American League Central Nuggets to Know

March, 29, 2011
3/29/11
11:59
AM ET
Chicago White Sox
They owned the league’s lowest WAR from designated hitters (-0.8) last season. If Adam Dunn’s WAR this season is somewhere around 3.4 (approximately what it would have been over the last six seasons if he didn’t have to play any defense), then he should greatly impact an offense that ranked seventh in runs in the American League in 2010.

Has Gordon Beckham turned the corner? Last season he entered the All-Star break with a .216 batting average and .581 OPS. But in the second half, he hit .310 with an .877 OPS.

Cleveland Indians
Their bullpen rated among the best in the American League in the second half of the 2010 season. Among the standouts was Chris Perez, who was amazing after the All-Star break (16 saves in 17 chances, 0.63 ERA, 28 ⅔ IP, 0 HR allowed, 32 K). Among pitchers with at least 60 innings, Perez's 1.71 ERA was the sixth lowest by an Indians pitcher in the expansion era (since 1961).

Shin-Soo Choo ranked second in the American League in Wins Above Replacement at 7.3, according to Baseball-Reference.com.

Detroit Tigers
Their starting rotation may have an emerging star in Max Scherzer, whose 2010 season did a 180 after a brief demotion to the minor leagues. He was 1-4 with a 7.29 ERA when he was sent down, but returned to go 11-7 with a 2.46 ERA in his final 23 starts.

Justin Verlander averaged a Game Score of 61 over his last 17 starts in 2010. To put that into perspective, Roy Halladay, the NL Cy Young Award winner last season, averaged a Game Score of 63 for the entire season. In other words, Verlander pitched at a near-Cy Young-level over the second half of his season.

Kansas City Royals
The quintent of Kyle Davies, Jeff Francis, Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen and Vin Mazzaro appear to be the Royals' rotation to start the season. Those five pitchers combined to have a 7.2 WAR last season. As starting pitchers, their respective MLB ranks in that category were 85th, 91st, 93rd, 110th and 133rd last season.

In four seasons, Joakim Soria has 132 saves and a WHIP of 0.99. Mariano Rivera is the only other pitcher with 130 saves and a WHIP under 1.00 since 2007.

Minnesota Twins
Justin Morneau was an MVP contender last season before suffering a season-ending concussion. Despite missing the final 78 games of the season, Morneau finished as the team's leader in Wins Above Replacement (5.3). However, the Twins offense actually averaged more runs per game after his injury (5.0) than it did before (4.7).

Closer Joe Nathan is back after missing a season because of Tommy John surgery. He saved at least 35 games each season from 2004 to 2009. The only players with more consecutive seasons with 35 saves are Trevor Hoffman and Robb Nen (seven each).

-- Justin Havens, Paul Carr and Derek Czenczelewski contributed to this report

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