I have to say, it doesn’t really feel like the season is here yet, don’t you think? Regular season games in March? Come on. Anyways, sorry for the slight delay, I’ve been away from my computer since Monday. I don’t know about you, but I’m glad that the Major League Baseball season is here. I’ve been counting down the days until Opening Day.
The San Francisco Giants will look to defend their World Series title in 2011 by first winning their division, the National League West. With their core players still there, the Giants will be an early favorite to win that division. The offseason was certainly interesting, as some marquee teams picked up top-name players. The Boston Red Sox were one of those teams, signing left fielder Carl Crawford and acquiring first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Boston will need both of their new stars to be at their very best in order to beat out their hated rivals, the New York Yankees, and others to win the always very talented American League East.
Predicted Standings (Regular Season)
1. Boston Red Sox
Manager: Terry Francona
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett, and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
2. New York Yankees
Manager: Joe Girardi
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, AJ Burnett, Ivan Nova, and Freddy Garcia.
3. Tampa Bay Rays
Manager: Joe Maddon
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): David Price, James Shields, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis, and Jeremy Hellickson.
4. Baltimore Orioles
Manager: Buck Showalter
Starting Pitching (in order of rotation): Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen, and Chris Tillman
5. Toronto Blue Jays
Manager: John Farrell
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): Ricky Romero, Kyle Drabek, Brett Cecil, Jo Jo Reyes, and Jesse Litsch.
A few thoughts: The Red Sox win the American League East behind the strong play of Gonzalez and Crawford and rebound tremendously thanks to starting pitching. Look for the Baltimore Orioles to surprise.
Watch: Baltimore Orioles
Why: Under Buck Showalter, the Orioles have thrived, and look for that success to continue, as Showalter goes into his first full season as manager of the O’s.
1. Minnesota Twins
Manager: Ron Gardenhire
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, and Brian Duensing.
2. Chicago White Sox
Manager: Ozzie Guillen
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): Mark Buehrle, Edwin Jackson, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, and Jake Peavy.
3. Detroit Tigers
Manager: Jim Leyland
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, Brad Penny, and Phil Coke.
4. Cleveland Indians
Manager: Manny Acta
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): Fausto Carmona, Carlos Carrasco, Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin, and Mitch Talbot.
5. Kansas City Royals
Manager: Ned Yost
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): Luke Hochevar, Jeff Francis, Kyle Davies, and Bruce Chen.
A few thoughts: I think that Minny will win the American League Central again this year, thanks to the even pitching, hitting, and intangibles. Led by Ron Gardenhire, this incredibly efficient and consistent team could go as far as the American League Championship Series. If they get there, they will almost certainly need #1 starter Carl Pavano to have a good season, much like 2010.
Watch: Cleveland Indians
Why: I’m interested to see how the Tribe do as a whole in 2011. Will Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore have comeback seasons? How will the young rotation do? And is Chris Perez a proven closer for the Indians.
1. Texas Rangers
Manager: Ron Washington
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Tommy Hunter, Derek Holland, and Brandon Webb.
2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Manager: Mike Scioscia
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana, Scott Kazmir, and Joel Pinéiro.
3. Oakland Athletics
Manager: Bob Geren
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): Trevor Cahill, Dallas Braden, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, and Brandon McCarthy.
4. Seattle Mariners
Manager: Eric Wedge
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas, Doug Fister, Erik Bedard, and Michael Pineda.
A few thoughts: The Rangers are still stacked, even with the loss of ace Cliff Lee, who notoriously rejoined the Philadelphia Phillies in the offseason. The Angels will be solid as usual, likely finishing 5 or so games behind Texas, but lack the powerhouse they once were a few years ago. The only way they can step out of the Rangers’ shadow is if the hitting is consistent and compliments their underrated rotation.
Watch: Oakland Athletics
Why: I’m looking forward to seeing how the Athletics’ young and very talented pitching staff fares this season. Can anyone, Trevor Cahill likely, step up and become a clear cut ace? Can the A’s build on a encouraging campaign in 2010 and possibly replace the Angels as the second best AL West team?
Bold represents the wild card team.
1. Philadelphia Phillies
Manager: Charlie Manuel
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Roy Oswalt, and Joe Blanton.
2. Atlanta Braves
Manager: Fredi Gonzalez
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, Tommy Hanson, Jair Jurrjens, and Brandon Beachy.
3. New York Mets
Manager: Terry Collins
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): Johan Santana*, Mike Pelfrey, Jon Niese, R.A. Dickey, and Chris Young.
*Santana is out until likely June. The rotation slides up one spot each, and Chris Capuano is the 5th starter until Santana’s return.
4. Florida Marlins
Manager: Edwin Rodriguez
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Javier Vasquez, Anibal Sanchez, and Chris Volstad.
5. Washington Nationals
Manager: Jim Riggleman
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): Livan Hernandez, John Lannan, Jordan Zimmerman, Jason Marquis, and Tom Gorzelanny.
A few thoughts: The Phillies should be rock-solid, with their rotation. I mean, Joe Blanton is a second, or even a first starter on most bad or okay teams. He’s a fifth starter in Philly. That’s saying something. The Braves should be fine, and Gonzalez will be getting a lot of coaching from Bobby Cox, that’s for sure. The rookies in Florida and Washington are the main focuses for both those teams, and the Mets are just looking to rebound from a terrible year.
Watch: Washington Nationals
Why: Surprised? With Stephen Strasburg out for the year, Nats fans and baseball fans alike have a chance to get a good look at newcomer Bryce Harper. The 18-year old will have time to grow up a bit in the minors to start the year, but is expected to be in the big leagues midway through the season. Jim Riggleman is fighting for his job, and one too many bad decisions or results, and he could be outta here. The NL East very well be the most interesting division, with many subplots. How will the Phillies’ “Fab Four” pan out? How will former Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez do in Atlanta, replacing a legend in Bobby Cox? How will fellow new manager Terry Collins do in the Big Apple with the Mets? And possibly the most interesting headline, how well will the Florida Marlins’ young players do, namely outfielders Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison?
1. Cincinnati Reds
Manager: Dusty Baker
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): Edinson Volquez, Travis Wood, Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, and Mike Leake.
2. St. Louis Cardinals
Manager: Tony La Russa
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): Chris Carpenter, Jake Westbrook, Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse, and Kyle McClellan. (#1 starter Adam Wainwright is out for the season, and his injury requires getting Tommy John surgery.)
3. Milwaukee Brewers
Manager: Ron Roenicke
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke*, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf, and Chris Narveson.
*Greinke is on the 15-day DL to start the season.
4. Chicago Cubs
Manager: Mike Quade
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Matt Garza, Randy Wells, and Andrew Cashner.
5. Houston Astros
Manager: Brad Mills
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez, J.A. Happ, Bud Norris, and Nelson Figueroa.
6. Pittsburgh Pirates
Manager: Clint Hurdle
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): Kevin Correia, Paul Maholm, Ross Ohlendorf, Charlie Morton, and James McDonald.
A few thoughts: The Reds should be able to win the NL Central for the second straight year, but their are contenders. The Cardinals have a shot, but losing their ace will seriously damage the chances of them taking the division crown. The Brewers have a young team and could surprise many people, and Prince Fielder is bound for a resurgent season.
Watch: Milwaukee Brewers
Why: The Brew Crew have a nice little thing going with their rotation, and adding Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum in the offseason just makes them better. Put them with ace Yovani Gallardo, and the Brewers can easily steal the relatively shallow NL Central. The Cardinals are another team to watch, and I wonder how they will fare without ace Adam Wainwright.
1. San Francisco Giants
Manager: Bruce Bochy
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez, Matt Cain, Barry Zito, and Madison Bumgarner.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
Manager: Don Mattingly
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda, Jon Garland.
3. San Diego Padres
Manager: Bud Black
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): Mat Latos*, Tim Stauffer, Clayton Richard, Dustin Moseley, and Aaron Harang.
*Latos is on the 15-day DL to start the season, the Padres will go with a four man rotation to start the season.
4. Colorado Rockies
Manager: Jim Tracy
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): Ubaldo Jimenez, Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin, Jason Hammel, Esmil Rogers, and Aaron Cook.
5. Arizona Diamondbacks
Manager: Kirk Gibson
Starting Pitchers (in order of rotation): Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders, Barry Enright, and Armando Galarraga.
A few thoughts: The Giants should win the NL West for the second consecutive year a little easier than last year’s nail-biting finish, and the Padres lost their best player in the offseason. The Dodgers will be their main competition, but under first time manager Don Mattingly, I don’t think they’re playoff ready. I picked the Padres to finish third, but I would not be surprised at all to see Colorado finish ahead of them, assuming Ubaldo Jimenez and Co. can stay healthy. With a rare 6-man rotation, they’ll probably be fine, even if one starter goes down. The Diamondbacks failed to do much, and their young players will have another year to develop, but keep an eye on Justin Upton and #2 starter Daniel Hudson, who has some great pitches.
Watch: Los Angeles Dodgers
Why: One of the many questions for the Dodgers is how well Don Mattingly, aka “Donnie Baseball” can do for Los Angeles. Mattingly previously served as the hitting cocah under former manager Joe Torre, but with Torre retired, it still remains to be seen how well Mattingly handles the job. Also, will Matt Kemp have a bounce-back season? His 2010 was less than spectacular, and I believe that’s an understatement.
Bold represents the wild card team.
End of Year Awards
AL: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
NL: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
Another guy to watch out for in the NL is Carlos Gonzalez of the Colorado Rockies. The only reason I didn’t choose him is because he plays in Colorado, he’ll get little attention, and his main opponent, is…well, Albert Pujols.
AL: David Price
NL: Cliff Lee
Hey, I could’ve just picked any one of the first 4 pitchers in the Phillies rotation! The winner could very well be Roy Halladay for a second consecutive year, but I’ll stick with Lee. In the AL, I picked Price, but King Felix will definitely get a lot of recognition. Both players will not play on great teams, Seattle is terrible as always and Tampa Bay is stuck with a bunch of rookies and unknowns, but this one could go either way.
Rookie of the Year
AL: Jeremy Hellickson
NL: Aroldis Chapman
Hellickson impressed me late last season as a starter, and with the depleted rotation in Tampa Bay, he’ll get his chance to shine. Chapman is too noticeable to pass up on. The only 2 things in his way are control and injuries. If Chapman can keep his electric left arm intact, watch out.
Manager of the Year
AL: Dusty Baker
NL: Ron Washington
These two continue to impress, and I pick both to win their respective divisions for the second year in a row.
Comeback Player of the Year
AL: Manny Ramirez
NL: Matt Kemp
Yeah, yeah, I chose Manny. Do I believe he can actually finish a whole season without problems? Usually not, but I have a feeling he will have a very nice season in Florida to prove his critics wrong once and for all. We all know he hasn’t really put his full effort out there lately, and I think he changes. As for Kemp, his season was terrible in 2010, and he looks much better hitting so far. Another guy to watch out for is Prince Fielder, but he didn’t make it here because his 2010 wasn’t THAT bad, just 32 HR and 83 RBIs is very bad for him, and that was mostly because of a terrible offense around him. That’ll change very quickly this year.
Playoff predicted results
ALDS: Texas Rangers over New York Yankees, 3 games to 2; Boston Red Sox over Minnesota Twins, 3 games to 1.
NLDS: San Francisco Giants over Atlanta Braves, 3 games to 2; Philadelphia Phillies over Cincinnati Reds, 3 games to 1.
ALCS: Boston Red Sox over Texas Rangers, 4 games to 2.
NLCS: Philadelphia Phillies over San Francisco Giants, 4 games to 3.
Philadelphia Phillies over Boston Red Sox, 4 games to 3.
World Series MVP: Ryan Howard
Thoughts: Ryan Howard steps up big on the big stage, hitting 4 home runs en route to a Phillies victory. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and the rest of the pitching staff keep the Fightin’ Phils in all 7 games, and Philadelphia pulls out a gritty win, led by Howard’s heroics in Game 7 in an unbelievable World Series.
If my predictions come true, the 2011 Major League Baseball season will be a great one, and the World Series will be the best one we would see in 10 years, going back to Luis Gonzalez’s Game 7 walk-off single against Mariano Rivera and the Yankees. The newcomers play a big part in the season for both of my World Series bound teams, as Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford lift Boston, and Cliff Lee helps the Phillies win the crown. I hope you enjoyed my 2011 MLB Season preview, and please add any and all comments/compliments on anything I did well, or need to add, or virtually anything. What are your picks? I’d love to hear them. Enjoy the 2011 MLB season, it’ll be one to remember.