In baseball one can watch this game forever and still not see it
all. Yet the 2010 season gave us quite a few moments we haven’t seen in
a while if ever. There was the San Francisco Giants, 56 years, one
city, one coast removed from a title finally capturing that elusive
championship banner for the city by the bay. Their opponents the Texas
Rangers played capture the flag as well, winning their first playoff
series and pennant in club history. What comes forth in 2011? Well, we
haven’t seen it… yet.
American League East:
1.) Boston Red Sox – Injuries decimated Boston in 2010 and they still
managed to win 89 games in the AL East. Adrian Gonzalez and Carl
Crawford will be welcome additions, if not for their explosive offensive
production, for their durability, with each playing 160 and 154 games
respectively last season. There’s a lot more depth in the lineup and
the bullpen, but a lot rides on how John Lackey, Josh Beckett and
Daisuke Matsuzaka respond in 2011.
2.) New York Yankees – Traditionally Alex Rodriguez puts up MVP stats
in odd years (2003, 2005, 2007 and his 2009 post-season numbers were
off the charts) and if the Yankees are going to make the playoffs this
year, his Spring Training theatrics will have to carry over to the
regular season. This lineup will have to jump out front early and hope
the starters can pitch to the scoreboard and hand it off to that nasty
3.) Toronto Blue Jays – Remember when everyone thought Toronto would
amount to nothing in the post-”HallaJay” era prior to 2010? Now with
Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil to neutralize the lefty laden lineups of
Boston and New York, along with a couple more guys with bat missing
stuff in Brendan Morrow and Kyle Drabek, Toronto could cause some major
headaches in the AL East. Which Blue Jays hitter will have a career
year this season? Two years ago it was the “A-Team” with Aaron Hill and
Adam Lind and last year it was “The WB” as in Vernon Wells and
Jose Bautista. Will the breakout player this year be rookie catcher
4.) Tampa Bay Rays – Carl Crawford set the tone for the Rays lineup
for a decade and now Tampa will hope Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon can
hold up just long enough to infuse some life into a young light hitting
lineup. I like David Price to dominate again and win his first Cy Young
and James Shields should bounce back, but I can also see a lot of games
with this bullpen and lineup where the Rays are up 2-1 in the sixth and
all hell breaks loose.
5.) Baltimore Orioles – In any other division I might pick them to
finish higher and given a clean slate with Buck Showalter, heck they
just might this year. If some of the young guys like Adam Jones, Nick
Markakis and Matt Wieters realize their potential and Vladimir Guerrero,
Derrek Lee and Mark Reynolds can help show these guys what it takes to
win, their offense could create some major headaches. Of course the O’s
future is contingent on the development of Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman,
Jake Arrieta and Zach Britton who is waiting in the wings.
American League Central:
1.) Minnesota Twins – I’ll take the Twins to win this division until
they don’t. Their rotation is consistent one through five and getting
close Joe Nathan back keeps them elite. If Justin Morneau is healthy
all year they’re probably going to run away and hide with this division.
2.) Chicago White Sox – The addition of Adam Dunn should create a lot
of havoc in the AL Central. There’s a lot you want to like about them
but consistency remains a problem. They’ll also have to improve their
record within the division. Chicago only went 5-13 against Minnesota,
8-10 against Detroit, 9-9 against Cleveland and 10-8 against Kansas
3.) Detroit Tigers – Detroit seems to be a club that is top-heavy and
hence last season after a respectable start they faded away in the
second half. The 52-29 home record was impressive, but the 29-52 mark
on the road, not so much. I liked the additions of Victor Martinez and
Joaquin Benoit, but after Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer in the
rotation there’s a lot left to be desired.
4.) Cleveland Indians – Shin-Soo Choo is one of the more underrated
players in baseball and Carlos Santana and Matt LaPorta have some
potential. Unfortunately for the Tribe, they just can’t seem to
patch Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner together for a full campaign.
How long until the Fausto Carmona to the Yankees/Cardinals/Rangers watch
5.) Kansas City Royals – In Kansas City they’re banking on a fertile
farm system down the road. Losing ace Zach Greinke won’t help in the
short-term though. This could be a make or break year for Alex Gordon
in the Royals lineup.
American League West:
1.) Oakland Athletics – Yes the A’s appear to be everyone’s sexy pick
this season, perhaps more as a sleeper but I love this pitching staff.
Their team ERA was first in the AL and they’re adding Grant Balfour and
Brian Fuentes to their bullpen. They’re not loaded offensively but I
do like the additions of Hideki Matsui, Josh Willingham and David
2.) Texas Rangers – Reigning AL Champs with reigning AL MVP Josh
Hamilton and additions of Adrian Beltre along with Mike Napoli should
keep the hits coming in Texas. However I’m not exactly sold on their
rotation beyond the top two. They’re going to have to do better than
39-42 on the road to take the division this year.
3.) Los Angeles Angels – It is very hard to imagine a Mike
Scioscia managed club missing the playoffs for two straight seasons.
Yet almost a fifth (15) of the Angels wins last season came against the
Seattle Mariners. I like their top three starters with Jered Weaver,
Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, but their bullpen is more than shaky and
the lineup leaves a lot to be desired.
4.) Seattle Mariners – In the NBA if you have a dynamic duo of stars
you’re at least a playoff contender. Unfortunately for the M’s this is
baseball and beyond Ichiro and King Felix, there’s a lot of holes to be
filled with the latter 23. Has it really been ten years since the M’s
won 116 games and made the playoffs with Ichiro winning MVP and ROY?
Ask the folks in the Pacific Northwest and it probably feels a lot
National League East:
1.) Philadelphia Phillies - Everyone knows about the starting
rotation. Granted aside from Roy Halladay, none of their starters won
more than 13 games last season. They are a bit nicked up with Chase
Utley and Brad Lidge out to start the season, but the Phillies are a
solid second half team and I expect them to make the tweaks necessary to
put them over the top.
2.) Atlanta Braves – I like their lineup one through nine much better
then the Phillies. Their starting staff is as steady as any outside of
Philadelphia and San Francisco. They’ll certainly be in the playoff
3.) Florida Marlins - They have some nice young pieces with Mike
Stanton, Gaby Sanchez and Chris Coghlin. If Hanley Ramirez matures to
have an MVP type season the Marlins could be in play for a Wild Card.
Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco will have to take it to the next level
for Florida to be a serious contender.
4.) New York Mets - Their lineup isn’t terrible on paper, it’s just a
matter of getting it out on the field. The Mets do have some
interesting reclamation projects on their pitching staff but if this
club gets off to a sluggish start, there could be a very early fire
5.) Washington Nationals – Washington has some nice young arms coming
along. Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche should add some pop to the
National League Central:
1.) Milwaukee Brewers – I absolutely love this team, especially with
the additions of Zach Greinke and Shaun Marcum. Yovani Galliardo is a
stud atop the vastly improved rotation. Outside of catcher and center
field the Brewers have double-digit home run potential at every
position. Folks question Prince Fielder’s durability but he’s only
missed ten games since 2006 and I expect his numbers to shoot back up
this season. I also believe Ryan Braun will be in the conversation for
2.) Cincinnati Reds – Still with a solid lineup carried by NL MVP
Joey Votto, the Reds have a solid foundation. Imagine if they hadn’t
traded Josh Hamilton? Now it is a matter of keeping their young hurlers
healthy, playing with hightened expectations and beating more quality
teams to make the jump to the next level. The only team to boast a
winning road record in the NL Central in 2010. The combo of Cordero and
Chapman should be filthy out of the pen once again.
3.) Chicago Cubs – I like the trade for Matt Garza. Garza won 15
games in the AL East and his numbers should only improve with moving to
the NL Central. Starlin Castro is a fun flashy player to watch at
short. There’s a lot of vets on this team capable of keeping this team
in the hunt, getting that potential out of them will be the tough task
4.) St. Louis Cardinals – Tony LaRussa can only do so much with smoke
and mirrors for so long with this club. Even with Adam Wainwright it
was going to be a tough haul, but now they’re paper-thin on pitching.
That and the Albert Pujols saga continues to drag on.
5.) Houston Astros - For Houston, Hunter Pence is the model of
consistency. Each of the last three season’s Pence has hit 25 bombs and
the last two season’s Hunter has batted .282. Unfortunately the
Astros lineup doesn’t boast any other “Killer P’s” and hope that third
baseman Chris Johnson can continue to step his game up. Houston did
finish up 40-33 down the stretch, with Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez,
J.A. Happ and Bud Norris being the staples of this club.
6.) Pittsburgh Pirates – A few years back the Pirates caught some
flak for trades of Nate McLouth, Jason Bay and Xavier Nady. But would
you rather have that outfield or Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata and
Garrett Jones? Pittsburgh could have a nice offensive corps if Pedro
Alvarez and Neil Walker continue to progress as well. However the
pitching once again is looking abysmal.
National League West:
1.) San Francisco Giants – Pitching and defense win championships and
the Giants have plenty of that. Yes they are an older club but when
one figures that Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain both had ERA’s almost a run
higher in 2010 than 2009, that they’re only going to be even better this
2.) Los Angeles Dodgers- Perhaps the deepest staff in the division.
Andre Ethier can be an MVP candidate, but the rest of this lineup needs
to live up to expectations and stay healthy. I’d still like to see them
add another bat.
3.) Colorado Rockies – The Rockies can tear the cover off the ball
and that’s no surprise. Carlos Gonzalez is not only an MVP but a Triple
Crown contender as well. Oddly enough this club got off to a superb
start at 49-39 but faltered down the stretch, including dropping their
final eight to close out the 2010 campaign. Ubaldo Jimenez was
absolutely electric for Colorado with a mark of 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA and
4.) San Diego Padres - Looking at their overall staff, one can
understand how the Padres won 90 games last year. Mat Latos, Clayton
Richard and Tim Stauffer should make San Diego competitive but losing
Adrian Gonzalez on offense could be a huge blow psychologically for this
5.) Arizona Diamondbacks – Arizona is fairly decent up the middle and
with Justin Upton in right. Daniel Hudson finished strong coming over
in a trade from the White Sox and Ian Kennedy showed some promise as
ALDS: Red Sox over Athletics, Yankees over Twins.
NLDS: Phillies over Giants, Brewers over Braves.
ALCS: Red Sox over Yankees.
NLCS: Phillies over Brewers.
World Series: Red Sox over Phillies.
AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez.
NL MVP: Ryan Braun.
AL Cy Young: David Price.
NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay.
AL Rookie of the Year: J.P. Arencibia.
NL Rookie of the Year: Aroldis Chapman.
AL Manager of the Year: Bob Geren.
NL Manager of the Year: Ron Roenicke.