2011 MLB Predictions: Every Division and Every Playoff Series
The 2011 Major League Baseball season is less than a month away, and with several big stars in different colors this year, baseball fans should be in for an exciting summer.
Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez join forces in Boston to try to bring Beantown its third World Championship in eight seasons, and Cliff Lee joins Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels in Philadelphia to try to send the Phillies to the World Series for the third time in four seasons.
While certain teams look like locks for the playoffs, nothing is for sure: just look at what happened last October in San Francisco and Texas.
American League East
Once again, this could be the most talented division in baseball. The Yankees and Red Sox are two of baseball's most skilled teams, yet the Tampa Bay Rays are the reigning division champs.
The new-look Red Sox will make a return to the playoffs this year and win the division. There is just too much talent on this team to not be considered one of the favorites, and nobody on the team is a stranger to winning.
A team with a lineup already consisting of Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz added two of the most dangerous bats in baseball with slugger Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, arguably the most well-rounded player in the game. The pitching rotation is stacked as well, with Jon Lester, John Lackey, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
While the pitching staff is not spectacular, the New York Yankees will finish second in the division due to one of the most potent lineups in the game: Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano.
For third in the division, I'm going to go out on a limb and pick the Baltimore Orioles. The O's were one of the most active teams in the offseason adding Mark Reynolds, Derrek Lee, Vladimir Guerrero, J.J. Hardy, Justin Duchscherer and Kevin Gregg. Not to mention, their second baseman and arguably their best player Brian Roberts was injured for most of 2010, and he will be ready to go in 2011.
Also, the Orioles hired new manager Buck Showalter near the end of last season and won 34 of 57 games with him at the helm. If Adam Jones can have a bounceback year and Matt Wieters starts to live up to his potential, Baltimore could be the surprise team of 2011.
The reigning division champion Tampa Bay Rays had an unfortunate offseason losing All-Star Carl Crawford, sensational closer Rafael Soriano and slugger Carlos Pena. While Evan Longoria and David Price still remain intact, the team will have too much competition within the division to make a run this year.
In last place are the depleted Toronto Blue Jays, who lost Roy Halladay last offseason and Vernon Wells and Shaun Marcum this year. Without these cornerstone players, the Jays are not strong enough to make a run in the talented AL East this year.
American League Central
The past two seasons, this division has been a three-way race. Offseason acquisitions this season has made the Central look even tighter.
If Austin Jackson can have a year like last year and the team can stay away from the injury trap, the Detroit Tigers should be able to take the AL Central. Before the injuries hit in 2010, the Tigers were in first place at the All-Star break, and Magglio Ordonez was having one of the best seasons of his career.
The pitching rotation and bullpen are solid, including arms like Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, Max Scherzer, Brad Penny, Jose Valverde and Joaquin Benoit. Also, the lineup may be one of the deepest in the league, with young stars like Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch, All-Stars Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez and veteran sluggers like Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen.
Second place in this division is a complete toss-up, and I have to say that if Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau can both stay healthy, the Twins will beat out Chicago. The M&M brothers are arguably the most dynamic duo in baseball, and they could even be considered two of the league's top players.
The rotation is somewhat weak, however. Don't expect Carl Pavano to have a year like last year. Closer Joe Nathan returning to the bullpen will be a big help, however.
The White Sox are just about even with the Tigers and Twins talent-wise, but someone has to finish third. The pitching is stellar, but there are a lot of question marks within the lineup on who will be able to repeat their performances of previous years (Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, Carlos Quentin, A.J. Pierzynski).
While the bottom two spots in the Central could be two of baseball's worst teams, I'll have to go with the Tribe finishing fourth due to a decent amount of offensive talent and young stars.
Even with Zack Greinke and David DeJesus, the Royals were one of the worst teams in baseball. Now, two of their best players are gone and things are looking even worse for Kansas City.
American League West
Of the four teams in the West, three are almost dead-even in talent. It's a shame that one of them will have to finish third.
For first place, I have to go with the reigning American League Champion Texas Rangers. This is virtually the same team that went all the way to the Fall Classic last year, minus Cliff Lee but plus slugger Adrian Beltre, catcher Mike Napoli and a healthy Brandon Webb. Look for the Rangers to be one of the AL's top contenders again this season.
In second place will be the Angels. Los Angeles should have a better 2011 than 2010, as they have one of the most solid rotations in baseball. Add that to great hitters like Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells, Bobby Abreu, Howie Kendrick and Kendry Morales, and the Halos look pretty good this year.
In third place will be the Oakland Athletics, who are maybe just a year or two away from a division title. This team has a lot of tools that could help them possibly contend for the division this year, but I don't think they're totally ready just yet.
The Seattle Mariners will finish last in this division. Although the rotation is not very bad, this team lacks the talent to compete with the Rangers, Angels or A's.
National League East
This division has a lot of young talent. That being said, there is one team that should run away with the pennant this year.
The Philadelphia Phillies will finish first in the division. This is a pretty easy pick to make, considering that the Phillies have arguably one of the greatest pitching rotations in the history of baseball and one of the league's best lineups.
The Atlanta Braves made the playoffs last year as the National League Wild Card. That might be a little tougher to do this year, but they are still the second best team in the East. The Braves have a solid pitching rotation and a lot of offensive talent, especially with the addition of Dan Uggla.
A team with possibly the best player in baseball and a talented pitching rotation is the identity of the Florida Marlins. They don't have enough to compete with Philadelphia or Atlanta, but they have a lot of young talent and should be back in the playoffs in several years.
In fourth will be the Mets. Johan Santana has not been the same as he was in his days as a Minnesota Twin, and if you look past him in the pitching rotation, there really isn't anything. Carlos Beltran is still battling injuries, and David Wright, Jose Reyes and Jason Bay will not be enough for the team to make a splash in the NL East.
The Washington Nationals are no longer the joke of baseball. While they do not have a ton of talent this year, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman are proven sluggers on a team that could soon turn into one of the league's best with future superstars like Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. This isn't the year though.
National League Central
This division is very interesting. It looks like there will be between two, possibly three teams.
The Milwaukee Brewers will make a return to the playoffs, riding a potent lineup and a revamped pitching rotation. The additions of star pitchers Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum create a very well-rounded team. If the pitching staff (which also includes Yovani Gallardo in the rotation and John Axford, Manny Parra, LaTroy Hawkins and Takashi Saito in the bullpen) can't get the job done, the All-Star lineup of Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks and Casey McGehee surely will.
The Cincinnati Reds made the playoffs in 2010 for the first time since 1995, and they will make another run for the playoffs in 2011. National League MVP Joey Votto returns alongside sluggers Brandon Phillips and Scott Rolen as well as rising young stars Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs to form one of the best lineups in the National League.
Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday are two of the best hitters in the game, but a season-ending injury to St. Louis Cardinals' ace pitcher Adam Wainwright may just end their playoff chances in the competitive National League Central.
I'm going to go with the Cubs in fourth. Despite losing Derrek Lee, they still have a decent lineup with Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Pena and Aramis Ramirez. They also have decent pitching, with Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and one of the league's best closers in Carlos Marmol.
Fifth place will be the Houston Astros. While the pitching is OK and Carlos Lee is still a decent hitter, the Astros just don't have a whole lot.
If the Astros look bad, take a look at the Pirates. Andrew McCutchen is about it for this team that has been rebuilding for as long as I can remember.
National League West
This division produced last year's World Series Champion, even though nobody expected it. This year's race may be even more entertaining.
The San Francisco Giants will win the National League West and return to the playoffs. The World Series MVP Edgar Renteria is gone, but the Giants went out and added veteran shortstop Miguel Tejada to fill the void. The Giants still have an amazing pitching staff, and Madison Bumgarner could be a breakout player in 2011.
After some bullpen tune-ups in the offseason, the highly talented Colorado Rockies will finish in second place. If Ubaldo Jimenez, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez have years like 2010, they should be able to make a run for the division in 2011.
Despite the McCourt ownership dispute, the Dodgers are still a somewhat talented team and should make a run for the West. While the offense is well-rounded in terms of hitting and speed, the pitching needs to be a little better in order to win this division.
The San Diego Padres lost the division on the last game of the season last year, and the team has remained pretty much the same, except for the fact that their franchise player Adrian Gonzalez has departed for Boston. Without Gonzalez, the Padres do not have enough talent to make waves in this division.
After completely blowing up the entire team after 2010, the Arizona Diamondbacks may have success in the near future. They have added J.J. Putz, Xavier Nady, Armando Galarraga, Zach Duke, Russell Branyan and Melvin Mora in order to bolster their lineup. While they will still be better than they were in 2010, this just isn't the year.
American League Division Series
The American League Wild Card winner will be the New York Yankees. While the pitching is nothing spectacular, the lineup is just way too good to miss out on the playoffs.
Tigers over Red Sox in five games
This would be a monumental upset, but this Tigers team has the star power and the veteran presence to pull it off. As we saw last year, pitching wins playoff series, and the Detroit lineup has what it takes to upstage the Red Sox pitching while the Tiger rotation and bullpen could be very strong come playoff time.
Yankees over Rangers in four games
A rematch of last year's ALCS, but the Yankees will not have to face their worst nightmare, Cliff Lee.
National League Division Series
The National League Wild Card winner will be the Cincinnati Reds. Aroldis Chapman will make a huge difference in the pitching rotation, and the Reds will make the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Phillies over Reds in four games
A rematch of last year's NLDS, but the Phillies' pitching is just too good.
Brewers over Giants in five games
The Giants have a great pitching staff, but when you look at who is the most well-rounded, the Brewers take this series.
American League Championship Series
Yankees over Tigers in six games
The Yankees lineup could be one of the best in baseball, and this team has all the experience needed to make it back to the World Series. While the Tigers are talented, they will take the Yankees to six games, but no more.
National League Championship Series
Brewers over Phillies in seven games
This may be a shocker, but Milwaukee has all the depth they need to win this series. The lineup is full of young stars ready to make an impact, and I have already said enough about this team's pitching. The Crew really reminds me of the Giants and Rangers last year. They have everything they need to make history.
World Series 2011
Brewers over Yankees in six games
I'm kidding, right? Nope. This matchup will provide an interesting matchup, but in the end, the Brewers' pitching will be able to shut down the Yankee lineup while Prince, Braun, Hart and McGehee will get to the somewhat shallow New York rotation.
World Series MVP: Ryan Braun
Regular Season Awards:
AL MVP: Carl Crawford
NL MVP: Hanley Ramirez
AL Cy Young: Jered Weaver
NL Cy Young: Cliff Lee
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