Instead of going team by team this off season, I will review the divisions as a group. And whereas last year, I used a version of BaseRuns, with some modifications for strength of schedule and the like thrown in, to determine the ranking of teams’ true talent levels, this year I will use WAR as provided here on FanGraphs.
Part Three: The AL Central
The ranks last year were Chicago (6th), Cleveland (11th), Minnesota (15th), Detroit (19th) and Kansas City (24th). Overall, about an average division in 2008 which the actual won-loss records would indicate as well as the division total was just two games over .500. 2009 saw some upheaval as the leaders of 2008 fell off a cliff.
Thanks to a one game playoff, the Twins came ahead of the Tigers to advance into post season play. In WAR land, Minnesota and Detroit were also evenly matched. The Twins totaled 38.1 WAR, good for a tie for 11th place overall. The Tigers were right behind in 13th place with 37.8 WAR.
After those two though there was a sizable gap until the White Sox appeared at 33 WAR, in 19th place. Then in rapid succession came the Indians, 30 WAR and the Royals at 27 WAR, at 21st and 23th overall respectively.
The White Sox were actually one of the better pitching teams in 2009, with an almost flawless rotation and Matt Thornton and D.J. Carrasco providing great bullpen efforts. It was the position players that torpedoed their season. Second worst in all of baseball (the Royals were worst), only four players topped two wins (Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski, Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham) and none topped three. The fielding (-35.6 runs) was just as much of a culprit as the lousy hitting (-40.6 runs).
Here’s a summary of the ranks for the AL Central teams, with 2008 first.
CHW: 6, 19
CLE: 11, 21
MIN: 15, 11
DET: 19, 13
KCR: 24, 23
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