MLB: Power Ranking the 2011 Opening Series Matchups
It’s hard to believe that baseball is back. The return of baseball signals the official start of spring and the official end of winter for many.
I tuned myself out from baseball sometime after the winter meetings because it is such a demanding sport. In some ways, I felt like an everyday player. Last year’s season was one of the most exhausting ever and so the time off was needed.
Well, here we sit just a couple of days away from Opening Day and I am officially back in the baseball mindset. With that, let’s start off with a preview of this weekend’s matchups, as I rank each series in order of relevance.
15. Angels at Royals (Four-Game Series)
The Angels struggled last season, so perhaps the Royals will provide an early season boost for the Halos.
The Royals have an opportunity to get off to a good start. The series is taking place on their home turf.
Either way, this is the weakest of the 15 matchups this weekend. Until the Angels prove they can once again be consistent, whatever series they take part in will not be too relevant.
14. Orioles at Rays
Eyes will be on Baltimore early on in the season. Many wonder if the Orioles will resort back to the team they were in the first half of last season or if they can be the team they became once Buck Showalter took over.
For the Rays, the offseason saw many departures (Carl Crawford, Matt Garza) as well as several additions (Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon). The biggest question for Tampa Bay is if the Rays will be able to continue their winning ways and keep pace with the Yankees and Red Sox.
13. Twins at Blue Jays
The Twins are the Twins which means they are always competitive during the regular season and falter in the postseason.
The Blue Jays seem to be a team on the rise, but despite that they continue to face a huge problem: They play in th AL East.
The Yankees and Red Sox have unlimited budgets and will remain competitive every year, but with the uncertainty in Tampa Bay, perhaps there is room for Toronto to sneak in and take that place.
12. White Sox at Indians
Chicago and Ozzie Guillen will continue to have hefty expectations, this year more than ever.
With the addition of Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko returning and Jake Peavy pulling his weight, there should be no reason why Chicago won't win the Central this year.
For the Indians, they have an opportunity to play spoilers to those plans and get off to a hot start. Losing has become a staple in Cleveland, and perhaps a good showing here can slowly lead to a turnaround.
11. Pirates at Cubs
The pitching staff for the Cubs is receiving a lot of buzz, not just in Chicago but around the country. If each man in the rotation carries his own weight, the Cubs have a good opportunity to do some great things this year.
We are talking about the Cubs, though, so things can go downhill pretty quickly.
The Pirates have been the worst team in baseball for a while now and no one expects much from them. The lowered expectations can be a good thing for the young team. They have to win sometime right?
10. D-Backs at Rockies
Coors Field provides perhaps the best home-field advantage in baseball. The Rockies certainly know how to take advantage of their home field as they had one of the best home records last year.
The offensive-minded Rockies look to come out swinging with their young guns and perhaps make a statement.
The D-Backs, coming off a horrible year, look to turn things around and return to winning ways. It won't be easy, but it's certainly possible.
9. Mariners at A's
Here we have a battle of two young teams, either of whom would benefit from a series win and a hot start.
The A's exceeded expectations last season, as they finished at exactly .500, while the Mariners were in the cellar of the AL West.
Both teams are young, hungry and ready to win, but only one will.
8. Mets at Marlins
The Mets, still suffering from several bad moves, made no key additions in the offseason.
As usual, the Mets have the talent, but for whatever reason, they just can't get the job done. Will this year be any different?
The Marlins, ready to move into their new stadium next year, seem to be a young team on the rise.
Despite their shortcomings, the Fish seem to always be in some race at the end of the season. Expect this season to be no different.
7. Brewers at Reds
These two teams have a lot of potential.
The Reds won the Central last year, but suffered a quick exit from the playoffs. The Reds seem to be the favorites to win the division again this year.
The question for them seems to be, how far can they go?
The Brewers have an explosive offense in place, but that has never been their problem.
Where the Brewers fell short last year was with their starting rotation. Well, with Zack Greinke as their ace, the question they face is if their new ace can return the Brewers to the postseason.
6. Braves a Nationals
The Bobby Cox era has come to an end and the Braves hope that even with the legendary manager's departure, they can continue the franchise's winning ways.
The Braves, coming off a playoff run, kept most of their team in place while adding a big bat to the lineup in the form of Dan Uggla.
Can the Braves go further than they did last year? Time will tell.
The Nationals are another team on the rise. They added superstar Jayson Werth to the team in the offseason, but realistically they are probably still a year away.
5. Padres at Cardinals
As long as the Cardinals have Albert Pujols (and they do for at least one more season), they will be a strong contender every year.
The Adam Wainwright injury certainly hurts and will cause most to lower their expectations for the birds, but they still have enough tools to compete and contend.
The Padres are a bigger question mark. They are coming off a rare winning season in which they just fell short of making the playoffs.
Well, the team lost its superstar and only got younger. Will this equate in a return to the Padres losing ways or can they pick up from where they left off last year?
4. Astros at Phillies
The Astros, well they're the Astros.
The reason this is a must-see matchup is because of the Phillies. Unless you lived under a rock this winter, you know that Philadelphia added Cliff Lee to an already-stacked/dream starting rotation.
Expectations could not be any higher for the Phillies, as the city expects nothing less than a World Series appearance.
Can they live up to hype? One thing is for certain. It'll be a treat to watch.
It starts this weekend as Lee, Halladay and Oswalt take the mound.
3. Tigers at Yankees
Much like the Astros in the previous matchup, the Tigers are this high on the list because of their opponent.
No matter who the Yankees play, you can count on the series to be relevant and to generate buzz.
The big question and biggest concern for New York remains the pitching staff. We know Sabathia can get it done, but what about the rest of the staff?
2. Giants at Dodgers (Four-Game Series)
There's nothing like a good rivalry to start off the season.
The Dodgers are coming off a year in which they absolutely fell apart during the second half of the season. This year brought the addition of several outcasts for the Dodgers.
Can the new team and manager turn things around?
The Giants are obviously coming off a World Series win. Well, the world champions kept their team in tact, while replacing only their shortstop.
The buzz is huge in San Francisco as most fans and experts expect more big things for the Giants this season.
The biggest concern for SF is whether the young pitching staff can overcome all the extra innings they threw last year.
1. Red Sox at Rangers
How much higher can the Rangers go?
Falling just short of becoming world champions, the Rangers are going to have a hard time getting back to the World Series.
While it will be hard, it's definitely obtainable.
Sure, they lost Cliff Lee but the rest of the team, for the most part, is intact. Most importantly, they still have their explosive offense.
As far as pitching goes, either Colby Lewis or C.J. Wilson is going to have to step up and become the ace they need.
The Red Sox are coming off a disappointing year, filled with injuries, in which they failed to make the playoffs.
Well, it seems as if the Red Sox have bought their way back into serious contention. The Red Sox added power hitter Adrian Gonzalez as well as the versatile Carl Crawford.
Now the question for the Red Sox is whether their pitching staff can bounce back and stay healthy.