2011 Major League Baseball Storylines

Andrew BurdickContributor IFebruary 28, 2011

2011 Major League Baseball Storylines

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    These will be the storylines that hit so hard, you'll be glad you wore your cup.Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    I enjoy covering fantasy baseball.  And every season there are always great fantasy baseball storylines that get a lot of nerdy seamheads like me excited. Last year Carlos Gonzalez made all of his owners incredibly thrilled after his MVP caliber season.  As fun as fantasy baseball is, however, it would be criminal to ignore the real life accomplishments of some of the game's greatest teams and players.  So, without further delay, let's take a look at some of the more impressive, tantalizing, and intriguing Major League Baseball storylines going into the 2011 season.

Will the Pittsburgh Pirates Secure Their 19th Consecutive Losing Season?

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    Trying to channel the 1970's with these ugly jerseys? Possibly.J. Meric/Getty Images

    Yes.

Will Pitchers Remain King in 2011?

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    "Hi, I'm Tim Hudson. Quietly one of the best pitchers in baseball again."Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

     

    There were six no hitters thrown in 2010, capped off by Roy Halladay’s second no hitter of the year in the playoffs.  The league ERA last year was 4.07, by far the lowest since the 2000 season when the league average ERA was 4.76.  To give you an idea of how much the landscape of baseball has changed since 2000, chew on this: in 2000, the team leader in ERA was the Atlanta Braves, with an ERA of 4.05.  In 2010, the World Series champion San Francisco Giants led the league with a team ERA of 3.36.  You do the math.

Can Joey Votto Follow Up His MVP Season with Another Stellar Year?

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    Are his shoulder big enough to carry the Reds again?Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    It was refreshing to watch the seemingly nice-guy Joey Votto win his first MVP award after dealing with severe anxiety and depression in 2009.  Votto singlehandedly mashed Cincinnati to a division title last season to the tune of .324/37/113.  He even contributed 16 stolen bases to a thankful fantasy community. 

    Cincy returns the majority of their division winning roster in 2011, so it should be interesting to watch the three legged St. Louis/Cincinnati/Milwaukee race in the Central. 

How Good Is Zack Greinke?

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    For $13 million a season, you can have all that you see here.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Pitching the first five years of his career in anonymity, Greinke finally lived up to his number one pick hype in 2009 when he had a statistical explosion during his Cy Young campaign.  2010 was a letdown for Greinke, whose ERA ballooned by two points and strikeouts decreased by 25%, while he pitched fewer innings.  Separate sources confirmed that he was very vocal about his desire to leave Kansas City last year, and at times he was disengaged from the team because of the constant losing.   Greinke got his wish this offseason as he was shipped to the open arms of Doug Melvin in Milwaukee and a contending NL Central Brewers team.

    Will the move to the National League and competitive Milwaukee squad help Greinke regain his Cy Young form?  We’ll be finding out over the next few months in what should be a very competitive NL Central.

Will the 2011 Phillies Rotation Be Able to Live Up to the Hype?

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    The safest witness protection placement would be the 5-slot in Philadelphia's rotation. No one will pay attention to you there.Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

     

    If you talk to a Phillies’ fan about this season, they will make sure to mention how their team has assembled the greatest rotation in the history of baseball.  Cliff Lee summed it up best at a preseason press conference, however, when he stated:

    I think we haven’t thrown a single pitch as a group yet.  So it’s kind of early to say we’re one of the best rotations in the history of the game.  Obviously, we’re a very talented group, and there is potential for all of that.  But it’s just that, it’s potential.

    The highest ERA out of the first four in their rotation last year was Cliff Lee at 3.18.  Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt struck out 219, 185, 211, and 193 batters respectively last season.  Clearly the potential is there to have a run of really, really good seasons in Philadelphia.  However, in Philadelphia it will ultimately come down to how many championship rings those players can bring to town.

How Much Does Mariano Rivera Have Left in the Tank?

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    What Rivera gets paid to do all spring. Keep his arm healthy.Leon Halip/Getty Images

     

    Both the Yankees and Rivera think he has enough to last through two more Major League seasons.  The Yankees are hedging their bets, however, by bringing in former Rays closer Rafael Soriano as an insurance policy and more consistent source of saves on Rivera’s off days. 

    Regardless of what he does over the next two seasons, we’re witnessing the twilight of arguably the best closer in the history of the game, who threw arguably the most dominant pitch ever.   Enjoy it while you can.

Can Jose Bautista Have Any Level of Success Comparable to What He Had Last Year?

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    Would you like to learn how to become a multi-millionaire in one year? Ask Jose Bautista how he did it.Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

     

    At 29 years old, Bautista picked a great year to have the best season of his career.  Bautista posted a .260/54/124, a .995 OPS and 100 walks.  All of those numbers were by far career highs for the former utility player, who parlayed those numbers into a $64 million contract.  Dan Szymborski from The Baseball Think Factory has stated that the odds of Bautista hitting 54 home runs last year were about 4.1 billion-to-1.  He puts that in perspective by explaining that you would receive the same odds attempting to flip a coin on the same side 32 times in a row.

Larry Wayne Jones Chases 450 Switch Hitting Home Runs.

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    Definition of a baseball player: See Above.Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Chipper Jones currently has 436 switch hitting home runs and is third all-time in that category behind Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray.  He’s been the face of the Atlanta Braves for the last 15 years and the Hall of Fame arguments have already started on his behalf.  Hitting the 450 milestone would make his Hall of Fame case a little bit easier to rationalize.

Derek Jeter’s Pursuit of 3,000 Hits.

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    How many Hall of Fame infielders does it take to win a World Series Championship?Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Mr. Yankee is the active Major League leader in hits with 2,926, which leaves him 74 hits away from the 3,000 milestone.  He would be the first player in the storied history of the Yankees to reach that milestone, which would be the icing on the Hall of Fame cake that is Jeter’s career.

    Jeter would probably tell you he’d trade all those hits for another World Series Championship this season, but I’m sure he’ll have a little smile on his face when he sees 3,000 on the final stat line of his career.