A couple of weeks ago, we took an early look at how the National League Central might play out in the aftermath of the trades of Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum to the Milwaukee Brewers. Today, we'll move over to the American League Central and see if the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers have made the improvements necessary to catch the Minnesota Twins.
Despite winning 94 games and going to the playoffs for the sixth time in nine years, the Twins ended the 2010 season on a sour note. With Justin Morneau unavailable for the postseason due to lingering effects from a July concussion, the team extended its postseason losing streak to 12 games. Minnesota bested the White Sox last year by six games and the Tigers by more than a dozen, but with the latter two teams among the more aggressive teams this offseason, will that cushion hold up?
To look at the (very) early 2011 standings, I used the 2011 ZiPS Projections for the five AL Central teams and divided the at-bats based on expected lineups and rotations. Using Bill James' Pythagorean method, I made win estimates based on how the teams are currently constructed.
As has been the case over the past few years in the AL Central, 2011 looks to be a close fight between the top three teams. As of this moment, ZiPS sees the White Sox as an 87-win team, the Tigers two games back at 85 wins and the Twins closely following at 84. So, what are the crucial questions left for the trio of contenders in the division and what can be done before pitchers and catchers report, an event now less than two months off?