The 2011 MLB postseason was a joy to watch, and David Freese and the Cardinals came out of nowhere to capture their 11th title.
With spring training now upon us, it is the perfect time to start evaluating the offseason and determine what teams are poised for big things in 2012.
This slideshow breakdown will cover all eight playoff openings this season, including win/loss projections and analysis of strengths and weaknesses heading toward opening day.
Not every "paper champ" could break into the group, and some notable team omissions include:
1. Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays will finish 92-70 in 2012, and the last-second heartbreak they delivered to Boston will be their own burden this time around—as the Rangers squeak out a one-game Wild Card edge.
2. Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers will finish 89-73 in 2012, as the loss of Prince Fielder and a motivated yet scarred Ryan Braun will simply be too much to overcome. They have a solid rotation, but Aramis Ramirez won’t be enough to hold up the offensive attack.
3. Atlanta Braves: The 2011 debacle will be difficult to overcome mentally, but I think they will successfully do so—finishing with 88 wins. I don’t, however, think Jason Heyward or Chipper Jones will have big years, and Dan Uggla is too inconsistent to compensate for that. They have the pitching to challenge anyone, but the NL East is far too strong in 2012 to rely solely on the staff.
4. Boston Red Sox: Josh Beckett needs to grow up, Clay Buchholz needs to prove his health and someone needs to step up at the back end. Boston’s offense is not enough to climb out of a brutal AL East, and a 90-72 record will not lead to October baseball.
Feel free to make the case for any of these omissions in the comment section or add more of your own, as I would love to debate some baseball with all of you.
Here we go, starting off the list with the defending NL West champions: