way behind another team's #5, you are going to be the underdogs every game you play all season.
Nor are the Royals likely to hit their way out of their mess. Here are the career OPS's of the Royals' starting lineup on Opening Day:
Sure, that's not the worst lineup in the major leagues, but it is a well-below average offense. They were 12th in the league in scoring last year, and the two guys with the highest career OPS's - Sweeney and Sanders, are in their 32-year-old and 38-year-old seasons, respectively. They aren't exactly pictures of health.
So a trip to Kansas City is exactly what the Sox need. They should be favored to win, and by all rights should win all three games in KC (with the possible exception of tonight's game vs. Affeldt, who can be a great pitcher at times). Of course, I'm jinxing them by posting this, but if you cannot beat Kansas City two out of three, then we really should worry about the Sox this season.
FYI, I don't think the Sox offense is much (or any) better than the Royals (which isn't saying much for either team). Both of these teams are going to struggle to score runs.
But it sure does stink to have Scott Elarton as your opening day starter.