Home > Uncategorized > 2011 MLB Predictions: Divisions, Awards, World Series — Let’s Go!

2011 MLB Predictions: Divisions, Awards, World Series — Let’s Go!

My pick as the 2011 winner of this trophy IS ... listed below

Even when baseball’s regular season starts in March, it can’t get here fast enough. Only two days remain until we finally enter the 2011 edition of The Show, so let’s throw out some basic predictions, starting with each division. Feel free to attach your own win-loss total.

American League East

1. Boston Red Sox:

The only way I don’t see them claiming the best record in the AL is if they can’t get anything out of the vets in their rotation — Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka. If those guys don’t improve on their sub-par 2010 numbers, then this might be more of a struggle than I expect. Their offensive lineup is just too lethal to bet against.

2. New York Yankees:

There’s no doubt they will be mixing and matching with their starting rotation all season. But the Yankees led baseball in runs scored last season despite some down years. If the likes of Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Jorge Posada can just come back to their career averages — and I don’t see why not — this team will win the wild card. Also, the Yankees should have the most effective bullpen in the division.

3. Tampa Bay Rays:

The Rays still have enough to be competitive without Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and basically a brand-new cast in the bullpen. The starting rotation should be formidable, especially if Jeremy Hellickson continues what he started last season. But this team is going to lose a lot of games late and there will be an inevitable drop in offensive production.

4. Toronto Blue Jays:

Toronto can make a push for third place if Brett Cecil and Jesse Litsch can hold it together in the rotation behind Ricky Romero and the currently injured Brandon Morrow. They’ll hit, but I don’t think the Blue Jays have enough quality depth with their starters or relievers.

5. Baltimore Orioles:

The Orioles are going lose a lot of ballgames, but with Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, Mark Reynolds, Vladimir Guerrero Adam Jones, post-hype sleeper Matt Wieters and others, they’ll make sure to lose a lot of wildly entertaining 12-10 ballgames.

American League Central

1. Chicago White Sox:

With Adam Dunn in the fold, this is the most dangerous lineup in the division. The starting rotation is a bit worrisome, but I think Mark Buehrle will have a better season, and anything they can get out of Jake Peavy will be gravy. The bullpen should be better with no Bobby Jenks and more Matt Thornton in the closer’s role.

2. Minnesota Twins:

The Twins may equal the White Sox in overall talent, but there are too many questions that need to be answered for me to have much faith in them. How will the new bullpen and middle infield work out? With Joe Nathan getting hit around this spring, how will Ron Gardenhire handle the end of games? Have we really seen the last of Justin Morneau’s concussion symptoms? Can Delmon Young build upon his breakout season?

3. Detroit Tigers:

Which ridiculous story will appear more often this year: How Miguel Cabrera’s arrest led to early season distractions and disrupted the team from the start or how the Tigers and Cabrera bonded and “overcame” the controversy? There are some top-level players here, but the bottom of the order, the end of the rotation and the middle relief have some serious flaws.

4. Kansas City Royals:

An awful-looking team, especially on the mound, but the sooner they can get their top prospects into the league, the better. That should start to happen this year.

5. Cleveland Indians:

If Carlos Santana comes back at full strength, this team could cause some trouble for opposing pitchers. Unfortunately, Cleveland’s pitchers should be atrocious again and, unlike Kansas City, the future isn’t too bright.

American League West

1. Texas Rangers:

C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis aren’t sure bets to repeat their 2010 success. If they can’t, this team could mimic the Rangers of yesteryear: Lots of offense and they need every bit of it. However, if Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton can stay in the lineup for a majority of the season, this offense will be good enough to cover up the pitching failures and win a weak division.

2. Los Angeles Angels:

I’m not comfortable with this pick considering their aging offense and the fact that Kendrys Morales is still not healthy 10 months after breaking his leg. But with Jared Weaver, Ervin Santana and a full season of Dan Haren, I think the Angels can post a respectable record.

3. Oakland Athletics:

The offense will be an unknown commodity from game to game, but I absolutely love Oakland’s pitching. The A’s have really put in a lot of effort to upgrade their bullpen. Andrew Bailey will start the season on the disabled list, but that will be a very good group once he returns. The top three starters — Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and personal favorite Brett Anderson — have a ton of upside. This team could finish second, but I think it has some growing to do at the plate.

4. Seattle Mariners:

I like Felix Hernandez. I like rookie Michael Pineda. But, oh, that offense! It was horrific last year. But I have a feeling Seattle will somehow find a way to be even worse in 2011.

National League East

1. Philadelphia Phillies:

Everest-height expectations have been scuffed up by injuries to Chase Utley, Domonic Brown and Brad Lidge. The loss of Jayson Werth will hurt this offense even more. But c’mon. I am not going to vote against that pitching staff. It’s a safe pick, but it’s probably the smart pick. I think this team is the best in the NL. If Utley can’t return until the All-Star break, it will be key for Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins to stay in the lineup, something they couldn’t do with optimal consistency last season

2. Atlanta Braves:

But the Braves will not make it easy for the Phillies. I know it’s only spring training, but Chipper Jones has looked fantastic early on. The addition of Dan Uggla has given this lineup another dose of power. The rotation is stellar with Derek Lowe, Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson. Plus, I love the young duo of Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters at the back of the ‘pen. I think the Braves claim another wild card and make this divisional race interesting into September.

3. Florida Marlins:

The Marlins, as they always seems to be, are an exciting young team. I think Javier Vazquez will continue to pitch well outside of the American League and round out a very good quartet of starters with Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez. But I think the offense needs another year or so to reach its full potential, and I don’t think the Marlins did enough to fix an erratic bullpen from 2010.

4. Washington Nationals:

No Stephen Strasburg, no Bryce Harper, but I’m interested to see what Jordan Zimmerman can do in the middle of that rotation. A heart of the order with Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Mike Morse is should make most games tolerable for Nats fans.

5. New York Mets:

I don’t have a lot to say about the Nationals, but I’m confident they will finish in front of the New York Mess. Johan Santana will be out for the first half of the year due to shoulder surgery. The rest of the rotation, past Mike Pelfrey, is full of uncertainty. The relievers behind Francisco Rodriguez are nothing special.  Carlos Beltran isn’t 100 percent and may never be again. Jose Reyes is set to become a free agent and will probably be traded if the Mets drop out of contention early. The ownership is losing money and looking to sell a share of the team. There’s a lot of chaos in Queens already. What happens on the field probably won’t help calm it.

National League Central

1. Milwaukee Brewers:

Zack Greinke will be out for the first month of the season with a fractured rib, and Shaun Marcum has been bothered by some shoulder tightness. The Brewers aren’t off to a great start. But when those two come back and team with Yovani Gallardo, that’s the best trio of starters in this division. The lineup isn’t without some flaws, but Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Casey McGehee can be enough to win plenty of games. And I’m a believer in John Axford. He will save 30 games this year.

2. Chicago Cubs:

Alfonso Soriano is a shell of himself, but I really like the rest of this lineup. It doesn’t have a high ceiling, but I think it will be above average. Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza are a nice one-two punch, but people shouldn’t forget that Carlos Zambrano pitched really well over the final 45 days of last season. Everyone remembers him getting into a fight with teammates in the dugout and being moved into the bullpen, but he can be an excellent third or fourth starter. Then the Cubs have the dynamic Carlos Marmol being set up by Kerry Wood. There’s nothing overly special about this team; I just think it’s very solid from top to bottom.

3. St. Louis Cardinals:

I said a couple of days ago that the loss of Adam Wainwright is crushing for the Cardinals. Albert Pujols will have another monster season as he proves he’s worth $300 million, but nothing really scares me in this lineup outside of he and Matt Holliday.

4. Cincinnati Reds:

Yep, I am down on the reigning division champs. I don’t believe in the starting rotation whatsoever. Edinson Volquez hasn’t displayed the dominance he had prior to Tommy John surgery in 2009. Bronson Arroyo is due for a decline after turning in his best season in four years. And I’m sure Dusty Baker will find a way to ruin promising young hurlers Travis Wood and Mike Leake. While I don’t think Scott Rolen will repeat his 2010 numbers either, the offense remains strong. Aroldis Chapman is dominant in the later innings. But I have a lot of concerns about this team’s pitchers before reaching Mr. 105.1 MPH.

5. Houston Astros:

I think Wandy Rodriguez, Brett Myers, J.A. Happ and Bud Norris can keep the Astros out of the cellar. But that’s as high as they will go. Offense will be scarce.

6. Pittsburgh Pirates:

Make it five consecutive last-place finishes for the Buccos. Andrew McCutchen is on his way to reaching stud status. Pedro Alvarez can mash. Neil Walker is my fantasy sleeper among second basemen. But there’s not a lot else to watch right now.

National League West

1. San Francisco Giants:

You can doubt that Aubrey Huff will have another equally productive season as he did last year. Pat Burrell is near the end of his career. The addition of Miguel Tejada may not add much, actually. But there’s still plenty of offense here to win this division. Oh, and the starting rotation is pretty good.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers:

I think Matt Kemp will put up a stat line closer to 2009 than 2010. And remember that Andre Either was one of the most feared hitters in the game before he broke a finger in May. Those two can cause a lot of damage. Unfortunately, the rest of the lineup is pretty unexciting. I think the Dodgers finish second because of a nice rotation and a very good bullpen. But Jonathan Broxton needs to have a bounce-back year. The Dodger fans won’t make it easy on him; they booed him after he blew a save last night during an exhibition game. An exhibition game!

3. Colorado Rockies:

The Rockies have an MVP candidate in Carlos Gonzalez and a possible Cy Young winner in Ubaldo Jimenez. The pitching staff can be very special if Jorge De La Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin are a little more consistent in the strike zone, and if Aaron Cook can return from a broken finger with little rust. There’s definitely some weapons here, but I don’t think the Rockies’ upside is as vast as the Dodgers’.

4. Arizona Diamondbacks

Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy are good building blocks for this starting rotation. But there’s not much behind them, and the bullpen won’t be too improved from last season when it was atrocious. The loss of Mark Reynolds leaves a hole in the middle of that lineup, no matter how often Reynolds had a hole in the middle of his bat. Even a huge season from Justin Upton won’t save this team from another sub-.500 record.

5. San Diego Padres

This is where most of the baseball world predicted the Padres to finish last season and you know how that turned out. But with Adrian Gonzalez in Boston and Mat Latos already experiencing shoulder problems, the world isn’t wrong to forecast a long, tough season for San Diego this year.

Most Valuable Player Award

American League:

I’m going with Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez. Over the past four seasons, he averaged 34 home runs despite playing half of his games in a cavernous ballpark. Give him the Green Monster, some better hitters in front and behind him, and extra media attention on the East Coast — I think it all adds up.

National League:

Ryan Braun is a complete player who puts up MVP-caliber numbers every season. But his great stats will be given more weight this year as part of a division-winning team. And if it’s not Braun, it may be Prince Fielder in his contract year.

Cy Young Award

American League:

My pick is Jon Lester. Yeah, I think this 2011 Red Sox team is going to be ridiculously good.

National League:

I correctly predicted the Cy Young winners prior to last season, although I was not really reaching too deep with names such as Felix Hernandez and Roy Halladay. It was one of the few things I actually got right in my 2010 predictions post. For the NL Cy Young this year, I’m going to go a bit off the radar with Clayton Kershaw. He showed improved command of the strike zone last year, and I think that will get even better. He is a power pitcher with a devastating curveball who could win 18-20 games, along with a sub-3.00 ERA and 200-plus strikeouts — if the Dodgers’ offense backs him up.

Plus, I really don’t feel like picking an obvious Phillie for this honor.

Rookie of the Year Award

American League:

Jeremy Hellickson was very good in four starts late last season. I think that continues over a full season in 2011. The Mariners’ Michael Pineda is my second-place finisher.

National League:

Brandon Belt may not make the Giants’ opening-day roster, but it shouldn’t be long before he is up to the majors. (Update: He made it.) He performed very well during spring training and is just one injury to/slump from Pat Burrell or Aubrey Huff from being in San Fran. I think he’ll come up during the season and go on to claim the award, just like fellow Giant Buster Posey did last year.

Manager of the Year Award

American League:

I don’t have the A’s winning the AL West, but I’m confident enough that they will make a big push or at least show dramatic improvement so that their manager, Bob Geren, wins this award.

National League:

It’s no matter that the Brewers are expected to win their division in March. Any time a first-year manager comes in and guides a non-perennial front-runner to a division title gives him a lot of support for the Manager of the Year award. I think Ron Roenicke will be no different this season.

Playoffs and World Series

American League:

Red Sox over Rangers in 3, White Sox over Yankees in 5. Red Sox over White Sox in 6.

National League:

Brewers over Braves in 5, Phillies over Giants in 3. Phillies over Brewers in 5.

World Series:

World Series: Phillies over Red Sox in 6. Pitching over offense. I just don’t see — barring multiple major injuries — how a foursome of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt can be beat in a playoff series.

PLAY FRICKIN’ BALL!

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