2010 MLB: The Boston Red Sox and 10 Non-Playoff Teams to Watch for in 2011
The playoff picture in the American League is all but set, with the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers simply dotting the eyes and crossing the tees on their way to October.
There is a little drama left in the National League, as the Colorado Rockies, San Francisco Giants, and San Diego Padres battle it out with the Atlanta Braves for the NL wild card and the NL West division title.
For the most part, we know who is going to be in the playoffs this season. But what about next season? Which teams that are on the outside looking in this year will be in good shape to make a move into October next season?
Let's have a look.
10. Los Angeles Dodgers
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Blame who you will—the resurgent San Diego Padres, the McCourts, Manny Ramirez—but this is a playoff-caliber team that didn't show up in 2010.
Frankly, it may have been as simple as "luck of the draw" for the Dodgers this season; there were four good teams in the NL West, and the Dodgers came out on the bottom.
Next season, maybe the tables will turn.
9. Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim
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In starting the ball rolling with the Dodgers and the Angels, I am tacitly acknowledging something: it is hard to ever count out a team with the resources that come from playing in the L.A. area.
Nevertheless, it should also be pointed out that Mike Scioscia hasn't missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons since 2000-2001, his first two seasons in Anaheim.
With a full season of Jeff Weaver and Dan Haren, this could be an excellent team regardless of what the offense does.
8. Chicago White Sox
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This is a team that just seemed to fall flat in 2010. There is a lot of talent on this team, but they just didn't perform.
The White Sox could easily win the division in 2011 with the exact same roster they have now.
7. Oakland Athletics
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If the Oakland Athletics could hit, and I mean at all, they would be in the playoff race this season. Their team defense, particularly in the infield, is dynamite, and their pitching is young and talented.
The A's are 76-75 this season, but their Pythagorean Projection has them at 79-72. If they can improve upon that by just 10 games, they can give the Texas Rangers a chase next year.
Especially since the Texas Rangers are paper tigers.
6. Milwaukee Brewers
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I sincerely believe that if you took the Milwaukee Brewers and the Oakland A's, combined the rosters, and then created two new rosters that were balanced in terms of hitting, pitching, and defense, you'd have two playoff teams.
While the A's are all pitching and defense to the detriment of their offense, the Brewers have some of the best hitters in the National League while fielding one of the worst defensive units in baseball.
It is not hyperbole to say that if Yovani Gallardo, Manny Parra, and Randy Wolf had been pitching in Oakland this season, they'd all get votes in the Cy Young voting.
If the Brewers can improve their defense even up to a league-average level next season, look out.
5. Detroit Tigers
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Tons of young talent, tons of old players leaving town, and tons of money coming off the books.
The Justin Verlander-Max Scherzer-Jose Valverde core is an exciting one, but they need to flesh out that pitching staff to be competitive.
The Detroit Tigers were in the AL Central race in July, and there is no reason to expect them to not be a stronger, more experienced team in 2011.
4. Houston Astros
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So the Houston Astros were out of it at the All Star Break and traded away franchise superstars Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt.
And what have they done since then?
All they've done since then is tie the Cincinnati Reds and the Colorado Rockies for the best second half record in the National League.
3. St. Louis Cardinals
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As long as the Dave Duncan-Yadier Molina-Albert Pujols-Tony LaRussa Era continues, this is a playoff caliber team.
The tweaks the Cardinals need to make from this year's team to improve for next year are minor: the Cards need to get an actual second baseman instead of Skip Schumaker, they need David Freese to return healthy and ready to go in the spring, and they need a legitimate center fielder so they can move Colby Rasmus to right field.
And that's it.
2. Florida Marlins
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As a Philadelphia Phillies fan, the notion of the Florida Marlins as a playoff contender does make me giggle a little.
But it shouldn't.
The Marlins sport one of the best hitters in baseball in Hanley Ramirez, and last season's NL Rookie of the Year in Chris Coghlan.
In addition, the Marlins farm system sent up a preposterous number of major league ready hitters in 2010, including Gaby Sanchez, Mike Stanton, and Logan Morrison.
If Josh Johnson is back in form next season, if Anibal Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco can both be healthy and consistent, and the Marlins can improve their awful defense, this could quickly become a wild card contender.
1. Boston Red Sox
Every team has to deal with injuries, but the Boston Red Sox were positively snake-bitten in 2010. Assuming that Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Josh Beckett and Victor Martinez are all healthy and ready to go next April, it would be hard to imagine that this team couldn't improve by 10 games and finish with 90-something wins.