White Sox 21
White Sox--Jake Peavy/Mark Buerhle/Gavin Floyd/John Danks/Freddy Garcia-4.5
Twins--Scott Baker/Kevin Slowey/Nick Blackburn/Francisco Liriano/Carl Pavano-9
Tigers--Justin Verlander/Rick Porcello/Armando Gallaraga/Jeremy Bonderman/Max Scherzer 13.5
Royals--Zack Greinke/Gil Meche/Kyle Davies/Luke Hochever/Brian Bannister-18
Indinas--Fausto Carmona/Jake Westbrook/Justin Masterson/David Huff/Aaron Laffey
Cluster A: White Sox/Twins--Ultimately this comes down to a couple of areas 1) Can Jake Peavy Stay Healthy? 2) Can Freddy Garcia stay healthy and be productive? 3) Can Francisco Liriano stay healthy and be effective?
The White Sox get the nod for a couple of reasons 1) While both teams have decent depth from 1-5, the talent in the White Sox rotation is better 2) Jake Peavy looks more likely than Liriano to stay healthy and even if Liriano stays healthy it is still unlikely we are not going to see the Francisco Liriano that dominated the summer of 2006.
The Tigers and Royals are in Cluster B: Kansas City's ace (Greinke) gets the nod over Verlander however the supporting cast for Kansas City (Meche/Bannister) is not close to the caliber of Detroit's mid-rotation starters (Porcello.....tough to believe he'll only be 21 and Max Scherzer who looks primed for a breakout season.
Cleveland is projected Fausto Carmona as their staff ace.....nuff said.
Twins- Joe Nathan/Matt Guerrier/Jose Mijares-4.5
Royals-Joakim Soria/Robinson Tejeda/Kyle Farnsworth-9
White Sox-Bobby Jenks/Matt Thornton/J.J Putz-13.5
Tigers-Joel Zumaya/Ryan Perry/Bobby Seay-18
Indians-Kerry Wood/Chris Perez/Jensen Lewis-22.5
Twins have the best bullpen (by far) and the best closer (Joe Nathan) by a pretty good margin. The Royals got their ranking solely based because of Soria and despite Kyle Farnsworth. The Royals aren't going to get many chances to win but Soria will do his part to squander very few of those chances. I'm not overly optimistic on Jenks having a strong year. I get creeped out everytime I see a recent ex-closer (J.J Putz) hanging out in middle relief (this combo screams a red light similar to the Fuentes/Rodney combo from Los Angeles of Anaheim).
If this was a competition of who could throw the fastest fastball or the competition of who struck out 20 batters in a game once, the Tigers and Indians would be ranked higher than they actually are.
Speaking of Kerry Wood, i'm closing this out on a rant where I tie in Kerry Wood and Al Bundy. The career of Kerry Wood and the life of Al Bundy both started pretty sweet. Kerry Wood burst onto the scene in '98 and struck out 20 in a single game. Al Bundy had a pretty sweet life in high school as he scored 4 touchdowns in the same game.
But then luck and circumstances changed things. Wood struggled with injuries for a few years but eventually bounced back and had a few gasps of brilliance (i.e the 2003 season). The struggles in Wood's career and the struggles in Bundy's life can both be placed on external sources (Dusty Baker/Peg Bundy).
Kerry Wood spent the next few years in a world of injuries, simulated games and hanging out at the disabled list before settling into the role of closer for a flailing Indians team. Al Bundy on the other hand ended up selling shoes and being perpetually unlucky. This part sort of messes up the analogy because while Kerry Wood didn't become the superstar/hall of famer everyone expected him to be, it is still 10 years later and he still has a job in the bigs which even if it's not for a great team, your still in the bigs. Sadly, Al Bundy has no shot of redemption as he's stuck selling womens shoes at the mall in syndication.
Anyway, our final rankings:
White Sox 39
If this holds up the Twins will be fighting for their playoff lives till the bitter end for the third straight year (and being sucessful for the second straight year). I was surprised that the Royals snuck into third for these rankings but that happens to be more on the strength of Greinke and Soria and based on these rankings it in no way indicates them having any hope of contending.