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. Bexy posted hers yesterday, and tomorrow we will put up jointly written bold predictions for both teams. 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. My predictions after the jump.
Red Sox—Josh Beckett and John Lackey are the keys to the Red Sox. Assuming they aren’t hit by the injury bug to the extent they were last year, the offense will be fine. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz should likewise be fine, even if Buchholz isn’t 2.33 ERA good again. If Lackey continues his mediocre first year and Beckett remains what he has been for his Boston career (143 starts, 4.29 ERA), then the team will run into problems, even healthy. Overall, this is a team that has what it takes to win the toughest division in baseball.
Yankees—Lost in the shuffle of “the Yankees lost Lee” was that they never had Lee in the first place. All the carping about the back end of the rotation forgets that this is a team that won 95 games last year with dead weights named Burnett and Vazquez (combined 59 starts, 5.28 ERA) as their back end. Losing Andy Pettitte to retirement will hurt them, but question marks at the back end are hardly new things. Really, it all comes down to AJ Burnett—if AJ rebounds, this is the 95-win team from last year with an improved bullpen and bench. If he doesn’t, things get much shakier.
Rays—They will have the rotation to compete, but the loss of their entire bullpen and Crawford and Pena will lead to a weaker Rays team. Desmond Jennings might one day be Carl Crawford, but Crawford took several years before he started hitting regularly, and any team considering Kyle Farnsworth for high-leverage roles should get points taken off.
Orioles—When an entire team collectively underperforms to the extent that the Orioles did last year, the blame usually falls on the coaching staff. In fact, the Fightin’ Showalters Orioles rebounded quite well after management change and they are ready to take it to the next level—fourth place.
Blue Jays—I picked the Jays to finish fifth last year too, and they wound up being much better than I expected. I’m picking them again though because I don’t see Jose Bautista hitting 50+ home runs again, and while shedding the albatross known as Vernon Wells’ contract will help the 2014 Blue Jays, losing a 30-HR center fielder will most assuredly not help the team in 2011.
Tigers—They have a solid 1-2 punch in Verlander and Scherzer (who was quietly terrific—2.11 ERA in 18 straight starts from the end of May until the beginning of September, before he got hit around a bit at the end) and don’t forget Porcello is still just 22 years old. I do not believe the Phil Coke Experiment will succeed, but between a generally solid rotation and Martinez and Cabrera in the middle of the lineup, I think the Tigers finally take out Minnesota.
Twins—Of course, I’ve been predicting Minnesota’s demise for years now. They refuse to cooperate. Still, the year I pick them to win is the year they lose 90 games. Will Morneau be healthy? Will he hit like he was hitting last year? Important questions.
White Sox—Where you rank the White Sox depends on how much you believe in Jake Peavy’s health, Edwin Jackson’s ability to be consistently good, and Paul Konerko’s ability to be even close to as good as he was in 2010. Adam Dunn is awesome, and not having to play the field will make him a much better ballplayer, but I just don’t see this team staying in it all year.
Indians—Still hard to believe that this team was one win from the World Series just four years ago. They have some exciting players in Choo and Carlos Santana, but their pitching is not pretty.
Royals—Speaking of ugly–they have a very good core coming in, but that won’t help them much in 2011. Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera prowling the same outfield? Yikes. At least we will have something to write about whenever they win a game.
Rangers—I’m not particularly enamored with this pick. I don’t really believe in the Texas rotation at all—I think Lewis will be fine, but Wilson pitched over his head last year and after that they have…Tommy Hunter, who is now hurt? Derek Holland? Feliz? Ogando? The division is weak enough and they will hit enough (at home, certainly) that it won’t matter.
Athletics—In some ways, Oakland is the opposite of the Rangers. They will pitch—they have the best staff in the division and one of the best in the league—but I don’t think they can hit enough to keep up.
Angels—Poor Kendrys Morales. Also, if Vernon Wells doesn’t tear the cover off the ball, he will very quickly become the scapegoat for all things wrong with the Angels.
Mariners—Felix Hernandez! Ichiro! On the bright side, they can’t possibly be more offensively inept than they were last year…right?
Phillies—Their lineup is another year older, they will miss Jayson Werth, and they are dealing with a lot of injuries. It shouldn’t matter—they had injury problems last year and won 97 games, and that rotation is really, really, really, really good. I feel bad for Joe Blanton, who will constantly be reminded of who he isn’t.
Braves—Tim Hudson will be 35 years old this year, and Derek Lowe will be 38. A lot depends on those two guys, but Tommy Hanson is pretty awesome, as is Jason Heyward, with Freddie Freeman and consensus-top-pitching-prospect-in-the-minors Julio Teheran waiting in the wings.
Marlins—Not much to say about the Marlins. Josh Johnson and Hanley Ramirez are pretty darn good. They aren’t as good as the Phillies or Braves, but they are a clear notch above the Mets and Nats. Meh.
Mets—Dumping Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo was certainly a symbolic move, but as far as we know, the team’s ownership is still financially handicapped and cutting Castillo might actually have been releasing their best option. Brad Emaus? Dan Murphy? Also, Mike Pelfrey is their Opening Day starter. Get well soon, Johan.
Nationals—What happens when you take a last place team and subtract Adam Dunn and Stephen Strasburg? Sure, Jayson Werth is a pretty good hitter, and Ryan Zimmerman is a stud, but move along—nothing to see here.
Brewers—They are going all-in this year, and they are going to need imports Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum to be healthy, which they currently aren’t. However, this is a pretty weak division and I think it will be enough. They can hit plenty, and they have a solid rotation even in Greinke’s absence.
Reds—The defending champs are banking on a lot from their young pitchers. Plus, they are keeping Aroldis Chapman in the bullpen. I say they finish second.
Cardinals—Albert. Pujols. Contract Year. Still, losing Wainwright is a mortal blow for this already top-heavy team. Also, Albert Pujols contract year.
Cubs—A few interesting young guys, but not enough to break into the top half of the division.
Pirates—Same old Pirates. That I picked them to not finish last despite losing 105 games last year says more about what I think of Houston than what I think about the Pirates.
Astros—These guys look to be pretty terrible. Hunter Pence has stalled, and while a 25-homer guy has value, he still has never been as good as he was as a rookie. Bringing in Ryan Rowland-Smith is not going to help.
Giants—I’m not sold on the offense at all. Posey is a stud, and Sandoval better bounce back, but Andres Torres and Aubrey Huff will likely not repeat their years last year, and Miguel Tejada is not exactly anyone’s idea of a shortstop. Brandon Belt will be up at some point, but the Giants will win the division the same way they won the World Series last year—with their pitching.
Rockies—I like the Rockies, I just don’t see them keeping pace all year with the Giants. Let’s see if Carlos Gonzalez can do that again.
Dodgers—Matt Kemp is looking to bounce back, and Clayton Kershaw is looking to take the next step. Still don’t think they have enough to knock out Colorado or San Francisco.
Padres—Most divisions I would put these guys last. Especially after Latos started dealing with shoulder soreness. A terrible 2010 offense minus their only real threat might actually turn Chase Headley into their best hitter. This team might be even worse offensively than last year’s Mariners, and I’m still not picking them to finish last.
Diamondbacks—Ian Kennedy. Dan Hudson. Joe Saunders. Um…yea. Dan Hudson might turn out to be really good—he had a 1.69 ERA in 11 starts after being traded to Arizona last summer, and he’ll still just be 24. But even if he stays awesome this is looking ugly, and if he takes a step back, then yikes. On the other hand, their bullpen can’t possibly get worse, right?