2011 MLB Season: 30 Teams, 30 Questions
Spring is in the air, the sun is out and opening day is upon us once again. Around the league, every team has its question marks, some more than others. From the injury plagued New York Mets to the seemingly perfect Boston Red Sox, let's take a look at each team's questions and start this season as we start every season, entering into the unknown.
With the addition of new manager Kirk Gibson, the Diamondbacks look to improve upon their 65-97 record in 2011. For the first time since 2008, the Diamondbacks will be without Dan Haren or Brandon Webb. Will Daniel Hudson and the pitching staff be able to get out from the bottom five in the league?
The Phillies offseason took the NL East by storm, but the Braves quiety built a contender. With a young and loaded roster, will Freddy Gonzalez be able to harness it as Bobby Cox once did?
Buck Showalter led the Orioles to a very strong finish, and he continued his power play this offseason through his words about Derek Jeter. The offensive will be there, but how will their young arms respond?
Boston Red Sox
With the additions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, the Red Sox are already claiming the title. But after Cy Young contender Jon Lester, the rotation has plenty of questions. Will Josh Beckett and John Lackey return to form?
Chicago White Sox
In 2011, fellow slugger Adam Dunn will join Paul Konerko in the middle of the White Sox line-up. Will Jake Peavy be able to make an significant contribution to the rotation?
The Cubs added a new first baseman this offseason not named Albert Pujols, but Carlos Pena. Pena will hit his fair share of home runs, but the Cubs lineup lives and dies with the success of Aramis Ramirez. Will he bounce back?
The Reds won the NL Central in 2010 and are loaded with young talent all around. The lineup will produce, especially in their hitter friendly ballpark, but with Cueto already hitting the DL, how will young arms Mike Leake and Sam LeCure perform?
The Indians have a ton of question marks heading into the 2011 season. The pitching staff has been a problem for them for some time now, but the biggest question for this season is how much will center-fielder Grady Sizemore contribute? When healthy, Sizemore is a extremely valuable power and speed threat, not to mention a gold glove defender.
Ubaldo Jimenez broke out in 2011 with a stellar first two months posting a sub-1.00 ERA. But in June and July, Jimenez looked terrible and then leveled out and was mediocre the rest of the way through. Can Ubaldo develop into a consistent performer and lead the Rockies to an NL West title?
This offseason was an especially difficult one for Miguel Cabrera and the Tigers. A DUI in February sparked an overreaction of epic proportions. Cabrera can rake with the best of them; he's a perennial MVP candidate. The real question is wether or not the rotation after Verlander can keep the Tigers afloat in the AL Central.
The key to the Marlins' success is the health of ace Josh Johnson. Johnson's season was cut short last September with shoulder inflammation, and shoulder injuries seem to linger longer than others. He has already faced Tommy John surgery in 2007, so health is the biggest question facing the Marlins.
The Houston Astros ranked 27th in runs scored last year in part to the loss of Lance Berkman, but also because of the Houdini act pulled by Carlos Lee. "El Caballo" batted only .246 last year, well below is career average of .287. Lee is a key component of the Astros offense and success.
Kansas City Royals
With club ace Zack Greinke departing for Milwaukee, the void will be filled by former number one overall pick Luke Hochevar. So far Hochevar's career has not lived up to the hype but the Royals are hoping that this is the year. Can he lead the Royals rotation to success in 2011?
Los Angeles Angels
The big move for the Angels this offseason was the acquisition of center-fielder Vernon Wells and his bloated contract from Toronto. With the eventual return of Kendrys Morales, the Angels offense looks like it will be able to compete in the AL West. But will Wells repeat his 2010 success?
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodger's pitching staff led by Clayton Kershaw is top notch. But 2010 was a regression year for young stars Kemp, Ethier, and Loney. Can the three return to their 2009 form?
As of right now two of the Brewers best pitchers have health issues, Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum. Marcum has a history of injuries but Greinke just hurt himself playing basketball. Health and logic are keys to pitching so the question for the Brewers is wether or not Greinke and Marcum and perform to their abilities and lead Milwaukee to the NL Central title.
2010 was a lost season for all-star closer Joe Nathan. Fortunately for the Twins it was not a serious issue. The same can't be said for 2011, another year without Nathan could be trouble in a division with an offense such as Detroit.
New York Mets
The Mets organization suffered the worst during the 2011 off-season. Madoff scandal, financial issues, injuries, just another day in Flushing, NY. With Jason Bay and Johan Santana already on the DL and Carlos Beltran always a health risk things don't look good for the Mets this year. Health is the question because who knows what this team could do if healthy.
New York Yankees
Similar to their Boston rivals, the Yankees have the offense but have serious rotation questions. After CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and Phil Hughes the Yanks are grasping at straws. The options of Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and Ivan Nova don't instill much confidence for fans of the Bombers and the performance of the 4 and 5 spots in the rotation will heavily determine the success of the Yankees.
The A's young pitching staff lived up to the hype in 2010 but the question with the A's lately has been their offense. They ranked 22nd in runs scored and the only significant addition they made this year was Hideki Matsui. The pitching will be there, but how will the offense respond?
With an aging roster the injuries to the Phillies this spring is no surprise. Chase Utley is an aging second baseman, a position known for wearing players down, and has a history of health issues. The injury to Chase Utley is devastating to a lineup that is already thin after the departure of RF Jason Werth. With Utley out and with no timetable of his return, can the Phils out-pitch their problems?
The Pirates are loaded with young hitters who are ready to take the NL Central by storm. Unfortunately the pitching staff doesn't look ready to follow offensive studs: McCutchen, Alvarez and Tabata. Led by ace Kevin Correia, the Pirates staff look very weak and the only hope is that they out-slug their opponents.
San Diego Padres
With the departure of Adrian Gonzalez, the Padres offense is left with a big void. The pitching staff will be average and with the help of Petco Park, pitching will not be the problem. Will young hitter such as Kyle Blanks and Will Venable be able to carry some of the load left by A-Gon?
San Francisco Giants
The defending World Series champs have very few questions marks. The pitching staff led by Tim Lincecum will be stellar as usual, but the offense still provides some doubt. Pablo Sandoval looks in shape and ready to return to panda form but how will the rest of the Giants lineup support him?
With Felix Hernandez, the 2010 AL Cy Young, at the top of the rotation and a pitcher's park, the Mariner's questions are similar to that of the Padres. The only difference is that the Mariners never had a top hitter to lose. Anchored by Ichiro and Franklin Guttierez the Mariners will have to scrap for runs and stay afloat against offenses such as the Rangers. Will they be able to survive?
St. Louis Cardinals
Amidst the Pujols contract situation, an even more significant story arose, the injury to Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright. With Wainwright going down he leaves a void that must be filled by aging veteran Chris Carpenter. The question for the Cardinals is wether or not they can find enough pitching talent to compete with the Reds and Brewers in the NL Central. Luckily for St. Louis they have something that nobody else does, Dave Duncan. Every year Duncan is able to turn other teams trash into the Cardinals treasure. Can he do it again?
Tampa Bay Rays
Losing Carl Crawford was a huge blow to the Tampa Bay offense, but adding Manny and Damon will surely help. The bigger question is wether or not James Shields can bounce back and fill the shoes of Matt Garza. David Price will be able to anchor the staff, but Shield will need to find his rhythm again and hopefully Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson will follow.
Last season the Rangers offense did what it always does. The difference in 2010 was that the rotation finally delivered and the Rangers were able to put together a dominant season reaching the World Series. The question for 2011 is wether or not they can repeat their 2011 performances. No starter in the rotation has any track record of success like last year so repeating will be very difficult.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays have questions on the offensive and defensive side. Considering that pitching wins, the Blue Jays do not look as if they will be winning the AL East this season. Led by young ace Ricky Romero, a crew of young kids will have to compete with the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays. Will Romero and Kyle Drabek be able to keep the Jays in contention?
The addition of Jayson Werth cancels out the loss of Adam Dunn so a spike in offensive production is unlikely. Wether or not the rotation can survive without Stephen Strasburg is the real question. Strasburg brought the Nationals to relevance last season until he went down with an elbow injury. He filled stadium and created excitement. Will the Nats other starters be able to recreate that in his absence?