Opening Day is almost here.
We’ve provided you with a preview to every division and now it’s time for us to offer our predictions for the 2011 season. I contacted the rest of the BaseballGB writers to seek their views on the division winners, Wild Card winners and how the postseason will play out and added them to my own.
So, here’s how we at BaseballGB predict the season will turn out. Feel free to add your predictions into the mix via the Comments section below.
David: Red Sox (Yankees win the Wild Card)
Joe: Red Sox (Yankees win the Wild Card)
Mark: Red Sox (Yankees win the Wild Card)
Matt: Red Sox (Yankees win the Wild Card)
Steve: Red Sox (Rays win the Wild Card)
It’s a clean sweep for the Boston Red Sox and that’s really no surprise when you consider their offseason additions.
Mark has them down as “the best team in baseball” and it’s hard to disagree when you look at their roster. David neatly sums it up with his prediction on individual performances: “Crawford steals 40 bases and hits 25 HRs. Gonzalez hits 40+ HRs, .310, 120 RBI, and wins AL MVP. Beckett and Papelbon have better seasons than last. Daisuke makes a comeback. Ellsbury leads AL in stolen bases and hits over .300. Youkilis and Pedroia both make All Star team again”.
Four of us have the Yankees finishing second and taking the Wild Card. David has A-Rod, Cano, Granderson, Teixeira and Swisher all hitting 30+ home runs and I have a feeling Rodriguez will have an especially big year. The uncertainty with the Yankees lies in the back of the rotation. Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia will start out as the 4th and 5th starters, with Bartolo Colon making a surprise Major League return as the long-man out of the bullpen. Mark predicts that they will “go shopping for the starter they need and do enough to earn the Wild Card”.
The one dissenter is Steve, who still has faith in the Tampa Bay Rays. “There are enough question-marks over the Yankees that I think they might miss the play-offs, but that really depends on the Rays having another great year. I think it could be really very close”. David isn’t so sure, stating that the Rays “will not compete at all” and even predicting the Orioles to finish ahead of them.
Joe: White Sox
Mark: White Sox
Steve: White Sox
The White Sox have it by a score of 3-2, although we all think it will be a tight battle between them and the Twins. Mark notes that “as much as I love the Twins, I think this year’s winners will be the White Sox. The addition of Dunn makes a huge difference to their lineup and the rotation depth once Peavy is back is very impressive”. In contrast, David expects the White Sox’s starting pitchers and bullpen to disappoint.
What tipped the balance in favour of the Twins for me? They coasted over the last week or so of the 2010 season and were further ahead of the White Sox than the final standings suggest. Despite the fact that Chicago are an improved outfit, if Mauer and Morneau are healthy then Minnesota will keep ahead.
The Tigers seem to be the odd team out here. Any side that has players of the calibre of Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera leading the pitching and offence respectively will be a dangerous opponent; however there are doubts about whether the rest of the roster can help the team push past the Twins and White Sox.
The Rangers made it all the way to the World Series last year and most of us expect them to be playing in October once again in 2011.
What are the doubts on David’s behalf? Well, he predicts that Adrian Beltre’s move to Arlington will turn out badly, the loss of Cliff Lee will be keenly felt and that the Michael Young situation could linger and cause problems in the clubhouse. What’s more, he sees the Angels’ Jered Weaver and Dan Haren forming a potent one/two punch and expects Kendrys Morales to return to 2009 form.
L.A.’s rotation does look impressive, but I’m not so sure that their roster overall is strong enough to push the team past the Rangers and Morales’s return has already been put on hold.
As for the Rangers, I’ve watched a few of their Spring Training games recently and these have reinforced just how dangerous a lineup that team has. The one issue I have is that the team didn’t go out and strengthen the bullpen earlier in the offseason. Neftali Feliz undoubtedly has the stuff and the pitching repertoire to be a very good starting pitcher and using someone like that in 65 innings as a closer rather than 180+ over a season is madness. I can understand that keeping Feliz as the closer makes sense right now due to how the rest of the pitching staff is shaping up, but the Rangers shouldn’t have put themselves in that position.
I should add that I’m confident my A’s will have a good year, although I know better than to tip them in my predictions. Joe has also made a prediction about his Mariners worth sharing with you all:
“Plus, Ichiro! goes 6-for-6 in the final game of the season to make it 256 for the season and bring up his 2500th Major League hit, and then – owing to a mistake by his translator – inadvertently retires from baseball. Japanese honour prevents him from correcting this, and so ends the career of the greatest singles machine of this and most other generations”.
If it happens, don’t forget where you read the prediction!
David: Marlins (Phillies win the Wild Card)
Mark: Phillies (Braves win the Wild Card)
Matt: Phillies (Braves win the Wild Card)
Three of us are going for the Phillies to win the East again and three of us expect the Wild Card to come from the East. However, there are two predictions worth picking up on.
The first is Steve’s call that the Phillies will miss out on the playoffs completely. As he explains: “on pitching alone, the Phillies should storm it, but I have some niggling doubts about them getting the runs to back it up. I think the Braves have a pretty good pitching staff themselves, and a very solid offence too. So, I’m going for the upset here”. It definitely will be interesting to see how the Phillies’ offence turns out, particularly as the team still seems no clearer to knowing when Chase Utley will be back on the field.
The other big call is David’s flyer on the Fish. Here’s how he sees their season unfolding: “Mike Stanton hits 40+ HRs. Hanley revisits the 30/30 club and gets 200 hits, winning NL MVP. Chris Coughlin stays healthy and repeats his ROY stats. Javier Vazquez makes a major comeback and strikes out over 200 batters. Josh Johnson wins NL Cy Young Award with over 20 wins and sub 3 ERA. Infante will bat well over .300 again and fill the defensive gap at 2nd where Uggla used to lack. Gaby Sanchez hits .290 with 25 HRs”. I think the key point with that prediction is that everything needs to go right for Florida to be in the mix. That’s note to state that it won’t happen though.
Steve: Brewers (Reds to win the Wild Card)
It’s a mix of Brewers and Reds here, something that I’m sure will be replicated in many other predictions being posted over the Internet.
The case for the Reds comes from Mark: “Cincinnati are still clear favourites for me, as they have pitching depth and a core of impressive young hitters led by Votto, Bruce and Stubbs. The Brewers have been getting a lot of press after acquiring Greinke and Marcum, and credit to them for going for it in Prince Fielder’s contract year, but I’m not sold on Marcum. They’ll finish over .500 but not in front of the Reds”. I would go along with that. There are some doubters out there regarding the Reds (David has them finishing fourth in the division, for example); however they’ll be a tough team to beat this year so long as the starting pitching holds up.
The case for the Brew Crew comes from Steve: “I think this could be the division to watch this season, as the Brewers, Reds, Cardinals and Cubs all have creditable claims. I’m going for the Brewers, as their off-season activity points to them choosing 2011 as the year to roll the dice. I can see them reinforcing their squad before the trade deadline if they are in a competitive spot, and that will push them over the line”. There’s no doubt that the Brewers have gone for it and, as with their Sabathia-inspired push in 2008, it would be great to see those efforts rewarded.
Joe: Giants (Rockies win the Wild Card)
We end with the home of the reigning champs and three of us see the Giants going on and winning the division again. Still, there’s some strong support for the Rockies as well, although Steve is hedging his bets: “I have the Rockies in my “overrated” pile. This will probably mean they’ll storm the division!”
Mark notes “with full seasons from Tulo and CarGo, I’m tipping the Rockies to win the division. Just. By maybe two games”. That could happen, but I’m leaning more towards Steve’s initial line of thought on this one. The Rockies finished nine games behind the Giants last year and much as I think Tulo, CarGo and Ubaldo Jimenez will impress again, I don’t see them performing so much better than they did in 2010 that they can make up most of that difference on their own. That puts the onus on the rest of the players to take a big step forward and when I look at their Opening Day roster, I don’t see that they’ve made enough improvements to close that gap.
What makes the division interesting is that the Giants aren’t quite the dominant force you might expect from a reigning World Series champ. Their pitching looks extremely strong and a full season of Buster Posey behind the plate should help the offence, yet you look at Aubrey Huff, Cody Ross, Pat Burrell and Miguel Tejada and it’s possible that they could all take steps backwards. Will time catch up with them or do they have another year of big hits in them?
Add together injuries, in-season trades, surprising seasons by individual players (both good and bad) and the short format of the postseason and you could say trying to predict the playoffs in March is a foolhardy task. That doesn’t make it any less fun to give it a go.
|Division Series||Championship Series|
|David||Yankees over Angels, Red Sox over Twins||Yankees over Red Sox|
|Joe||White Sox over Yankees, Red Sox over Rangers||Red Sox over White Sox|
|Mark||White Sox over Yankees, Red Sox over Rangers||Red Sox over White Sox|
|Matt||Twins over Red Sox, Yankees over Rangers||Twins over Yankees|
|Steve||Red Sox over White Sox, Rangers over Rays||Red Sox over Rangers|
The Red Sox are the pre-season favourites of many, so it’s no surprise to see them coming out on top in the American League in the majority of our predictions. Joe and Mark will be amused to find they have gone for exactly the same predictions and if there was a bonus prize in these predictions then Joe would surely be the winner with his title for the White Sox/Yankees series: “the battle of the excessively worn cap”.
I’m more optimistic than most on the Twins’ chances this year. Their dreadful playoff run has got to come to an end some time and I just have a feeling that, against the odds, this could finally be the year they stop their losing streak.
|Division Series||Championship Series|
|David||Marlins over Brewers, Phillies over Rockies||Phillies over Marlins|
|Joe||Phillies over Rockies, Brewers over Giants||Brewers over Phillies|
|Mark||Phillies over Reds, Rockies over Braves||Phillies over Rockies|
|Matt||Phillies over Reds, Braves over Giants||Braves over Phillies|
|Steve||Giants over Reds, Brewers over Braves||Brewers over Giants|
There’s an even split between the Phillies and the Brewers and, again, that reflects the prevailing offseason winds. The Phillies were a strong team already before they added Cliff Lee to their intimidating rotation, while the Brewers have improved considerably over the offseason and will carry that optimism into the year.
I’ve been the awkward one yet again. Like every team in the postseason, the Braves will need a few things to go their way if they are to make it through, but I like their chances this year.
The World Series
David: Yankees beat the Phillies 4-3
Joe: Brewers beat the Red Sox 4-3 (in the bottom of the eleventh inning, no less!)
Mark: Red Sox beat the Phillies 4-2
Matt: Braves beat the Twins 4-2
Steve: Red Sox beat the Brewers
Five predictions lead to four different winners. The Red Sox get two votes, while David see the Yankees taking the Red Sox’s place as the AL East team to deny the Phillies glory (again). Joe has the Milwaukee magic carpet ride flying all the way to the World Championship and I’m going for the storyline of Fredi Gonzalez matching Bobby Cox’s World Series winning total in his first year managing the Braves.