The positional previews were a little boring, both to write and (I imagine) boring for the one or two people that might have skimmed them. So it's time to do something different before the start of the year, and that's to preview the other teams in the Central. Let's start with the Sox.
After a World Series title in 2005, 2006 was a disappointing year for the White Six even though they were in contention for the division and wild card throughout the year. With a taste of success a couple of years ago, the Sox will once again be one of the top contenders to get back to the top.
The middle of the lineup will once again be very potent. Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, and Jermaine Dye all had tremendous seasons at the plate in 2006, and the Sox would be happy if they can just get similar production from the trio. Joe Crede and AJ Pierzynski were also solid behind those guys in the lineup, and they help make the Sox offense so good.
But it's not all good for the Sox offense. Scott Podsednik and Darin Erstad are "gritty" players, but unfortunately they're not very good at getting on base a lot, which is what you need at the top of the order, especially with the mashers behind them. They should just focus on getting on base, and that's not really their games.
Next is pitching. While this is what carried them to the World Series in '05, it was their downfall in 2007. Starters like Mark Buehrle, Jose Conteras, and Jon Garland were all workhorses in 2005, which gave them great depth and consistency from the staff. All 3 suffered a dropoff in 2006. Javier Vazquez was not overly impressive in his first season with Chicago. Freddy Garcia (now gone) struggled as well. So they are counting on Buehrle, Contreras, Garland, and Vazquez to get back into form, and new guy Gavin Floyd to finally reach his potential. That's a big gamble.
In the end, I think the Sox will be a very solid team once again, but the division might be a little too tough. With the Twins, Tigers, and Indians joining the Sox, it is the best division in baseball, and I'm just not sure the Sox have the pitching to get through it.