We know it goes against this site, but before this season begins, we have decided… to predict baseball. That’s right, we’ll be offering our predictions on what will happen in the 2011 season, at least in terms of regular season standings. We’ll also have some bold predictions for each team when we’re done sharing our predictions. My predix behind the cut. When we are done, we will put them up in the bar at the top of the page, so you can laugh at them as the season goes on.
1. Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox are a very good team, but whether they’ll be very good or excellent depends on how all their starters aside from Lester perform, their performance against lefty pitchers, and if the bullpen can improve. Nitpicky issues to be sure, but real issues. They aren’t perfect and let’s not crown their ass just yet.
2. New York Yankees: The Yankees’ pitching rotation isn’t pretty at all right now, but they have the offense to keep them more than above water, and that’s without a bounceback from Jeter, A-Rod, or Teixeira. The bullpen’s very good too, but it won’t matter that much if the rotation can’t keep it together. If AJ Burnett is better than last year, they’ll be quite good. If not, might be pretty yikes. (Yikes meaning they’ll win, what, 85 games in the worst case scenario?) (AL Wild Card)
3. Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays are hardly dooooooomed, but I simply don’t think they have the offense to keep up with Boston and New York, and I don’t trust that bullpen. If Price doesn’t regress, Shields has a bounceback, Davis and Hellickson continue to develop, and Niemann is what he was like pre-injury, they’re going to very much challenge for the Wild Card and honestly probably the division itself. If too many of them are shaky, they’re relying a bit too much on unproven guys, injury-prone older players, and guys who just aren’t that good for their lineup, and I don’t see the pitching carrying them to the playoffs in this division. Still a good team, though.
4. Baltimore Orioles: I go back and forth on who will come in fourth and fifth in this division, but I felt like my AL predictions were really boring/too similar to last year, so I picked these guys fourth. There’s at least a decent argument for it. I don’t think the Orioles crack .500, and I don’t think it’ll have anything to do with Buck Showalter really, but they’ll be better. This isn’t 2005 when it comes to Derrek Lee and Vlad Guerrero, but they are definitely an improvement offensively. I like their young players, but is Adam Jones ever going to live up to his hype? Will Brian Matusz ever totally figure it out? They’ll be a pain in the butt to other teams, but they can’t really compete with the Yankees, Red Sox, or Rays.
5. Toronto Blue Jays: I could totally be wrong because I thought the Blue Jays would be the worst team in baseball last year, but I’m seriously doubtful about them this year. Getting rid of the Wells contract was genius, but they will miss his production in 2011. Lind and Hill should be a lot better, but Bautista probably can’t do what he did in 2010 again. Their rotation seems shaky to me, a lot of their guys had career-type years in 2010 and I don’t know if they can sustain that, plus I’m not sure what to expect from Drabek. Certainly a big-league pitcher, but I’m not that big a believer. Oh, and they lost like half their pen. But it’s still a pretty good team. AL Beast, y’all.
1. Chicago White Sox: Honestly, I can see any of the top three coming out ahead here, and it’ll be very close between them. I just picked the White Sox because I think they have very good pitching, rotation and bullpen, and I liked the Dunn signing to add to an already decent offense. Konerko should regress a bit, but I can see Beckham bouncing back and the combination of him and Dunn could pick up the slack. They have good rotation depth, even if it’s not very exciting. Then again, I can see guys like Buehrle and Jackson having blah years and Peavy hardly pitching at all, which I think would put them behind Minnesota and Detroit. It’ll be close.
2. Minnesota Twins: The Twins, I don’t know. I don’t like a lot of what they’ve done this winter, from losing a lot of their bullpen, and I mean, no doubt getting Nathan back will help a lot, but you don’t know what you’re getting; to giving a rotation spot to Brian Duensing at the expense of Slowey or Baker; to relying on a spotty infield because apparently they just haaaaad to trade JJ Hardy, who isn’t great or anything but who’s certainly better than Alexei Casilla. But they’re certainly still a very solid team, good pitching depth and a pretty good offense, especially if Morneau can stay healthy and Mauer can stay at catcher. They seem to have a lot of “if”s but I’m just not picking against the Twins being a good team.
3. Detroit Tigers: I can actually see the Tigers having the most upside of any team in the division if their pitching all reaches the best-case scenario. But that’s asking for a lot out of Scherzer (who I am already much higher on than a lot of people), Porcello, Penny, and Coke, and if those guys falter you’re left with an offense that could be quite weak, even with the V-Mart acquisition, considering they’re only really planning on DHing him, apparently. They’re certainly gonna be competitive.
4. Cleveland Indians: The Indians and Royals are clearly worse than the other three teams in this division, and I don’t think I’m going out on a limb saying that. The Indians at least have guys like Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Santana (can’t wait to see him all year long, stay healthy kiddo!), but man, that is not a good team. Unless some prospects emerge, the rest of the offense is pretty weak aside from Hafner – I think they could use me at third base – and the rotation is just… ugh. Maybe Grady comes back this year though? Maybe maybe?
5. Kansas City Royals: We all know good things are coming for the Royals, certainly, but that won’t happen in 2011. They have no rotation, and little offense. Soria’s great, but having a great closer doesn’t matter when you won’t have too many leads going into the ninth inning because your starters put you way behind, the bullpen doesn’t help, and the offense can’t keep up at all.
1. Texas Rangers: I still like Texas’ offense, especially in this division, even if I can’t see Beltre (or Hamilton, for that matter…) repeating last year. They’ll miss Cliff Lee, but I think they have just enough pitching – is it wrong that I really like Colby Lewis? – and certainly enough offense to get by in a really weak division. Their offense isn’t Yankee- or Boston-level, but it’ll be more than enough to get by when you see the other lineups here.
2. Oakland Athletics: The Athletics will make the AL West interesting this year, at least. I can see some of their young starters regressing, particularly Cahill, but I’m very high on Anderson. Their offense should be better with the addition of guys like Matsui, DeJesus, and Willingham, but I still can’t see it being any good, really. Hey, pitching wins, right?
3. Los Angeles Angels: Speaking of pitching, the Angels might be getting underrated in that aspect. That’s a really good rotation, especially if they have first half Dan Haren and Weaver is legit. Too bad the offense and bullpen are horrific, especially if Kendrys Morales is out for a large amount of time. Hey, at least they have Carl Crawford to pick up the sla – oh, wait. Adrian Beltre? Erm, Vernon Wells and his entire contract? Hey, 1/3 ain’t bad.
4. Seattle Mariners: I dunno about the Mariners, guys. I want to say they won’t be AS bad as last year, but it looks ugly looking at them from the outside. Felix is Felix, but what about the rest of that rotation? I like Pineda, he’s a good prospect, but he’s not Felix. The bullpen isn’t very good. Maybe Smoak and Saunders put it together, Figgins stops sucking, and Ackley comes up and is good. But I dunno, guys. I dunno.
1. Philadelphia Phillies: Yes, even with the injuries, the Phillies are still the team to beat in the NLE, easily. They’re actually kind of getting underrated. Let’s not forget they won 97 games last year with terrible injuries, no Lee, and Oswalt for only half the year (though they did have Werth). Their offense is certainly no longer elite-level, but it’s good, and the pitching is ridiculous. Nothing more needs to be said about their top four, and while Blanton is hardly great, let’s not act like he’s not excellent as a fifth starter. The bullpen issues are probably being overstated – Madsen and Contreras, sigh, are really solid – but they could use another or better lefty, and Lidge at the back end is kind of scary. They really need Utley to get better though, and if Domonic Brown could get healthy and kinda figure it out ASAP, that’d be a big help. Even if Utley’s out for a ton of time, I still think they get the Wild Card at least. This is a good team.
2. Atlanta Braves: One minute I’m high on the Braves, the next I’m pretty low on them. They might be relying on oldish pitchers in Lowe and Hudson, and Hudson’s not likely to repeat the year he had last year, but on the other hand, I like Tommy Hanson a lot and I love their young pitching depth. One minute I think their offense is pretty eh and they bought high on Uggla, the next I remember they gave up really nothing for Uggla who is still a good player, and they made it to the playoffs with a way worse offense last year. I think they’ll definitely be in the Wild Card hunt, but they need stars new and old – Heyward and Chipper – to stay healthy. (NL Wild Card)
3. Florida Marlins: The Marlins actually have a lot more upside than most people think, IMO. That’s a really good rotation if they all reach their ceilings, but that’s asking for a lot from guys like Nolasco and poor Javy Vazquez, who always underperform their peripherals. They’ve got a fine offense but they will miss Uggla and I can’t see Buck (or Infante, for that matter) repeating 2010. The Marlins are good, but the Phillies and Braves are just better.
4. New York Mets: Yikes. This is an un-good baseball team. Their offense is just… I don’t know. I look at the names of players they have and their offense doesn’t seem like it should be as bad as it is, but it’s affected by streakiness, a lot of injuries, and then some flat-out really bad players occupying spots there. Their pitching actually isn’t bad, but can Pelfrey repeat what he did last year? Dickey? (I certainly hope so.) Can Niese step it up? Is Johan Santana going to come back? And what about the bullpen? K-Rod looked a lot better in 2010 than 2009, but man, that option is brutal and very easily reached. Every team has questions, but the Mets just have way too many to expect to compete.
5. Washington Nationals: Truth be told, I can see them finishing over the Mets… but they are an un-good baseball team, too. They have some nice offensive pieces, but not a very good lineup. And, uh, who the heck is pitching for this team? They don’t have very good offensive depth, either. Strasburg is awesome and will be back eventually, but it probably won’t be in 2011. And no, Harper won’t be here this year, either.
1. Milwaukee Brewers: I … am not very confident in this choice. This division isn’t very good, and I think the Brewers and Reds are so close that those few missed starts by Greinke could actually decide the division. But in the end, I really like the Brewers’ pitching as long as Greinke doesn’t miss a ton of time, and their offense is quite good too. It’s a little too “stars and scrubs,” as I just saw Fangraphs call it, but there are enough stars to balance out the scrubs, I think. They aren’t ridiculously top-heavy like the Cardinals. Their problem for the past few years has definitely been pitching, and, well, they really worked to improve that with Greinke and Marcum. It turned a weakness into a strength, and the bullpen should be much better than last year too. The team’s poor defense could hurt its pitching, but I still think the Brewers eke it out.
2. Cincinnati Reds: Again, I can see them winning this division, but I’m not really crazy about them. Their offense is very good; their pitching is not. They have okay depth, but no one pitcher is really great, and I feel like they’re expecting the same things out of Bronson Arroyo that they got last year, which likely won’t happen. Their bullpen is…… okay. Obviously Aroldis Chapman is a stud, but he’s not entirely proven in the major leagues yet and should probably be starting, anyway. Cordero scares me a lot, and though Arthur Rhodes may be literally 40 years old he really helped them last year and they will miss him in 2011. I simply don’t see their pitching holding up enough to support the offense which, again, is excellent. But they’ll certainly be competitive.
3. St. Louis Cardinals: I wasn’t high on the Cards before the Waino injury, and that really didn’t help them. But hey, losing one of the top fifteen at worst pitchers in baseball would hurt anyone. Thing is, like I said, I didn’t like them before Wainwright’s injury; they were just too top-heavy. Pujols rules (holy crap, ALBERT PUJOLS CONTRACT YEAR) and so does Holliday. Colby Rasmus is pretty good too, but unproven, and I’m expecting Yadier Molina to improve. Other than that, their offense seems… suspect. Like really really suspect. Their pitching, hmm. The rotation had the opportunity to be very good, but Waino’s a huge hit to that. Carpenter is really good, but his health is at least a little bit of a question mark, and to be honest I’m not sure if Carpenter will be on this team after the trading deadline. Depending on where the Cardinals are, that might be smart. I can see Garcia still being pretty good, but regressing a bit. The other spots… Westbrook is okay, but Lohse? And an assortment of ugliness in the fifth spot? A messy bullpen? Their offense was already pretty bad, and this year I just don’t see them having the pitching to carry them to contention. Not an awful team, but not great.
4. Chicago Cubs: I’m not really sure what to say about them. Their offense could be okay, but they’re relying on guys like Alfonso Soriano and a bounce-back from Aramis Ramirez. Marlon Byrd had a great first half, but faltered in the second. They probably are gonna even out on the one-run game luck a bit, but I just don’t think they are that great. There seems to be a lot of pessimism about Garza, and I don’t quite get it. He’s a flyball pitcher, yes, and he’s not going to save this team, but I figure the increase in HR will be at least slightly mitigated in going from the AL East to the NL Central. I like their rotation, even if it’s not elite, and I like their bullpen. But their offense just has too many “if”s in it for me and the pitching isn’t quite strong enough to carry it.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates: Don’t get me wrong, they’ll still suck. But hey, not last place!!!! This is more a comment on how bad I think the Astros will be than any vote of confidence in the Pirates, really. Their offense mostly lacks depth and power, and the rotation and bullpen are mostly terrible. But with guys like Alvarez, Walker, Tabata, and McCutchen, I can see there being at least some offensive upside there. Not a lot, but some. There’s still a big gap between the Cubs and them, and they aren’t any good.
6. Houston Astros: Not really sure what to say about them, they seem terrible. They have an okay pitching staff set up, but a lot of that depends on Myers doing what he did last year all over again. I just hate their offense, their pitching can’t even come close to carrying it, and their bullpen’s kind of unreliable to boot.
1. San Francisco Giants: Eh, I’m not convinced that they can get the performances they did out of Huff, Burrell, or Torres again, and that’d be a big blow to their offense, which is already weak. At the same time, Sandoval will probably bounce back a bit… at any rate, I think it’s fair to say their offense won’t be their strength. Their pitching is. The bullpen is quite solid, and even with the ~World Series hangover~, it’s no stretch to say the Giants have a damn good rotation. Though if one guy gets hurt the alternative seems to be Jeff Suppan, though, so… stay healthy, guys.
2. Colorado Rockies: I really wanted to pick them first, I really did. But fact remains, this is an 83-win team that did very little to improve over the offseason. Tulo’s a stud and I can see Todd Helton bouncing back to respectability, but on the other hand I can see Carlos Gonzalez taking a bit of a fall. Ubaldo’s great and Chacin seems pretty good, but the rest of their pitching staff is… Jorge de la Rosa and his disturbingly close to Ollie Perez-like career? Aaron Cook, oh wait no he broke his hand? The bullpen depth is good, but Huston Street’s a bit shaky at the back end.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers: Meh. I actually think their pitching is in good shape, especially when? if? Jon Garland and Vicente Padilla come back. They’re being underrated in that way; like, I never see them in the conversation for best rotation when Kershaw/Billingsley/Kuroda is a very good front end and they have good depth. Unfortunately, their offense is very bad. I can see Kemp bouncing back quite a bit (and it’s not like he was terrible last year), and Ethier will probably be better, but the rest of that lineup? Yikes. Furcal had a good year last year, but damn, he cannot stay healthy. While their starters might be good, they’re not exactly noted for giving a ton of innings, and the bullpen’s a mess (poor Jonathan Broxton).
4. San Diego Padres: They have pretty okay starting pitching, and their bullpen is amazing. It’s just, well, they don’t have an offense. Flat-out. Sorry to be so short with this prediction, only I don’t really know what else to say. I can pretty easily see this being the worst offense in baseball now that A-Gon is, well, gone.
5. Arizona Diamondbacks: Wow this team sucks. They have some great offensive pieces (Justin Upton ilu) but little depth there, and not enough to really be considered a great lineup. And then, the pitching… quite frankly, it’s a disaster. Starting rotation, bullpen. Well, the bullpen will be better mostly because it can’t be worse and JJ Putz was probably an okay addition to close, but they’re not even sniffing competition this year.