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Spreadsheet Baseball: AL Central Round-Up

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NHZ's AL Central Roundup is now updated and 100% complete.

The phrases "toughest division in baseball" or "worst division in baseball" get thrown around way too much, in this humble stathead's opinion. Too often, these phrases are just tacked-on irrationally at the end of an argument to make a point, ESPN style. I can just picture it now: John Kruk argues that John Lackey/Bronson Arroyo/Tom Glavine is "the best pitcher in baseball, because he's pitching in the best division!" What? You say that Krukkie doesn't always get to express his own opinions? Now there's shame: a waist is a terrible thing to mind, you know. Or the other way around, as the case may be. I digress. The AL Central this year has been a good division, being one of the two in baseball that houses three winning teams; the other is the NL West, where none of the three winning teams is more than seven games over .500. The AL Central has two teams--Tigers and Indians--who hold the distinction of being ten games over.

In the past years, the argument always always always seems to be, from the MSSM anyway, that the AL East is the best division in baseball. Guess why that is? Naw, it doesn't have anything to do with the whole Red Sox v. Yankee thing or the east coast bias that pervades ESPN's coverage.

Heh, I'm just messing with you. Of course it does. But the fact is, the AL Central is pretty  damn good this year. The win-loss differential for the division is +13, leaving the NL West again chomping at the AL Central's heels at +10 for second place, not including any games played thus far today. So if you go by that instead of listening to Steve Phillips and Orel Hershiser and such, the AL Central is the best division in baseball right now. The AL East, for those of you wondering, if five games under .500. They only have one winning team, in fact. That team is 9.5 games up right now. Hee hee.

Anyhow, today we're going to take a cursory look at the teams that make the AL Central "BEST DIVISION IN BASEBALL" mojo possible. From the top down, naturally, because we always save the best for last.

Detroit Tigers, 1st Place (now 2nd!),

Thus far, Los Tigres have shaken off the World Series Loser Jinx, partly because it doesn't really exist (and I might have made it up to sound cool), to regain first place thanks to the Native Americans losing their last two games to the hottest team in baseball (Royals are the only team in the bigs to have won 8 out of their last ten games, sucka! Plus, if you want "hottest" to have a double meaning, I've got it from a reliable source that some of the Royals are not exactly fugly.com-ers). The Tigers are managed by the ever-exciting Jim Leyland, who looks like perhaps he needs to start walking with a cane. However, despite his weathered exterior, Leyland's inner moxie has driven the working-class personas of the Tigers to do their best and yadda yadda their in first place. They've cooled a bit recently, but the Royals just recently stole the hottest team in baseball title from them. 28-17...29-17 now, actually, is nothing to sneeze at. Especially if you look at the World Series Champs. Ouch.

Why the Tigers are in First

Other than Leyland's guidance, a couple things stick out about the Tigers' success this year; the pitching has been solid, and the offense is being carried by four players right now while the rest of the hitters are mired in the problems of low-OBPity. A huge lift for Tigers offense has been the resurgence of Magglio Ordonez back towards MVP form, as the right fielder is destroying the ball to the tune of a .345/.429/.691 line. He's already hit half as many home runs as he did all of last year, and walked 25 times as compared to the 45 he took last season. His 31.0 VORP at this early stage is ridiculous, meaning that his hitting has been worth three full games already this season. Helping him out have been the normally whiff-prone Curtis Granderson, at .282/.346/.582, the MSSM-underrated Carlos Guillen, at .321/.393/.512, and the batting average-high version of Placido Polanco, at .335/.382/.415.

Turning to the pitching, Justin Verlander (2.68 ERA, 16.6 VORP) and Nate Robertson (3.62 ERA, 11.0 VORP) have been the leaders thus far, both amassing those stats in nine starts. The 'pen has actually been pretty crappy outside of Todd Jones, as Joel Zumaya's having control issues, but Jeremy Bonderman and Chad Durbin have been average thus far, which helps compensate for the badness of the fifth spot.

Who is not pulling their weight?

Jose Mesa amassed a -6.5 VORP in less than nine innings of horrible pitching, and the Tigers would be better off never pitching him again. Sean Casey is a mere shell of the high-OBP, occasional power threat he used to be as he's "hitting" .255/.312/.319. Marcus Thames is hitting for power but his BA is below the Mendoza line. The bullpen fivesome of Grilli, Ledezma, Rodney, Aquilino Lopez, and Bobby Seay has been below average to a man. Craig Monroe is hitting .233/.301/.418, and Neifi Perez is, sadly, on this roster. Did I mention that Ivan Rodriguez stinks? He's hitting .266/.275/.399. That is not what you want out of the lead-off spot, and even the normally set in his ways Leyland seems to have realized that.

These guys should improve.

Jeremy Bonderman has a 4.20 ERA despite DIPS numbers that portend better results: he's striking out eight batters for every nine innings, walking less than two per nine, and his home run rate is perfectly fine .8 per nine. Normally, you'd expect an ERA around 3.40ish out of such numbers, so it looks like Bonderman has been hit unlucky this year so far. His stuff is very good, so his high HA totals seem contradictory. Brandon Inge has started to come around after an awful first couple weeks, and his batting average should come up to around the .250-range when all's said and done. The Iron Shef is at .255/.355/.423 after a similarly miserable start, so it doesn't look like he's quite dead yet. Rodriguez probably isn't as bad as he's been, and Thames would become useful again with a BA spike. I have little confidence in most of the bullpen, but Zumaya and Rodney are both better than they've pitched so far.

Regression alert!

When Polanco's BA comes down, it's only his glove that stops him from being decidely below average.

These guys just stink.

Don't hold your breath waiting for Mike Maroth to improve much, as he's always had very hittable stuff. Monroe really isn't much of a hitter any more, as his limited time as a useful corner bat appears to be just about up, and Sean Casey might have one foot in the grave.

What should change for the team to continue to succeed.

A lot of the improvements I talked about should help the Tigers continue to contend, but it remains to be seen if Durbin/Miner/Maroth really are servicable in the long run. If there's any solid pitching on the market at the deadline, the Tigers should be working the phones. Giving Chris Shelton another shot at holding down the first base job would be a step in the right direction as well; he can't be much worse than Casey, that's for sure.

Outlook

I picked the Indians to win this division, and I'm not wavering from that pick. The Tigers are a solid team, but I don't like the back end of that rotation or the bullpen, and I'm not sure that Andrew Miller is the answer to either one this year. Their line-up has a lot of guys with a history of low-OBPs, so they need to continue to have their stars carry them. When all's said and done, I think the Tigers will contend 'til the end but come up short of a play-off berth.

Cleveland Indians, 2nd Place (now 1st!),

You're only surprised to see the Tribe ten games over five hundred if you didn't read the thousands of articles about how they were due for a rebound in 2007. In this case, it appears majority rules; here the Indians are, in early contention, and before the Royals smacked them down the last two games, they were atop the AL Central. To put it statheadedly, those who pointed out that the run differential from last year that had the Indians projected as a winning team seem to be correct; now that the Indians have another season to work with, their luck is evening out. It probably helps that the pitching is a bit better as well. Why the Indians are winning.

There are very few players in the league who can hit .278/.434/.483 and have any significant amount of people say "meh, when's he going to get it going?" But that's basically the situation with Travis Hafner, who slugged over .600 this year. It doesn't really look like there's anything wrong--he's still got 9 homers--so the Indians have to be encouraged that they're one game back and their superstar hasn't really opened up the floodgates yet. Hafner's VORP is 15.6, and that still places him among the team leaders, so of course he's still contributing...it's hard not with an OPS over 900. Grady Sizemore continues to get mad props for his purdy face, but I'm actually liking the .273/.388/.459 line from a CF who plays good D even more; Sizemore's got a quick enough bat that his BA and power numbers should come further up, and he should have another great season. He's leading the team in VORP (17.7) by percentage points over the emergent/fluky Fausto Carmona. While the Indians have to like Carmona's miniscule 2.77 ERA over eight starts, he's going to need to seriously improve his peripherals if he's going to hang on to a good ERA: walking 2.44/9 is fine, but striking less than 3.5 batters in every nine innings you pitch is something that only Chien-Ming Wang got away with successfully last year. Does Carmona get grounders to compensate? Stay tuned. C.C. Sabathia is following up a break-out year of sorts with a 3.51 ERA with DIPS to match. Good work, C.C..

Also raking on offense is Victor Martinez, who continues to utterly nullify his so-so defensive work by swatting the hell out of the ball. .319/.400/.507 isn't just great for acatcher, it's good for any hitter. Jhonny Peralta looks poised to have a nice comeback year: he hit only .257/.323/.385 last year, and he's swatting a healthy .273/.349/.513 so far, which is tasty when it's from your shortstop. Paul Byrd wouldn't be the type to go on a walk-a-thon: he's walking 0.59 batters so far this year, enabling him to kick in helpful innings despite underwhelming stuff. Rafael Betancourt and Tom Mastny have been the best guys in the 'pen thus far.

Why the Indians are in second, not first

In other words, let's take a look at the problems the Tribe has. We'll start with the guys who are supposedly groundball-throwin' league average dynamos, Jeremy Sowers and Jake Westbrook. The two have ERAs of 7.13 and 7.90, respectively, and their combined VORP is lower than mine: -16.8. That's almost two wins off the board. Westbrook's problem is that he's walking a few too many guys and then, usually a groundballer, he's giving up almost two home runs per nine innings. That's terrible. Sowers is just having issues getting people out, as he's walking more than he's striking out. Never mind the subpar HR rate, son, eventually you've got to punch someone out on a regular basis if you want to succeed in this league.

There's another pair of offenders in the bullpen, in "Closer" Joe Borowski and "set-up man" Roberto Hernandez. Borowski has only blown two saves, which is a testament to why you should not judge a pitcher on saves/save opps alone; his ERA is a shiny 7.94. Hernandez hasn't bee as bad, but then, neither has, say, lordbyronk or grudz, as both of those Royal Reviewers have higher VORPs than Hernandez's -1.4. In terms of "hitters," Josh Barfield is screwing up to the tune of .230/.259/.322, David Delluci's .227 BA is dragging him down, and Andy Marte was under the Mendoza line and is now hurt.

These guys should improve.

Borowski is striking out people at a rate of more than a batter per inning, and his walk rate is okay, so chance are he'll be alright once he stops giving up so many taters. He's probably been a bit unlucky too. Hafter should get his slugging percentage up in into the high-.500s eventually. Westbrook has a track record that suggests he'll rebound towards being a LAIM again, and we can hope for the same thing for Sowers since they're so alike in their style of pitching. The question is if either will rebound enough to get their ERA below 5.00. Cliff Lee's ERA exploded thanks to last night's game, but he was okay before that and he should rebound as well, though no one's really expecting a 2005 performance again. Sizemore probably has a couple extra BA and SLG points to add on over the course of the year, if Barfield doesn't improve he'll be left with a Berroa-esque line.

These guys just stink.

David Delluci bat his done died this year. His injury history doesn't exactly point to a career extending much further, so it's possible he's just done. I would expect some improvement from him, but not much. Roberto Hernandez has a fork sticking out of him.

Regression alert!

Ryan Garko's good contributions this year (11.6 VORP) are buoyed up by batting average: he's hitting .325/.377/.516 with only six walks on the season against 23 Ks. That's not a good sign. As hinted at before, Carmona needs to improve his K-rate and HR rate or he's going to come crashing back to earth at some point. While not as extreme a drop, I'm pessismistic about Byrd's chances of making it through the year with an ERA under 4.00

What should change in order for the team to win the division.

Hernandez, if not already doomed, should be out of the bullpen picture. It's possible this will be another team to come calling for a starter at the deadline as well, with Sowers and Westbrook being so bad thus far. The Tribe is also in need of a power bat for the corner outfield: Trot Nixon's neat OBP is nullifying his lack of power, but Casey Blake is not a good starter at either third or right field and Delluci's bat is non-existent thus far. If you can swing a bat and stand in the corner of the field, call the Indians. Oh yeah, and the bullpen still is "meh."

Outlook

I don't mean to go all Captain Stats on you--well yeah, I do, but not that much--but if the Indians experience the improvements that seem extremely likely, and make a good trade at the deadline, I see no reason this team can't be bound for the postseason despite some rather obvious flaws. I'm still confident they'll come out on top in the long run.

Chicago White Sox, 3rd Place

Have you ever looked at mediocre-to-bad team that has one component for success in place, while the other unit(s) drag the team down, and felt really sorry for the good guys? Well, here it's the ChiSox pitching, though I admit I have little sympathy for the team run by the two-headed non-sensical monster of Ozzie Guillen and Kenny Williams. My personal biases aside, the pitching has been solid, and it's carrying the White Sox right now because their offense is worse than having to me having to watch twenty-plus middle schoolers while lifeguarding earlier today. And that, my friends, is awful. Note to any middle school boys who've happened upon this site: doing stupid things like smacking yourself into the metal rails of the pool's entrance ramp, attempting yank the lane lines out of the pool wall, trying to drown your friends to get a volleyball...it won't really impress the middle school girls. Trust me, I have a good view of this: they just sit there in an evil little half-circle, laughing at you and talking about awful MTV shows. It's an exercise that ends up waaaaay beyond the point of limited returns.

Where was I? Oh yes, the White Sox are three games over .500 thanks to go starting pitching and some good old-fashioned luck. Mlb.com's expected wins metric has them at 20-23.The good (the pitching).

Somewhat reminisicient of their championship year back in 2005, the ChiSox starters are carrying the load; Javier Vazquez has the highest ERA at 4.21, and the other four starters have ERAs in the threes. Jon Garland is second on the time in VORP, with a 15.8 figure, Mark Buehrle is nipping at his heels at 11.8 with a 3.67 ERA, and Vazquez, 9.1 VORP, John Danks, 8.7 VORP, and Jose Contreras, 4.3 VORP, have all contributed.

There's one real positive note in the hitting department, which is the back-problem-free Jim Thome destroying opposing pitchers at a white-hot .333/.544/.683 clip. Holy moly. The only downside to this is his recent ribcage injury, which has kept his to only 90 PAs so far. I've always been a Thome fan, and I hope he can remain healthy the rest of the year to keep takin' and rakin'. Other positive offensive contributions include no one. Well, maybe AJ Pierzynski, at .255/.303/.468 and a 6.0 VORP, deserves this mention. That's okay production for a catcher.

Bobby Jenks is the leader of the bullpen group, with a 6.1 VORP twice that's near twice that of the next-best contributors, Matt Thornton and David Aardsma. The pen looks decent overall, but has really struggled of late.

The bad (the hitting).

I'm getting lazy, but seriously, all you need to do is read this list The entire offense has been horrendous.

Who should improve.

As I've said, the offense has been pathetic. Some of that is not fixable with the current foster, but you'd certainly expect a guy like Jermaine Dye, hitting only .235/.292/.469, to get better in terms of walk rate and batting average, for sure. This is not to say he will replicate his career year of 2006, but he should continue to be solid in right field. Paul Konerko is another guy with a track record that makes it hard to believe he'd just fall off the map. At .213/.308/.369, his stuggles are even more painful than Dye's, especially considering his contract.

Tadahito Iguchi and Joe Crede are certainly not the sluggers that Dye and Konerko usually are, but you'd expect that they'd bring their lines up from where they are right now. Crede also may've had his career year last year, but it's hard to think that he'll hit .223 the entire year. Iguchi is even less useful right now, as his sub-650 OPS is especially pathetic given that he's not good turning the double play. Pierzynski might gain some BA points and OBP before all's said and done as well.

These guys just stink.

Go back to the VORP list and check out the guys playing left field right now.

It may be time to recognize Juan Uribe as too much as a liability with the bat to continue to pencil him into the line-up. He's hitting a paltry .218/.281/.363, and we've long heard about his all-or-nothing swing. Compounding this is the awful OBP he put up last year and the merely bad one the year before. I'd say Juan's declined to the point were he should be a defensive replacement with a little more pop than your average utility guy.

If you've read more than, say, one Spreadsheet Baseball column or one of the No-Hype Zone posts, you know how high I hold Darin Erstad in regard. He's hiting a punchless .275/.326/.359 as the everyday center fielder, and that's about the high range I'd expect for him this year. It's waste of time giving a guy like that extended playing time on a team that thinks it can contend.

Regression alert!

Jon Garland is apparently retiring hitters with smoke and mirrors, because he's only King about three and a half batters per nine innings. His walk rate is good, but there's no reason to expect him to hold down his ERA below four. Mark Buerhle's had a nice start to the year, but he's giving up too many HRs (1.29 hr rate) and is over his head when it comes to his K-rate if we look at his career rates. He'll also fall off a bit in the long run. Needless to say, Thome won't be OPSing 1.200 all season.

Outlook

This team will hover around .500 for a while, but once the offense "coming alive" proves to be not that big a boost, and the over-their-head pitchers fall back to the pack, they should start to sink. This is a team with a glaring hole in left field, whose pitching staff isn't as good as it's showed thus far, and is run by one of the worst managers in baseball. I'm still predicting that the Royals could push them for fourth.

Here we go again. Last two teams being added. I'm impressed that so many of yas like the Indians.

Minnesota Twins, 4th Place

Well shoot, who knew that replacing Brad Radke and Francisco Liriano with Ramon Ortiz and Sidney "Beached Whale" Ponson wouldn't work that well? To be fair, the Twinkies are scuffling on both sides of the ball, and that's why they're not living up to pre-season expectations and their quick start. This team's FO appears to have learned little to nothing from their ditching of veteran chaff last season, and once again we're going to see if Terry Ryan can swallow some crow and put the best team on the field that he can.

Why the Twins are wallowing in 4th.

Well, it turns out it doesn't matter how scrappy you are if you really can't hit. Sooner or later, Nick Punto was bound to be exposed for what he is: a utility guy who had a passable season thanks to a fluky .290 BA, when he career BA is .256. Sure, he takes a walk every now and again, but a third basemen hitting .224/.322/.283 is a major drag on an offense, to the tune of a -4.5 VORP. Jason Kubel has also been dismal in the starting line-up, hitting .254/.310/.354 and leaving Twins fans wondering if he'll ever again display the promise he did early last year. Jason Bartlett, a key cog in last year's stretch drive, is hitting a sickly .240/.329/.295. At least the lad is walking.

The bench has been horrible outside of Mike Redmond's efforts, as the foursome of Casilla, Rodriguez, Tyner, and Cirillo have chipped in 260 PAs and have hit so badly they've cost the team one full win as measured by VORP.

And the pitching. I don't mean to sound like a repetitive jerk, but it wasn't hard to see this coming. Ramon Ortiz and Sir Sidney have conspired to give the Twins a truly awful back of the rotation. The good news is that they've already DFAed fatty and his fatter 6.93 ERA. Bad news is that Ortiz's 5.36 is apparently good enough to keep him in the rotation. Ye gods.

On the positive side...

This team still has the young core of Justin Morneau (.282/.356/.569) and Joe Mauer (.353/.446/.480) hitting the horsehide off the ball. Mauer is an on-base machine, and Morneau puts the fear of god in every pitcher as he lumbers to the plate. Torii Hunter is making his case for a big contract at season's end, swatting at a ridiculous .314/.350/.599 pace with 11 homers and a team-leading 20.1 VORP.

On the pitching front, the team still has this guy named Santana. All he's done is post a 19.2 VORP this season, with a 3.05 ERA thus far. If there's any manifestation of his usual slow start, it's the high home run rate, but Johan's worked around that nicely. His K-Rate is a ridiculous 11.08 per nine. Oh, doctor. Boof Bonser and, surprisingly, Carlos Silva have done a decent job behind Santana, just not good enough to off-set Ponson's damage and Ortiz's continued suckage.

With Juan Rincon fighting it a bit right now, that's left Pat Neshek to step up and help ultra-badass closer Joe Nathan out. Neshek, along with Matt Guerrier, who pitchers in lower leverage situations, has a double-digit VORP. Kudos to them, it's not easy to do that as a reliever this early in the year. If you get a chance, watch Neshek pitch. That delivery is simply beautiful; it's a herky jerky jumble of arms and legs that almost invariably leaves right-handed hitters stunned and walking back to the dugout. Nathan's off to a slow start by his standards, which means a 2.08 ERA and no home runs allowed in 21 innings.

These guys should improve.

Michael Cuddyer emerged as a good power bat last year, and is only hitting .279/.339/.451. I expect bigger things from him this season. I also like Bartlett to rebound towards the useful level he hit at last year. Rincon may be becoming something less than the ace set-up man he's been for a the last few years, but his performance record indicates he should rebound from the poor walk rate (almost six per nine) he's shown so far this year. Kubel is basically in a make-or-break point in his career, and I like him to rediscover some of his power stroke. Nothing special, but I think he's capable of being league average.

These guys just stink.

Ortiz and Punto. These two are killing the team.

Regression Alert!

Hunter. But other than that, it seems as if the Twins are poised to gain some ground if they can get some decent outings from the back of the rotation. It's a positive sign that they don't have a bunch of players over their heads right now.

Outlook

There's plenty of time to bounce back, but Ryan and Gardenhire need to reprise 2006 when they dumped the unproductive chaff from the team. Ramon Ortiz is a not a mlb starter any more, and Nick Punto really never was. Add in the situation with Kubel and Tyner in the outfield and it looks like this is another team that could be shopping for outfield help at the deadline. Overall, I think they will get back over .500 and make a nice run this summer, but I can't see them really challenging the Indians unless Liriano comes back and destroys from the get-go.

YOUR Kansas City Royals, 5th Place with a bullet

What can I say here that y'all don't already know? All of us here pretty much understand what's going on with Blue this season and your don't really need a blurb to confirm it.

Why the Royals are in last.

Welllllll, it'd be easiest to just blame it all on Buddy Bell, but I can make I case that he's actually not the worst manager in his own division. Anyhow, the Royals have problems across the board, but it all begins with the struggles of uberprospect Alex Gordon hitting .194/.308/.304. Even that Isolated Patience (OBP-BA) has to be taken with a grain of salt, given that Gordon has been plunked a bunch this season. Across the diamond is Ryan Shealy, who is hitting .202/.265/.315. Here's hoping his hot couple games indicate that that's at least partially a product of his injury trouble and not his new performance level.

Then, there's Tony Pena Jr. who has never, does not, and will not ever have the batting prowess necessary to be a major league regular without hurting his team. With so many shortstops nowadays hitting league average or above, there's no doubt it's a hit to the Royals to have Pena hitting .262/.294/.343. Getting rid of Berroa was the right move, but it's also the right move to keep searching for a solution at SS. Pena is not it. Emil Brown bitched about being disrespected earlier this year, and I guess he wanted to earn that disrespect, because he's socking a healthy .219/.280/298. With the exception of a majestic three run shot he hit recently, he's been completely and utterly useless. Shane Costa and Angel Berroa have stunk in part-time roles as well. Don't even talk to me about < getting playing time over Buck.

The news is, surprisingly given what the expectations were going into this season, better on the pitching front. However, there's still black sheep there as well. Todd Wellemeyer cost the team (-)8.6 VORP and personally made thousands of Royals fans hoarse as they booed him. He's DFAed. Jason Standridge is apparently a Wellemeyer clone. Ouch. Brian Bannister has been gutty and not much else as his unearned run totals bring him down to replacement level. But really, the overall problem is that, outside of Gil Meche and Brandon Duckworth, nine pitchers that the Royals have used are between 0 VORP and 6.7. That's not horrible individually, but they're not amasssing much value either.

There's good stuff too.

Join the Stops Here McSteamy Fan Club! Why not? The dude is slugging .287/.385/.583 and is ten walks away from last year's total. The news that Buck will play more often is good, as the Royals appear to finally be getting a break-out year from the previously replacement level-hitting catcher. Also a handsome fellow who hits the ball is Mark Teahen, who has made a good transition to RF from 3B and taking and kinda-raking to the tune at a .293/.391/.437. I'd like to see more power from Teahen, but I'm lovin' his skill set and a nigh-.400 OBP is always tasty. Speaking of which: Esteban German, utility badass, is hitting .295/.403/.448. The Royals are already getting him more PAs, but the guy really is worth playing everyday. You might be amazed at how much his offense at second would outweigh his defensive flaws. David DeJesus has slumped recently, but is still contributing well this year. Ross Gload would be a decent bench player when he comes back, just so long as he wasn't overplayed. Mike Sweeney ain't doing anything great, but it's good to see him ambulatory and getting some clutch hits.

As I mentioned above, Gil Meche has been good, bad last start or no. His peripherals may portend a higher ERA, but with a good k-rate and walk rate, he's making up giving up a few too many longballs with a 3.18 ERA and a nifty 14.2 VORP. Brandon Duckworth is apparently the illusionist or something, because it's hard to figure where the outs come from, but he's still getting them. A 2.39 ERA is cool from a guy like him. Jorge de la Rosa appears to have emerged at a solid, mid-rotation guy, and Joakim Soria, Jimmy Gobble, and David Riske have all done good work out of the 'pen.

These guys should improve.

Zack Greinke has A) Too much potential to be in the bullpen B) a DIPS-defying 5.12 ERA or C) a funny name. If you said D-all of the above, you're a gosh-darn bet-hedger, but you're right. I'd like to see him get back in the rotation, as he's done good work out of the pen and I still think he could be a good starting pitcher in the long run. The difference between how much value a mid-rotation starter can give you as opposed to a low-leverage mop-up man is tremendous. Luke Hudson is a guy to watch for if he ever comes back from injury. Shealy has been raking since he came back from injury, and I'm thinking he's starting to turn things around. Joel Peralta has been hit-unlucky thus far this year, as he K-rate is nice and his walk rate encouraging given his control problems in the past. Mark Grudzielanek, currently at .264/.314/.396 and 1.8 VORP, should bring his BA back high enough to be traded to some silly contender. I suppose Brownie isn't really as bad as he's been, though I dunno if he can cobble together a useful season at this point.

We're all certainly hoping, and it would certainly make sense, that Alex Gordon will turn things around and bop the ball around in the second half. His rookie year overall line may be torpedoed by this early slump, but the year is young yet.

These guys just stink.

Standridge has never really showed true major league ability. Sorry Jason. Odalis Perez has the stuff of a softball pitcher, and if he can maintain an ERA low enough, the Royals should flip him to the first team that offers a bagel for him. Scott Elarton is not and never has been good. The thought of him questioning his teammates effort makes me wonder if he was jealous of more successful people.

Regression Alert!

I suppose Buck's line will come down some, but he's still going to have a fine overall season once all's said and done. Meche is probably due to add .5 onto his ERA, but I'll certainly take a 3.70 ERA from him. I don't want to jinx Duckworth, so I won't mention anything else about his methods of getting people out.

Outlook

Some things recently have been looking up for the Royals, and, while I think they're still probably going to wind up in the cellar, this is not a team without promise. If smart trades are made to cash in on veteran chips at deadline, and the young bats come around and lead the Royals to 70 wins, I think I consider that a step in the right direction. I also consider it very probable given the team's recent improveed play.

Spreadsheet Baseball returns next week with more exciting analysis. Apologies for the weird timing of this article. I, quite frankly, cannot wait 'til I'm home and actually have the internet in my house again. Comments are, as always, welcome/encouraged.

Poll

Who will win the AL Central?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Tigers
    (45 votes)
  • 34%
    Indians
    (108 votes)
  • 6%
    ChiSox
    (21 votes)
  • 13%
    Twins
    (42 votes)
  • 20%
    The Surging Boys in Blue
    (63 votes)
  • 10%
    Brewers (wait...uh...we lost them?)
    (33 votes)
312 votes total Vote Now