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So I guess it's baseball season.

There's one weekend left in the college basketball season, but NC State is done, so really, the season is over.

I'm not quite ready to shift into full baseball/football mode yet, and later this week I'll probably take a look back at the ACC season that was.

Baseball is right around the corner, though, and I've got to get into some preseason discussion before it's too late.

In case you don't know--and since I haven't made a baseball-related post in several months, you probably don't--I'm a Chicago White Sox fan. Don't ask me how my childhood was blighted in this way. It's a terrible tale. But mostly it's just boring.

All-Baseball has an NL West preview up on its front page, and you can also find previews of the AL East, AL Central, and AL West. Previews of the other two NL divisions are forthcoming this week.

As far as the AL Central goes, pretty much everyone is predicting another division crown for the Twinkies. I wish I could refute those predictions, but the White Sox haven't made much of a case for themselves during the off-season.

Baseball Prospectus's Joe Sheehan wrote his AL Central preview last week, and once you see his projected standings at the bottom, you can imagine the response he got from ChiSox fans.

White Sox GM Ken Williams spent the offseason exchanging bats for arms, yet Sheehan thinks the Sox will allow more runs in 2005 than it did in 2004. Sheehan expects the Sox to score 749 runs while giving up 856; last season, Chicago scored 865 and allowed 831. While I think a drop off in runs scored is a near-certainty, I find that runs allowed projection to be close to a worst-case scenario for the Sox. Say it ain't so, Joe.

Remember that in 2004 the White Sox had Scott Schoeneweis in the #4 slot with Danny Wright and [insert name here] in the #5 slot. Jose Contreras and El Duque (the new guys at the end of the rotation in 2005) can't possibly be worse than Shoeny and Wright. Add in an improved bullpen, and there's reason for at least a little optimism.

I am ever the pessimistic White Sox fan, but I'll really be surprised if the pitching is even worse in 2005 than it was in '04.

Over at The Hardball Times, Studes paints a brighter picture for Chicago.

The serious problems for the '05 Sox lie on the offensive side, and Studes illustrates why that is the case. The White Sox were abnormally proficient at getting base hits with runners in scoring position in 2004, and that figures to dip a lot in 2005. The Sox had the least at bats in the AL with RISP.

With Frank Thomas out of the lineup for much of the year, the 2004 Sox naturally struggled to get guys on base. Thomas is the only White Sock with what you could call an impressive or exceptional on-base percentage. Jose Valentin had a sub-.300 OBP. So did Joe Crede and Sandy Alomar/Ben Davis. Fortunately, Studes notes, the White Sox have made changes that will improve the team's OBP and lead to more at bats with runners in scoring position. Without those changes, the '05 offense could have completely collapsed (it may still anyway, which would make Sheehan look psychic).

[Interestingly, the Cubbies have a similar problem. They hit a ton of homers in '04, but they netted the fourth-worst Runs/HR in the majors. Things don't look to be much different in '05.]

Valentin is gone, Crede has no where to go but up (I hope), and improvements have been made at catcher and second base.

And if Big Frank can come back healthy, that'll only aid matters.

Still, the White Sox don't figure to be a very good hitting club. Considering that the team acquired Scott Podsednik from the Brewers with the intention of being more aggressive on the basepaths, I have no doubt that the team will waste plenty of outs.

Manager Ozzie Guillen is already on the record as saying that running into a few outs here and there is fine because the team is being aggressive. I can only shake my head. If Chicago can steal bases at an acceptable rate, it can add value to its offense. Somehow I can't see it working out that well.

There's that pessimism again.

My AL Central prediction: Delicious Twinkies win again. Sigh.