50 Bold MLB Predictions For 2011
As we near the end of 2010, we can look back on the 2010 baseball season as one of change. Wins are no longer the deciding factor in Cy Young races, the Yankees aren't automatically World Series bound each year and even if a team doesn't hit immensely well, if they have pitching and defense, they can win championships.
As for what 2011 will hold, some things seem obvious; the continuation of this new era after the end of the steroid era will continue, ERAs will remain relatively low and we will see maybe one 50 HR performance, or more likely none at all.
Some things are harder to determine though. For these, here are 50 bold predictions of what will happen in 2011 in baseball.
Philadelphia Phillies Team ERA: 3.18
Last year, the San Francisco Giants led the league in team ERA with 3.36. The Phillies were fifth in the NL with 3.68 and with the addition of Cliff Lee, that will naturally go down. Will it go down a full half a point? Why not? The bullpen will be taxed less, which should keep the ERAs of Lidge, Madson and company lower, or at least stable.
The Kansas City Royals Will Lose 100 Games
The Royals looked they were starting to turn the corner a couple seasons ago, but are instead back at rock bottom. They lost David DeJesus and Zack Greinke, their best hitter and pitcher, and gained Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francoeur. Ouch. Vin Mazzaro will help mend the wounds, but he's no Greinke. I'll say 56-106 on the low end for them.
The Baltimore Orioles Won't Be Last
This isn't so much the result of the trades bringing in Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy, but the leadership of Buck Showalter clearly lit a spark in this team in the second half and I see that continuing in 2011. Not a .500 team yet, but on their way up.
The San Diego Padres Will Fall Under .500
Yes, the Padres still have great pitching, but how does losing most of your offense in Adrian Gonzalez help? It doesn't. Factor in the loss of innings eater Jon Garland and you have yourself a team that's going to have some problems in 2011. I can't put them last because I think Arizona has another year of being in the NL West cellar, but who knows?
Mark Reynolds' Numbers Will Improve
Reynolds had a down year in 2010 compared to 2009. With the Orioles, he'll bounce back to an extent and his numbers will jump. Average will be around .230, with a 35/100 statline, double digit stolen bases and, of course, 220-odd strikeouts.
Adam Dunn Will Make an All-Star Team
With how much buzz Dunn got this off season, you may be surprised to know that he has only played in one all-star game in 2002. As a member of the White Sox, his power and walk numbers will be noted and he'll finally reach that stage again, which might be odd since his numbers won't really be any different from how they usually are.
Brandon Webb Will Be Comeback Player Of The Year
It looks like Brandon Webb will be signing with the Rangers. No matter where he does sign though, he's looking to put his injuries in the past. For this season at least, he will do just that, winning 15 games and keeping an ERA under 4. Not Cy Young numbers, but very solid ones that will earn him this recognition.
Jose Bautista's HR Count: 28
Jose Bautista seemingly came out of nowhere to hit 54 home runs last year and take the title of breakout star. In 2011, pitchers are going to watch him more closely and he won't get as many good pitches to hit. He'll still have a good year, just nothing like the one he just had.
Adrian Beltre Will Revert To His Old Ways
It's not confirmed where Beltre will sign yet, but think about it. In two contract years, 2004 and 2010, Beltre was amazing. In non-contract years, he's, at best, good. Having Boras, combined with this contract issue, leaves teams weary of him and it will show in 2011. He'll be back to a .270 average, 23 HR and 80 RBI; not bad stats, but not eight figure stats.
This Year's AL Breakout Hitter: Franklin Gutierrez
Here's what we know about Gutierrez: he was a great fielder last year, and a good hitter for a chunk of the season until a slump hit. I see him not only breaking out of this slump, but having a career year. He'll boost his average to nearly .300 and will be an all-around hitter, having solid numbers in home runs, triples, stolen bases, doubles and WAR. Just a hunch, but one I'm following.
This Year's NL Breakout Hitter: Stephen Drew
Like Gutierrez, Drew has played well, though not many know him outside of Arizona. With Reynolds and possibly LaRoche gone, that will change as he'll pick up the slack in the hitting department, boosting his triple crown numbers while also maintaining his double digit triple count.
Bert Blyleven, Robert Alomar, Jeff Bagwell and Pat Gillick
Who are those three? Why, they will be this year's hall of fame class. Alomar and Bagwell will get in easily, Gillick has already gotten in and Blyleven's long wait will finally be over. Morris will start to pick up support in 2012, now that Blyleven's in. I think Barry Larkin should be included above, but oh well, it'll be one more year.
The St. Louis Cardinals Will Miss The Playoffs
The Reds have not really undergone many changes and didn't need to. The Brewers have built a tough rotation to go with their solid lineup. The Cardinals fixed part of the infield, but Schumaker was probably the bigger problem, rather than Ryan. As a result, they'll fall just short of the playoffs again this year, despite remaining around the 90 win mark.
They have a roster where they should have no problem making the playoffs, but it's a gut feeling here.
Jason Heyward Will Remain Solid
Many Braves fans are probably expecting an MVP type season after Heyward's rookie year. There's no question in my mind he'll have a good year, though MVP is pushing it. A 2.85 average, 23 homers, 90 RBI and nearly 100 runs. Definitely good enough to keep the Braves competitive against the Phillies.
Tim Linececum Will Again Be Cy Young Quality
I believe firmly that Linececum's struggles this past year were an anomaly. He'll shake it off and revert to his old stats; similar record, but a lower ERA and more strikeouts, and a top three Cy finish, possibly winning it again. I think we would have preferred the World Series ring to a Cy anyway.
Carlos Santana Will Emerge
We saw a glimpse of how good Carlos Santana could be until his season-ending injury. He'll team alongside Shin-soo Choo and have a great year for the Indians, showing the power that we know he has and lining himself up for a major contract down the road (probably with another team).
Matt Kemp Will Rebound
After a great 2009, Matt Kemp had a bad 2010, included what sabremetricians will tell you was an absolutely horrible fielding year. He'll improve on both counts, reverting to the productive hitter he was and improving back to an average fielder; asking more of him after 2010 would be too bold.
The Boston Red Sox Will Lead Most Batting Categories
The Red Sox last year were already first in doubles and OPS and second in runs, home runs and slugging percentage. Add in Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford and they're going to be leading the league in far more categories.
We Will See Tim Wakefield's Final Game
Perhaps not that bold, but while we're on the subject of the Red Sox, Tim Wakefield will be 45 when his contract runs out in 2011, and he will have a tough 2011 to go with a tough 2010. He's been great for the Red Sox, but he will be done after this year.
We Will See Andy Pettitte's Final Game
Here's one more retirement for you guys. Given the Yankees' pitching problems in free agency, Pettitte will come back for one more year, and he'll play well. He won't be dominant, but he'll get 14 wins and have an ERA around 4; enough to show that he can still be great in his farewell tour.
Texas Will Struggle to Fill The Ace Role
Without Cliff Lee or Zack Greinke, the Rangers will try various people as the number one starter in hopes something sticks. Colby Lewis, C.J. Wilson and Tommy Hunter will all get shots, as well as anyone they might still acquire in free agency. It'll eventually go to Wilson, but none of those three will have ace-type stats, they'll merely be good.
Ted Lilly Will Struggle
The Dodgers are expecting big things for Lilly in 2011 after he played well for them in 2010, but he will be 35 and I think he will show some signs of slowing down. Expect nothing beyond a .500 record and an ERA under 4.80.
Zack Greinke Will Be an Ace
Now that Greinke will be on what we presume to be a winning team, it will show as he rebounds from a bad 2010 to have a great year. He may not win the Cy, given the deep pool of NL talent, but he will have a season much like he had in 2009 as he finds his confidence again.
Jorge De La Rosa Will Have a Great Under-The-Radar Year
When you think of Colorado Rockies pitching, you think of Ubaldo Jimenez. After 2011, you still will, but you'll also be thinking of Jorge de la Rosa. He has had a couple good years, but since he plays in Coors Field, they're not particularly noticed. Expect a 16-17 win season and an ERA around 3.50, which for a Rockies pitcher is great.
Mariano Rivera Will Be Dominant, Again
Mariano Rivera is apparently ageless. In 2010, at 40, Rivera had an ERA of 1.80 and a WHIP of .833. Expect another ERA under 2.00 as we try and figure out how he continues to play at this level.
The Tampa Bay Rays Will Struggle
They lost Crawford, Soriano, Pena, possibly Shields and Garza (many trade talks regarding them), and Benoit, so of course they're going to have problems this year. Factor in that they play in the tough AL East and 75 wins sounds fairly realistic for them.
The Seattle Mariners Will Be Good
This one's very bold, because they have made moves that would signal greatness in 2011. They won't be great, but they'll jump to 80ish wins. Why do I say that? They have good pitching and there's no way their hitting can be that bad next year when there's actually some talent hidden in there.
Carl Pavano Will Re-Sign With The Twins
Carl Pavano seems to be biding his time as suddenly the best free agent on the market, and that's a good place to be. Many teams still need a starter of #1-2 quality and Pavano can fill that void. The Rangers could use him, as could the Yankees (which has zero chance of happening), but in the end, he'll feel comfortable with the Twins and sign there.
The NL East Will Be Weaker Than Expected
With the moves the Phillies, Braves and Marlins have made, everyone is expecting that this will be a tough conference. It won't be. The Phillies will win nearly 100 games, yes, and the Braves will be great too, but the other three teams will finish under .500 and in fact the records won't be all that different from how they were this year.
The Yankees-Red Sox Rivalry Will Be Great
This rivalry, given all the money both sides are throwing around (can't use that as an excuse to cheer the Red Sox and boo the Yankees anymore), is going to be heavily played on all season at ESPN and elsewhere. Both teams have 95-win potential and if their pitching ends up being half as good as their hitting, these games will be great to watch, especially in September.
Jayson Werth's First Year Will Be Okay
After a career year in his third season, what can we expect from Jayson Werth on the Nationals? The answer is, alas, not much. He'll help to fill the void in production created by Adam Dunn, but if you think he'll hit 50 doubles along with a .300 average, that's not happening. His stat line from 2008 is more realistic for his first year.
Josh Hamilton Is Here to Stay
That amazing 2010 season Josh Hamilton had? He will prove in 2011 that it was no fluke, again putting up immense batting average and RBI numbers to go along with 30-odd home runs. Will that be enough to give him a second straight MVP? Read on to find out.
Brett Myers Will Continue His Effectiveness
Myers already broke out to an extent this past year, going 14-8 with a 3.14 ERA last year with the Astros. But since the Astros went nowhere, not too many noticed. They will next year, as he will have 15 more wins and an ERA around 3, and people will begin noticing him more frequently despite the myriad of NL pitching talent.
Ricky Romero Will Have a Breakout Year
Romero had a very solid year last year for Toronto, alongside Shaun Marcum, and got an extension. With Marcum gone, Romero will take over the reins and show why the Blue Jays are putting their trust in him. Expect 16-17 wins with an ERA around 3.20 and an All-Star bid.
The National League Will Win The All-Star Game
The NL has gained Cliff Lee, Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, and the AL didn't gain much from the NL besides Adrian Gonzalez. The guard is shifting and the balance of power seems to be with the National League, which we'll see in the All-Star game again this year.
Sophomore Slump: Austin Jackson
Austin Jackson took a good rookie year into a second place RoY finish and looks to have another good year for the Tigers with a much stronger lineup. However, I think that he'll have problems. His batting average will be down and his strikeout numbers will remain high, which will cause some problems.
The Cubs Will Remain Under .500
With the acquisition of Kerry Wood and Carlos Pena and with keeping their starting rotation pretty much intact, the Cubs seem like they'll be on the way back up with Mike Quade as coach. I don't see that happening, more because of how tough the NL Central will be at the top next year. The top three and bottom three teams are clear, and the Cubs are in the latter.
The Pittsburgh Pirates Won't Be The Worst Team...
They'll probably be second worst behind the Royals. They don't have much of a pitching staff at all and. while their outfield is becoming solid with Jose Tabata and Andrew McCutchen, they don't have much hitting either. Their pitching staff is deep in the minors, but that's at least a year away.
The Phillies Will Win 100 Games
They're probably the only team I could see pulling this off. The pitching they have alone guarantees a .500 record and with the hitting they have—with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, etc.—they'll manage a 100-62 record. Will they automatically win the title? That I didn't say, just that they'll win 100.
The Giants Will Do Worse, But Will Win The NL West
I see the NL West as not being all that great next year. The Rockies and Dodgers could rebound and play well, but it's likely the Giants' division to lose. In fact, they could probably win 88-89 games and pull out the division win, which I see happening.
AL Cy Young Winner: CC Sabathia
Because of how their teams are going into 2011, Felix Hernandez will pitch well but won't have quite the same stuff as last year. 16 wins, perhaps and a top five Cy finish, but no win. David Price will do the best he can but won't get more than 15 wins. This leaves Sabathia and another 20 win season to take back the Cy, with a better ERA this season as well.
NL Cy Young Winner: Roy Oswalt
Everyone's expecting Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee to have amazing years, and they will. However, the diamond in the rough will be Roy Oswalt, who will win 20+ and keep an ERA under 2.50. Now that he has a great offensive team under him, we'll see his true pitching ability en route to a Cy win.
Halladay and Lee will be fine with this, having already won a Cy, and they'll get some votes as well.
AL MVP: Josh Hamilton
To answer the question I posed earlier, yes. Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano will again have very good years and the AL MVP picture isn't going to change all that much. Nonetheless, a full season by Hamilton will convince voters that he is in fact the best player in the AL.
NL MVP: Albert Pujols
As hard as this is to believe, if you look at his stats, he had an off year last year. His strikeouts were up, he had a career low batting average, most of his stats were in the bottom half for his career and yet he still finished second. He'll bounce back in such a way that there will be no question who's the best player in the league.
Rookies of The Year
Now, rookies are inherently a bold prediction, as once a player hits the majors, there's no telling how he'll perform. In the AL, I have third baseman Mike Moustakas taking the reigns, becoming a bright spot on the Royals. For NL, I have Domonic Brown winning. He struggled a bit in 2010, but once he is put in right field full time, we'll see what he's capable of.
AL Playoff Teams: Yankees, Red Sox, Twins, Rangers
The AL East teams re-surging yet again are not much of a surprise. The Twins won 95 games despite a myriad of injuries, so they'll be back, and the Rangers were fine without Cliff Lee to start, they'll be fine again.
NL Playoff Teams: Phillies, Reds, Brewers, Giants
No Braves? They'll have a great year, but in the final games of the year they'll lose out to the Brewers and their rebuilt pitching staff. The Phillies and Giants are givens, and the Reds will play well enough in the Cardinals' season series, that it will end up being the difference maker for both teams.
ERAs and Batting Averages Will Both Stay Down
We saw a change in how the game is played in 2010 and, especially in the NL, that trend will continue. Pitching will be the name of the game in 2011, with a few no-hitters being thrown and many hitters being kept under .300 that may have gotten it no problem a few years back.
No One Will Hit 50 Home Runs
Despite Bautista's great year last year, 50 home run seasons are a thing of the past. They'll happen once in a while, but infrequently. This year there won't be one, though Dunn and Pujols will flirt with the number late in the season.
It Will Not Be As Exciting As 2010
Honestly, 2010 was one of the best seasons that we've had in a long time. No-hitters, perfect games, unexpected power hitters, clutch moment, unexpected teams in the playoffs... we're not going to reach that level in 2011. It'll be a good year, but it would be mighty hard to top 2010.