As anyone who has seen my NCAA bracket knows, I would not put money on any of the following. But, just for fun, I figured I would take another crack at predicting the future of MLB this season. Last year, I predicted only three playoff teams and made some major mistakes, like picking the Rangers for last in the AL West, so you have been warned!
1- Boston I am going with the crowd on this one, but I still have a number of doubts about their starting pitching. Still, the offense will be more than enough to get them to October.
2- Yankees The funny thing about baseball is how often we forget how long the season is. On July 8th of 2010, everyone in New York was printing World Series tickets and wondering why Cliff Lee was even necessary. That team stumbled home, barely above .500 in the second half. I think this year’s club reverses that pattern with a mediocre first half and a great second half spurred on by a big trade. (See below)
3- Baltimore I like Buck Showalter and I am convinced the second half revival he produced in Baltimore wasn’t a fluke. They will finish above .500 and give fans a reason to see that beautiful ballpark again.
4- Tampa Free agency gutted them, especially in the bullpen. But, they have a lot of great pieces and will be very dangerous again in 2012
5- Toronto I bet the Blue Jays would finish third in most of the other divisions in baseball. That’s how deep the AL East is.
1- Minnesota Think of what they accomplished last year without Morneau for a big chunk of the year and without Nathan for all of it.
2- Chicago I think they are just a step behind the Twins and a step ahead of the Tigers in what should be a three-way battle to the end.
3- Detroit See above, but some other predictions. Cabrera has a big year as does Jackson, but Coke flops in the rotation.
4- Kansas City They are starting to put it together but not yet.
5- Cleveland I don’t see a lot a happiness in Cleveland this year.
1- Oakland Love the rotation and I bet guys like Willingham and Matsui do enough offensively to get the club to the playoffs.
2- Anaheim Mike Scioscia is a great manager and I bet he gets this club to bounce back.
3- Texas The toughest thing to do is repeat as anything in sports and no one will be surprised by Texas this year.
4- Seattle They just don’t have enough pieces to compete and that will lead to a huge trade at the deadline- Felix Hernandez to the Yankees for Montero, Banuelos, Nunez and David Phelps.
1- Atlanta Yup, picking against the pitching of the Phillies may be dumb, but I think Atlanta has put together a nice team with some very good pitching of their own.
2- Phillies You didn’t expect me to go lower than 2nd with them did you?
3- Washington I know the big guy won’t be back until 2012, but I think they have some nice young pieces. Plus, Jason Werth will certainly help (though that is still a terrible deal)
4- Florida Watch out for Mike Stanton, I could see him having a huge year. The problem is, besides Stanton, Ramirez and Johnson who is going to step up?
5- NY Mets This one gives me no joy, but this team is in trouble. Huge problems off the field and not a lot of reasons to feel hope on it. I am afraid a fire sale will take place at the deadline as the Wilpons try and keep financially afloat.
1- Cincinnati It won’t be the days of the Big Red Machine, but the injury to Wainwright opens the door in the Central for them.
2- St Louis As mentioned above, losing Wainwright will cost them the division. A tough last season in St. Louis for Pujols
3- Milwaukee I could pick them for any of the first three spots, but I have my doubts about some of their players repeating their strong 2010 campaigns.
4- Chicago Anohter season of futility on the North Side, but hope will come in November when they land the big kahuna- Pujols as a free agent.
5- Pittsburgh Still bad, but getting better. Then again, this will mark their 19th-straight season below .500. It’s a shame because they have a wonderful ballpark.
6- Houston I think the Astros are the worst team in baseball this year.
1- Giants No reason not to pick them with that pitching staff.
2- Colorado They will be hunting for “Roctober” again in Denver.
3- Los Angeles Tough first year for Donnie Baseball as the Dodgers barely scrape out a .500 record.
4- Arizona I bet Justin Upton has a monster year and Juan Miranda doesn’t disappoint either.
5- San Diego How’s this for a bait and switch- get your fans to renew their season tickets and then trade your best player? San Diego won’t have the chance to pull that trick at the end of this season.
In the AL I predict the Yankees earn the wild card and face Minnesota in the first round which they win. Oakland beats Boston in the other ALDS, setting up Oakland and New York in the ALCS. New York has two aces with CC and Felix, but just like last year, they fall to an AL West opponent in six games.
In the NL I predict the Phillies earn the wild card and knock the Reds out in the NLDS while San Fran outlasts Atlanta to setup a NLCS rematch. This time, the Phillies prevail and make their 3rd World Series in the last 4 years where they steamroll the youthful A’s 4 games to 1.
Almost all of the above won’t come true, but that’s the prediction business. What are your guesses for 2011?