2011 Predictions

Since most experts have already gone through their predictions, I want to get mine in before opening day tomorrow.  I found that the toughest two divisions to predict are the NL and AL Central, with the NL West coming in next.  Of course a couple of injuries could change things fast in every division, but the depth of the Phillies and Red Sox is really unmatched in my opinion.  So, here we go with the division and wild card winners (*).

NL East

  1. Philadelphia Phillies
  2. Atlanta Braves*
  3. Florida Marlins
  4. New York Mets
  5. Washington Nationals

Even with the best player on the team, Chase Utley, missing the first month and a half, the Phillies will easily pitch their way to the top.  I think the Braves are more loaded than most people think, that’s why I’m giving them the wild card, but how do you pick against a team that has 3 of the top 10 pitchers in the game, and 4 of the top 20?

NL Central

  1. Milwaukee Brewers
  2. St. Louis Cardinals
  3. Cincinnati Reds
  4. Chicago Cubs
  5. Houston Astros
  6. Pittsburgh Pirates

I really hope I’m wrong with this pick, but losing Adam Wainwright for the year hurts the team in more ways than one.  Even if Kyle McClellan does well as a starter, it still leaves a huge hole in the bullpen.  Mitchell Boggs has had a horrible spring, and that has to be a huge concern.  How bad is Boggs lower back?  Jason Motte hasn’t exactly pitched well either.  I know most fans feel that Ryan Franklin has done a fine job as a closer, but he still leaves me nervous every time he’s out there because he relies on the defense too much.  Franklin just doesn’t have a strikeout pitch. 

On top of the Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum deals, the Brewers picked up Takashi Saito during the offseason.  Even though the deal didn’t make the big headlines, all those moves together made the Brewers the favorites in my opinion.  Along with closer John Axford, the Brewers now have a dominant set-up man.  Saito has an 11.1 SO/9 in his career while Axford has an 11.6 SO/9 in his career.

It seems that the Cardinals are going to need Lance Berkman, David Freese, Chris Carpenter and Kyle Lohse to all avoid the DL to have a shot at winning the NL Central.  Like I said, I hope I’m wrong, but it seems the Cardinals have more question marks than the Brewers.  The Reds and Cubs will also be in the mix, and I’ve seen predictions where at least one writer has these top 4 teams in every possible order.

Caribsports.com as of today has the odds of winning the NL Central as a tossup between the Cards and Reds, both at a +180, with the Brewers at +185 and the Cubs at a +450.

NL West

  1. San Francisco Giants
  2. Colorado Rockies
  3. Los Angeles Dodgers
  4. San Diego Padres
  5. Arizona Diamondbacks

Although the Rockies seem to be the favorite of most writers, I like the Giants to repeat in the NL West.  Along with the dominant pitching staff, they have two of the most underrated players in the game in Andres Torres and Aubrey HuffBuster Posey is going to improve, and while their lineup is not overly threatening, it has a nice balance.  I think the Dodgers could end up being a surprise team in the NL, as they have a nice one through five in their starting pitching staff, with Jon Garland set to be their number 5 starter.

AL East

  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. New York Yankees
  3. Tampa Bay Rays
  4. Baltimore Orioles
  5. Toronto Blue Jays

The Red Sox seem to have it all.  They have the best lineup in baseball, and the second best pitching staff to the Phillies.  They have an incredible mix of power and speed.  They have dominant starting pitching.  They also have a dominant bullpen.  Another move that fell under the radar was the pickup of Bobby Jenks, who was the closer for the White Sox.  He’s penciled in as a 6th or 7th inning man for the Red Sox now.  For the first time in years, the Yankees will be sitting at home in October, because the winner of the wild card in the AL will come from the Central.

AL Central

  1. Chicago White Sox
  2. Minnesota Twins*
  3. Detroit Tigers
  4. Cleveland Indians
  5. Kansas City Royals

Another tough division to pick, the White Sox, Twins and Tigers all have a legitimate shot at winning the division.  The White Sox are another team with a nice blend of power and speed.  It seems Alexis Rios has found his home, and it looks like Jake Peavy is going to start the season around the middle of April.  Justin Morneau of the Twins might have a say in who wins the AL Central, as it is yet to be determined if he is going to be the same player he was before he missed half of 2010 with a concussion.  The Tigers seem to have the best pitching on paper, and former Cardinal Brad Penny and his health will be a big factor as well.

AL West

  1. Texas Rangers
  2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
  3. Oakland Athletics
  4. Seattle Mariners

I’m not so sure about the AL West.  The Angels have a top 5 starting staff, and better than that if Scott Kazmir finds his groove again, but the health of Kendry Morales is going to make or break them, along with their bullpen, which doesn’t look good at all.  I don’t expect the Rangers to run away with this division at all, and the subtraction of Cliff Lee is a big one.  The A’s have a young and exciting group of starters, but I still think they are a year or two away.  I might change my mind as early as tomorrow on the Rangers winning the division, because I think the Angels Mike Scioscia is probably the best manager in the game.

NL Champion—Philadelphia Phillies

It’s hard to imagine that the Phillies got better, but they did.  The return of Cliff Lee to the Phillies will now put them up there with one of the greatest pitching staffs of all-time if they all stay healthy.

AL Champion—Boston Red Sox

The most balanced team in baseball, period.

World Series Champs—Boston Red Sox

After waiting from 1918 to 2004 to win another World Series, the Boston Red Sox will have won 3 in the last 8 years.

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