2011 MLB Season Preview and Predictions

By: Brandon Ford
Spring is almost here and that means that the 2011 Major League Baseball season is about to begin. Teams have reported to Spring Training and on March 31st the season will officially begin. The usual suspects (Red Sox, Yankees and Phillies) will all be in contention and we might get the “surprise” team that rises up and makes an impact during the course of the season that we seem to get almost every year. What teams will fulfill their preseason expectations? Which teams will fall short? Find out below in the 2011 MLB Season Preview.
American League East Predictions
1st Place: Boston Red Sox- After an eventful offseason, which included bringing in All Stars Alberto Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, the Red Sox are primed to be the heir to the AL East throne after the Tampa Bay Rays’ decline. When you combine a great offense with two, young starters (who both have potential for Cy Young caliber seasons) in Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, you have a team that can potentially when the pennant. The only thing that can stop this team is injuries, which plagued this team last year and eventually cost them a playoff berth. With the Yankees aging and having a questionable pitching staff and the Rays being gutted during Free Agency, expect Boston to once again be in contention.
2nd Place: New York Yankees- Losing out on Cliff Lee really hurt the Yankees, who have a questionable, not to mention old, pitching staff. Even their once dangerous offense has been neutered due to the decline of Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. This is still a good team that has potential to make some noise this season but their lackluster pitching staff will be the downfall of the Yankee Empire this season.
3rd Place: Baltimore Orioles- After years of futility, the Orioles are now primed to have their first winning season since 1997. The addition of Vladimir Guerrero will bring veteran leadership to this young ballclub and manager Buck Showalter will get his first full year to mold this team into what he believes can be a winner. Brian Matusz is primed for a breakout season as well and could be the saving grace of an otherwise underwhelming pitching staff.
4th Place: Toronto Blue Jays- This young ball club has potential to be good a few years down the road….just not this year. Their bullpen is very deep but other than that, this team is still a few years away from being anything special. A third place finish isn’t completely out of the question and the difference between fourth and third place will be up to their young starting rotation.
5th Place: Tampa Bay Rays- After three years of being contenders, it’s back to the AL East cellar for the Rays. The departures of Matt Garza, Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and Rafael Soriano will be huge holes that will be tough to fill. While they still have all star Evan Longoria, this team really doesn’t have anything else going for them and adding over the hill veterans such as Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez won’t help matters.
American League Central Predictions
1st Place: Detroit Tigers- This team has a very potent line up and a very good bullpen and that is a recipe for success in the very tough AL Central. Their starting rotation is also very good with the two top guys being Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, who are two of the top pitchers not only in the AL Central, but in the American League in general.
2nd Place: Chicago White Sox- This team has both a strong lineup and starting rotation but their bullpen is a big enough question mark to put them into second place in the ultra tough American League Central. If their bullpen can improve, they can easily overtake the Tigers and win the division. The addition of slugging DH Adam Dunn will definitely help an already strong lineup.
3rd Place: Minnesota Twins- Manager Ron Gardenhire is famous for doing more with less than any other manager in baseball and just like the White Sox, I wouldn’t surprise me to see the Twins win the division. This is a very solid team but an uneventful offseason compared to the White Sox and the Tigers is what puts them in third.
4th Place: Cleveland Indians- Their bullpen, which is solid, is the only thing keeping them from ending up in last place. Their lineup is probably one of the least threatening in the major leagues and it’s not like manager Manny Acta is known for getting the best out of his players.
5th Place: Kansas City Royals- What else is new? The departure of Zack Greinke doesn’t help any matters and this team has literally no strengths. Just another year for Kansas City, I guess.
American League West
1st Place: Oakland Athletics- This team has one of the best pitching staffs in the major leagues and probably the best in the American League. They don’t have the best lineup but it is still deep enough to push this team above Texas and into the playoffs.
2nd Place: Texas Rangers- An improved lineup from last year is what keeps this team in the playoffs but the declining pitching staff is what drops them out of first place. The loss of Cliff Lee really hurt and Brandon Webb, who hasn’t pitched in years, won’t help fill the gap that Lee will leave.
3rd Place: Los Angeles Angels- This team has a strong rotation but everything else is pretty weak and this team is still about a year away from being back where they used to be. Having an elite manager in Mike Scioscia helps and could push this team to a near winning record.
4th Place: Seattle Mariners- Without Ichiro and Felix Hernandez, this team is an abomination and one of the worst in the major leagues with them not having any strengths anywhere else. This team is easily going to finish in the cellar of an otherwise strong division.
National League East
1st Place: Philadelphia Phillies- This is a no-brainer. The addition of Cliff Lee makes this pitching rotation not only the best in baseball, but one of the best of all time. Barring injuries, no team is going to come close to this team in the National League. Oh yeah, and their lineup is also one of the best in baseball.
2nd Place: Atlanta Braves- The addition of slugger Dan Uggla is a huge to a lineup that is already pretty good. They have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball and should give the Phillies a run for their money in the division.
3rd Place: Florida Marlins- This team always seems to be in the mix and this year will be no different. Their young pitching rotation, led by Josh Johnson, will keep them in many games and might help them contend for a wild card spot and nobody should be surprised if the Marlins are playing into the middle of October.
4th Place: New York Mets- This is going to be a rough year for the Mets, who are always the red headed step child of the New York Yankees whether they’re competitive or not and with this year being one where they won’t be competitive, they will have a tough time being relevant in New York. Missing ace Johan Santana for the first couple of months of the season won’t help matters either.
5th Place: Washington Nationals- This team has come a long way since 2005 and has the makings of a competitive team in the very near future. The additions of Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche will be great additions to a lineup that already contains all star Ryan Zimmerman. The pitching staff still needs a lot of work and will cost them many games this year.
National League Central Predictions
1st Place: Cincinnati Reds- This young team shocked almost everyone last year when they won the NL Central and made the playoffs. However, the Reds won’t sneak up on anyone this year and the Cardinals will see them coming. However, the Cardinals will be coming into the season without one of their best pitchers and the Reds will take advantage of that and win the NL Central.
2nd Place: St. Louis Cardinals- The distraction of Albert Pujols’ contract situation withstanding, this team should have a good year and would of won the NL Central. However, the season ending injury to Adam Wainwright will hamper their pitching staff and take at least fifteen win away from them.
3rd Place: Milwaukee Brewers- A much improved pitching staff, which includes former Cy Young award winner Zack Greinke, will carry the Brewers this year. However, a great pitching staff cannot make up for an average lineup and that is what the Brewers have.
4th Place: Chicago Cubs- This team was a mess last year and nothing really seems to have changed. The addition of Matt Garza will improve the pitching staff but the majority of the rest of the team is made up of players who are over the hill and can’t play at a high level anymore.
5th Place: Houston Astros- This is a very young team that is a couple of years away from being competitive. Hunter Pence and Wandy Rodriguez are both good players but other than that, this is a very bad team.
6th Place: Pittsburgh Pirates- Last place is a place that both this team and its fans have grown accustomed too since 1992 and this year isn’t going to change anything. They have a good group of young talent but they have yet to put it all together and I doubt that this year will be the year that they do.
National League West
1st Place: San Francisco Giants- The defending World Series champions have the second best rotation in baseball next to the Philadelphia Phillies and the scary thing is, every member in the rotation is under the age of 30 with the exception of Barry Zito. Their offense should also be improved and this is the only other team that can give the Phillies a real scare come October.
2nd Place: Colorado Rockies- The Rockies have a very good foundation to be a serious contender in the coming years. They have a great lineup, lead by all star infielder Troy Tulowitzki. However, their rotation is still suspect, with only Ubaldo Jimenez being a legitimate starter. We will see if the rest of the rotation can step up and perform up to an elite level.
3rd Place: Arizona Diamondbacks- This team underperformed in 2010 and I look for them to at least be competitive this year. They have a very good lineup and a good young rotation that could grow into something special. However, they’re still a couple of years away from being a legitimate force in the National League.
4th Place: San Diego Padres- The loss of Alberto Gonzales really hurts this team but they still have a good rotation that can carry them and keep them out of the cellar in the NL West. Other than their rotation, this is just a really average team.
5th Place: Los Angeles Dodgers- Following an awful 2010 campaign, the 2011 one will be just as worse. They have a new manager in Don Mattingly, who will have big shoes to fill after Joe Torre retired last year. The roster is consisted of a lot of inconsistent players and that will ultimately be the downfall for the Dodgers this season.
Playoff Predictions
ALDS
Boston Red Sox defeat Texas Rangers 3-1
Oakland Athletics defeat Minnesota Twins 3-1
NLDS
Philadelphia Phillies defeat Atlanta Braves 3-0
San Francisco Giants defeat Cincinnati3-2
ALCS
Oakland Athletics defeat Boston Red Sox 4-3
NLCS
Philadelphia Phillies defeat San Francisco Giants 4-2
World Series
Philadelphia Phillies defeat Oakland Athletics 4-1