Major League Baseball: The 2011 Season in Review

Jeremy Dorn@@jamblinmanAnalyst IIIOctober 6, 2011

Major League Baseball: The 2011 Season in Review

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    Everybody wants to be right. Everybody wants to win. But, there comes a time when one must cut his losses and admit defeat.

    Back in March, I made predictions on who would win each division and wild card slot in the 2011 MLB season. I also included a power ranking of all 30 teams and addressed a burning question for each club. Lastly, I made a bold prediction. And in hindsight, some were too bold. WAY. Too bold.

    This is my time to own up to my mistakes, and apologize to certain teams for having no faith in them. Or, if it’s called for, this is my time to pat myself on the back for being so utterly brilliant seven months ago. More likely the former, though.

    So, I offer my most sincere apologies to…


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    …the Cleveland Indians. My goodness. I picked you to be the worst team in baseball. You were dead last in my preseason power rankings. I knew Asdrubal Cabrera was a star (seriously, check out my past fantasy drafts!), but I didn’t think he had any help. Yet, there you were leading the A.L. Central: smooth, confident and fearless. My most genuine condolences.

    Next year, for your sake, don’t prove me wrong again. Because I’ll be sure to make you a more comfortable place on that power ranking in 2012. Hey, at least I almost nailed it with Carlos Santana. My prediction: 20 home runs and 85 RBI. Santana’s stats: 27 home runs and 79 RBI. Let’s just not talk about that .300 average I called…Yikes.

    That one was painfully embarrassing. Let’s cheer me up…


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    …though only slightly. It’s not like the following statement makes me psychic: “The Mariners won’t contend with their anemic offense…”

    Genius, Jeremy, genius. Anyone this side of Mercury could have told me that. Don’t get me wrong, the M’s have some pieces to build around. Michael Pineda was a revelation, especially in the first half of the season.

    But reigning Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez had a subpar season by his standards with a 3.47 ERA and the biggest power numbers on the team belonged to catcher Miguel Olivo.

    Nobody reached 20 home runs or 70 RBI. Perhaps most shockingly, Ichiro hit just .272. Seattle never stood a chance without production from their best player. At least this team’s best player came through…


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    …again! Jose Bautista had another monster year for the Toronto Blue Jays. However, we need to talk about the pitching and the absolutely idiotic predictions I made about their staff prior to the season.

    I think I wet my panties a bit too much when imagining the damage the young rotation of Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Kyle Drabek and Brett Cecil could inflict on opponents this year. I predicted a sub-4.00 ERA from all of them.

    In hindsight, that doesn’t make any sense. It’s rare to find a rotation that ridiculous outside of Philadelphia. Romero had a great season, but the other three combined for an ERA just north of 5.00. Oops.

    But, my random ability to predict young A.L. catcher numbers holds strong. J.P. Arencibia dropped 23 homers and 78 RBI, right around my 20/80 prophecy. Now, my favorite part…


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    …PROPS to me! The Washington Nationals spent an ungodly amount of money on Jayson Werth this offseason, in one of the most overrated moves in recent baseball history. Okay, maybe that’s a little strong, but he was not worth the money. Not even worth half the money.

    Werth hit .232 with 20 homers and 58 RBI this season for an upstart Nationals team. I predicted .265 with 18 jacks and 75 RBI. Well, Werth even managed to out-suck my sucky estimate.

    There’s no denying that Werth played a somewhat important role in the Nationals’ season, but if they want to contend next year, he better step it up. I’m just glad the whole world can see how ordinary of a baseball player Werth has always been.

    He’s there in D.C. for the long haul, though, so I expect a slow, steady turnaround. Especially when the bats surrounding him in the lineup start to turn.

    Werth will never live up to the contract he signed, but I expect him to be a serviceable player in the Nats’ climb to contention in the next couple years. Who knows; we might eventually see them in a wild-card race with…


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    …the Pittsburgh Pirates, of all teams. I definitely gave James McDonald too much credit. Look, the guy is young, has electric stuff and a live arm. But it’s hard to solve such a problem as chronic inconsistency. I kept my prediction decently modest for him, but he still played me like a fool.

    I called out 12-14 wins and 200 strikeouts for the former Dodger, and even went as far as to say L.A. would regret trading him. That part still remains to be seen, but a 9-9 record with 142 K’s is not what I had in mind.

    The guy is still only 26, but he’s been wild since day one. For the Pirates’ sake, I hope he pans out, but he strikes me as a lifer. Maybe an Edwin Jackson type who always finds a spot and makes a good first impression, only to finish the season perfectly average.

    If McDonald does step it up in his remaining time in Pitt, we may be looking at a pretty solid team in a few years. After all, they were in first place at one point (that is weird to write…). Maybe we’ll see them square off in a few years in October, for the right to play…


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    …the Kansas City Royals? What? Yes, I’m patting myself on the back for this one, and it feels so good!

    I didn’t expect them to be as improved as they were, but I definitely nailed it with Alex Gordon. He has been an elite prospect for what seems like forever. I remember discussing with my friend about Gordon’s unlimited potential back in high school.

    So we are talking a solid six years ago. I’m impressed that the Kansas City organization had the patience and insight to stick with the guy, because he’s finally turned into the player everyone expected.

    After being drafted third overall in 2005, Gordon finally posted a line of .303, 23 homers and 87 RBI in 2011, just short of my 25 home run, 90 RBI prediction. He’s part of a core of really exciting young players, much like the…


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    …Diamondbacks have in Arizona. Yes, the N.L. West Champion Arizona Diamondbacks. Wow. My sincerest apologies for shafting this thrilling club by choosing them to finish smack dab last in the division before the season.

    To aid my case, nobody could have expected a Cy Young-caliber season out of Ian Kennedy. And honestly, I didn’t think they had enough consistent offense outside of Justin Upton (correctly chose him as an All-Star; again not a very bold pick, but hey…I’ll take what I can get) and Stephen Drew.

    Well, if not for a certain stud down in L.A., Kennedy may very well have taken home the Cy this season, and Kirk Gibson must have taught his lineup a thing or two. The D’backs smashed and dove and sprinted their way through the season, hanging on to the lead and slamming the door on the Giants in the final week.

    Now, they are poised to play the Milwaukee Brewers on the road in the NLDS. I would say better luck next year to Arizona, but after this glaring oversight I made in the preseason, I really can’t count them out of anything. I can’t believe I picked them to finish behind…


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    …the San Diego Padres. I’m humiliated. But, I did something I considered extremely daring in claiming their ace Mat Latos would be knocked around this year. And up until his last couple starts, I sure was right.

    I actually predicted a generous stat line of 13-14 wins and a sub-4.00 ERA, which is still an extremely modest estimate given his skill set and stellar 2010 campaign. And Latos came through for me with a 9-14 record. What a nice guy. He did have a 3.47 ERA, but that was almost a half-run higher than 2010.

    The Padres as a whole kind of stunk, but they do have some good young pieces over there to build on. Here’s to hoping that when Heath Bell walks this winter, they find a suitable replacement. It’s a long road to recovery in San Diego.

    They could definitely use another bat in that lineup, though. Maybe the kind of guy who drives in runs like crazy and plays hard every day. Maybe someone like…


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    …David Wright of the New York Mets? That will never happen, but I needed a segue of some sort. Oh, give me a break. At least I’m not on steroids. Anyway, Wright played me like a fool this season, too.

    I’ve always loved his playing style and the kind of numbers he could put up when healthy. But I forgot one little detail; Wright is never fully healthy. This year he played in 102 games.

    I went into a high-school-girl-first-crush kind of swoon over Wright when predicting he would go 30/30 with 100 RBI, a Gold Glove, .300 average and strong MVP consideration. Let’s just say David Wright definitely didn’t ask me to the prom. I set high standards for sure, but he’s capable of putting those numbers up.

    Instead, Wright dropped a line of .254 with 14 home runs and 61 RBI, and has no shot at the MVP. Not because he’s not valuable to the Mets, but because Upton, Matt Kemp, Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, and Albert Pujols are just plain better than him. At least I got one third baseman’s numbers right. Who woulda thunk…


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    …that it would be the Chicago Cubs’ Aramis Ramirez? The Cubs were no good again, but Ramirez made a case for Comeback Player of the Year with his offensive performance this season.

    Just as I had predicted, he eclipsed 25 homers and almost cleared 100 RBI. It’s good to have you back, Mr. Ramirez. We have missed you!

    After a dip in production for a couple seasons due to slumps and injuries (like the Cubbies need any more of that nonsense), Ramirez came back with a ferocious vengeance to hit .306 with 26 homers and 93 RBI this year.

    He established himself as one of the prime free-agent targets this fall, and could be looking at a pretty hefty two- or three-year deal from someone.

    In that case, baseball gods, please grant Frank McCourt the brains and Ned Coletti the balls to go out and make that move for the Dodgers, because we all know Casey Blake is headed your way soon anyway. Thanks.

    A big player in the free-agent market might be a surprise team. They have been circulating on the rumor mill for almost every big-name free agent so far, including Pujols. Can you imagine how scary it would be if Aramis joined the lineup of…


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    …the Baltimore Orioles? Who completely teased me, by the way. I had them finishing over .500 as a team and staying in the Wild Card hunt until mid-August. Apparently a hot second half in 2010 and an accomplished manager does not a contender make.

    They had a decent start to the season and played the ultimate spoiler role down the stretch, helping to assure the Red Sox of ultimate embarrassment by walking off against Jonathan Papelbon in the 162nd  game of the season. Zach Britton looks like he will be a stud eventually and the offense had a pretty solid output.

    But signing Vladimir Guerrero and Derrek Lee, which looked like brilliant moves to me at the time, really backfired. Lee is gone, and Vladdy will go next.

    Overall, the O’s fumbled their way to another last-place finish in the A.L. East. They looked a little better, but it’s going to take a lot more than 67 home runs from the left side of the infield to make this team a contender. At least they didn’t finish with 99 losses like…


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    …the Minnesota Twins did. No, I’m not going to pretend that I expected the Twinkies to play so poorly or have the second-worst record in the MLB. I actually had them finishing second in their division behind the Tigers.

    But, I definitely called it on Carl Pavano. “Carl Pavano will get rocked,” I said. Right on the money. Pavano finished the season with a 9-13 record and a 4.30 ERA after winning 17 games last year. I predicted 12 wins with a 4.50 ERA. Close enough.

    I’m sure Minnesota fans aren’t too happy that I nailed this one. Although, a lot of their failures can be attributed to injury troubles.

    Maybe Ron Gardenhire’s magic ran out after consistently winning the A.L. Central with a less than star-studded team. Or maybe Pavano got what he deserved for rocking that awful Luigi-stashe, and it just affected the whole organization.

    Either way, they are going to need to get Pavano turned around, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau healthy, and a few other big moves to have a chance to contend again. Maybe they will try to bring in some power, in the form of…


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    …the Houston Astros’ Carlos Lee. Maybe I was dreaming of 2008 (.314, 28 homers, 100 RBI) when I predicted a .305/30/110 line for Lee this year. His power numbers weren’t bad, and his average was up significantly from last season, but I was still way off.

    Lee hit .275 with 18 home runs and 94 RBI. It seems that age might just be finally catching up with El Caballo. Last year was clearly a fluke, but not by much.

    We may never see the .300-hitting Carlos we loved for the first thee years in Houston again, but he’s still good for 20 homer/100 RBI potential. He looks to be following a similar career path to Vlad Guerrero and Manny Ramirez; destined to be a DH on a desperate A.L. team for the rest of his career.

    Then again, who knows what his numbers would have looked like on a team that doesn’t lose 106 games? Insert Lee in the middle of a team like the Diamondbacks and he’s pushing 120 RBI and getting better pitches to hit to boost that average. One team that could be scary with his services is…


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    …the Detroit Tigers. A 3-4-5 of Lee, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez would just be unfair. I don’t know if that’s a possibility, it just seems like an ideal situation for both sides. Speaking of Cabrera, though, he did it again in 2011.

    He hit .344 with 30 home runs and 105 RBI. He racked up 197 hits, 48 doubles and a ridiculous .448 on-base percentage. He set career highs in average, on-base percentage, walks and games played. If his teammate Justin Verlander doesn’t get the MVP, Cabrera should be right in the front of the pack with Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury and Yankees Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson for the award.

    In my preseason column, I predicted that he would be the MVP, lead the Tigers to the A.L. Central title, and hit over .330. The award remains to be seen, but check and check on the other two.

    I got a little greedy by predicting 45 home runs and 140 RBI from Cabrera, but he still had great power numbers and I stand behind the statement that he has the ability to put up those monster numbers. Cabrera is still just 28 years old. How scary is that? He will command the spotlight for a long time with another young slugger on…


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    …the Florida Marlins. Their combination of Hanley Ramirez and Mike Stanton is going to cause migraines for opponents for years to come. Ramirez is just 27 years old and Stanton is 21. Both have established themselves as stars already. But, they aren’t good enough to prove me right.

    I pegged both sluggers to hit 30+ homers and drive in over 100 runs, while swiping 10 bases. I think the main reason for my failed prediction was not too much hype; more like Ramirez injuring his shoulder. The injury hampered him through the 92 games he played, before ending his season after he only had 10 homers and 45 RBI.

    He stole 20 bags before going on the DL, but was only hitting an uncharacteristic .243 at that point. Stanton did come through with the power, hitting 34 moon shots (seriously, the kid drops BOMBS) with 87 RBI, but only stole five bases.

    So, if you combine the two players’ stats, my prediction was spot-on. Unfortunately for me, and for the soon-to-be Miami Marlins, they will need that type of production out of both Ramirez and Stanton to contend every year. Although, sometimes even having two bona fide stars in the lineup isn’t enough to make a playoff run. Just ask…


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    …the Cincinnati Reds. Even having Joey Votto and Jay Bruce in the heart of the order couldn’t get Cincy back to the postseason. I’m stretching the standards a little bit for this one, for two reasons: One, predicting Bruce to have a good season isn’t really that bold. Second, he actually did worse than I predicted…

    I claimed that Bruce would make a run at MVP, with a .300 average, 34 homers and 110 RBI. Instead, he hit .256 with 32 homers and 97 RBI. The only reason this still counts as a prediction to boast about is because he did improve greatly like I expected. His average dipped 25 points, but he set career highs in hits, runs, doubles, home runs, RBI’s and walks.

    So, a tentative props to me for that, and for getting him on my fantasy team. Bruce will turn 25 at the very beginning of next season, so I expect another upswing in his stats; he could be a monster in the years to come.

    Votto and Bruce could be a two-headed monster for a long time in Cincinnati. Their future postseason hope kind of depends on it. Who knows? Maybe they can do for the Reds what David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez did for Boston. Except hopefully neither of them goes on a path like Manny, where he went from the Red Sox to the Dodgers to the White Sox to the…


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    …Tampa Bay Rays. They took a chance on the disgraced slugger coming into 2011. They signed Manny and Johnny Damon with the hopes that the former Red Sox teammates would provide a big offensive spark to a club that lost Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford and Jason Bartlett in the offseason. Damon has been solid. And Manny…well. Manny’s being Manny.

    This was by far my most pathetic prediction (most pathetic, not worst...that comes later). I believed in Manny way too much. Maybe because I loved watching the guy play for so many years. Maybe because I was a big Manny apologist. Maybe because I’m a Dodger fan and will never forget what he did for us after that amazing trade.

    Whatever it was, I had him set for 25 home runs and 85 RBI. Instead, I got 5 games, 1 hit and 1 RBI. My goodness, did I ever blow that one. That was not the Rays’ best investment.

    And it seems like His Dreadness is now hanging up his spikes, unless he wants to cooperate with the MLB’s 100-game suspension whenever he decides to return. It broke my heart when Manny got busted, but not nearly as bad as it would if a certain slugger on the…


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    …St. Louis Cardinals were to have a positive steroid test. Can you imagine the baseball world just absolutely crumbling if Albert Pujols were to be suspended for steroids? The good feeling that has taken years to build up would just be destroyed in an instant. Just thinking about it makes me cringe.

    It’s hard to judge whether or not my bold prediction for the Cardinals is accurate yet, because it hasn’t fully played out. I decided that Pujols would not be wearing a St. Louis uniform in 2012. I still stand by that statement, unfortunately. I’d love for him to stay in St. Louis and be a Cardinal for life. And all indications point toward Pujols and the Cards feeling the same way.

    But you don’t pay for players with pity points. No matter how awesome a fairytale like that would be, Pujols is still worth $300 million in today’s market, and he’s going to get it somewhere. I just don’t think that somewhere will be St. Louis. Sorry Cardinals fans. It’s someone else’s turn to have a little fun with the Pujols. Oh, god that sentence just went so, so wrong.

    Why then, is this a “brag” slide? For having the balls to say he will be elsewhere next season, I guess. Plus, it balances out perfectly to 15 brags/15 apologies this way. I’m just such a sucker for balance. Speaking of balance, that is exactly what the…


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    …San Francisco Giants could use on offense. They still boast the scariest rotation west of Philadelphia, but their lineup is about as dependable as a GPS (What the hell do you mean take a right in 100 yards? I’m in the middle of the Golden Gate Bridge…). Because of that, we’ll focus on their rotation, and the failure of a prediction I made before the season.

    Matt Cain has been one of the most underrated starting pitchers in baseball for years now. He’s constantly overshadowed by his teammate Tim Lincecum or he’s screwed by the aforementioned offense that offers him no run support.

    But, predicting that he would win 19 games this year and be in the top 3 for N.L. Cy Young was just purely idiotic on my part. I should have known; ripping the Giants is one of my favorite pastimes, so why didn’t I realize how ridiculous that guess was? He put together a 12-11 record with a 2.88 ERA (I had him at a 2.90), so he didn’t have a horrible season or anything. Just not 19-win, Cy Young-consideration worthy.

    The thing is, put Cain or Lincecum on a team like Milwaukee where the offense is ferocious, and you’re very likely looking at 18-20 wins for either of them. Cain will always be underrated, until he gets more run support or goes to a different team. Either way, I completely mistook his team and as a result, made a horribly incorrect guess on his win total this season.

    The Giants will definitely have to go after a big bat or two this offseason to support the pitching staff. The Diamondbacks showed this year that it’s a combination of offense and pitching that will win the N.L. West. Besides, the last thing any Giants fans want is to be overtaken by their arch rivals, the…


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    …Los Angeles Dodgers. You may scoff at that when you first read it, but after all the early-season struggles, L.A. only finished three and a half games behind the Giants in the division. It helps that I’m a devoted Dodger fan, but I still consider this next prediction impressive, if slightly abstract.

    I called for the two lefties (Clayton Kershaw and Ted Lilly) in the Dodgers’ starting rotation to combine for 32 wins and a sub-3.00 ERA. Well, much thanks to Kershaw for making that happen. Kershaw accounted for almost 67 percent of those victories with 21, and had a 2.28 ERA.

    Combined with Lilly’s 3.97, I almost made the ERA benchmark with a 3.13. But I did get the wins right, as Lilly poured in 12 to combine for 33. The thing I’m most proud of with this one was that I wrote, “Clayton Kershaw is a dark horse Cy Young candidate this season…”

    And considering he clinched the pitching Triple Crown (most wins, strikeouts and lowest ERA in the league) in his last start, I’d say he’s a lock for the hardware.

    This one is much less about my bragging rights than a shout-out to Kershaw. From all 14 Dodgers fans left in the world, thank you for a fantastic 2011 and for giving us something to root for in this horrible season. You and Matt Kemp are the franchise’s only hopes. Speaking of Kemp, the pitchers on the…


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    …Colorado Rockies are probably hoping he signs a contract with an American League team as soon as possible. And the rest of the National League for that matter. I think the Rockies pretty much committed to a lost season when they traded Ubaldo Jiminez at the deadline to the Cleveland Indians.

    That being said, I do like the young guys they now have in the system. And we know that the offense can score more than enough runs. They can thank Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki for that. Just maybe not as much as I had expected.

    I decided, like David Wright, that Tulo would be the next coming of Lou Gehrig apparently, aiming for a .327/37/135 line, an N.L. West crown and an MVP award. His .302/30/105 line is nothing to scoff at, but far short of what I predicted. He’s hardly in the MVP race, though in all fairness, nobody outside of Matt Kemp and Ryan Braun really is, and the Rockies finished fourth in the division.

    To my own credit, Tulo only played 143 games. That’s 19 games that he never saw action in, and although that may seem a steep mountain to climb (I know what you’re thinking...25 average points, 7 home runs and 30 RBI in 19 games?), I believe his 2010 month of September begs to differ.

    Tulowitzki may not win MVP for the Rockies in 2011, but he’ll be in the thick of things for years moving forward. Someone who might be looking at postseason MVP numbers right now is a third baseman on the…


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    …Texas Rangers. I really did not think they had the pitching after losing Cliff Lee to return to the playoffs. They proved me wrong there, but I’m going to be nitpicky and say I still deserve to brag about the bold prediction I made for the Rangers.

    After all the drama surrounding the signing of Adrian Beltre in the offseason, and almost driving Michael Young out of Arlington, I was convinced that Young would have a better season than Beltre. It wasn’t by much, but I ended up under-selling both players. I always thought Beltre was not worth the money, until I realized he has over 2,000 hits in his career already and then saw him mash his way through a non-contract season this year.

    Still, I’m going to be picky and say that my prediction was correct. Young finished the season with a ridiculous .338 average and 106 RBI. Beltre hit .296 with 105 RBI, but out-homered Young 32-11. Young had a better on-base percentage and because he technically drove in one more run, I’m giving my prediction the benefit of the doubt.

    In all seriousness, both players had fantastic seasons and my Beltre grudge is long gone. They will be keys to the Rangers returning to the World Series, and if the ALDS was any indication, that team is on their way. Good thing they made it to the playoffs. The…


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    …Los Angeles Angels sure gave them a scare! And, as usual, Ervin Santana gave me a scare. I put him on all my fantasy teams at what I thought was a bargain price. For the second straight year, I was convinced he would put up huge numbers and get Cy Young consideration. Damn you, Ervin!

    I decided my sneaky pick was going to be a top five Cy Young vote-getter. He wasn’t even close to being top five in his division. He barely cracks the top 10 in the A.L. West. He still put together 11 wins and a 3.38 ERA, which isn’t bad. But I think he has the skills to put up the kind of numbers that teammates Jered Weaver and Dan Haren did in 2011. Either way, I was way off-base.

    I should have known that he is one of the most inconsistent good pitchers in baseball. Maybe one day he will put it all together. He’s only 28, and he’s a strikeout machine. I’m sure the Angels hope he puts it all together and makes a ferocious trifecta of starting pitchers down in Anaheim.

    For my fantasy team’s sake, let’s hope he stops proving me wrong and starts playing like a top five pitcher, because my stubbornness will not allow me to pass on him in future drafts. One guy I will have no problem drafting again is a center fielder on the…


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    …New York Yankees. Curtis Granderson has always been a good ballplayer, but did he ever go off this year. If Verlander doesn’t take home the MVP this year, Granderson may be at the front of the pack. Some people seemed skeptical of the big offseason move by the Yankees two years ago, but I knew the short porch at the new stadium would serve Granderson’s underrated power stroke well.

    This year, I predicted he would hit .270 with 35 homers and 90 RBI, and throw in 20 steals for good measure. Well, he made me look like a genius. Not only did he drop 41 into the seats, he drove in 119 runs and stole 25 bases. He hit just over .260, which is completely okay in that lineup. At the top of the order, he was the spark that ignited the Yankees’ run to another A.L. East title.

    The reason he is possibly the most valuable player has as much to do with his offense as with his stellar defense in center field. That guy is all over the place. Granderson really out-did himself this year with those huge power numbers and came into his own as a Yankee. His presence is already felt in the playoffs, as he made two huge catches in Game 4 against Detroit.

    Nobody is second guessing the Yankees’ move anymore, and it looks like they finally have that center fielder they’ve coveted for so long. At age 30, the Grandy Man can and will rule the outfield for New York for a long time. I’m sure one other American League team wishes they had made a play at Granderson instead of signing Alex Rios. That would be the…


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    …Chicago White Sox. Another fantasy baseball love child of mine has always been their shortstop, Alexei Ramirez. I had to settle for him late in one draft a couple years ago, and he responded with a near-.300 average and 20+ home runs. From that season on, he became my sleeper shortstop.

    So this year, I figured it would be a good idea to give him a little more responsibility and put expectations of a 20/20, 90 RBI year on his shoulders. Those skinny little shoulders (no, seriously…he’s 6’2” 175. His bat might be harder to snap in half than he is) couldn’t handle that weight.

    Ramirez seriously underachieved, hitting 15 home runs, stealing seven bases and only driving in 70 runs. Looking back at the stats, those aren’t far off from his averages. But you’d think a fourth-year player in a loaded offense might come through for me this year! Alas, it wasn’t to be.

    He’s still a good fantasy sleeper pick for a shortstop and plays outstanding defense for the White Sox. He just might not be ready for a 20/20 season, let alone a 20/10. If not now, when? Possibly never. He is already 30 years old and if this season was any indication, he may already be over the hill.

    I will probably still make him a late-round choice with the thought that Ramirez is going to be consistently average. One last fantasy plug here...there is another guy I will not stop drafting as long as he’s playing baseball. He’s like a Rich Harden-type, in that he’s immensely talented with filthy stuff, but likes to spend time on the DL. If he ever gets healthy, he’s a real ace for the…


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    …Atlanta Braves. Jair Jurrjens (winner of the Most-Complicated-Last-Name-To-Spell Award) is a straight-up stud. He had one of his best seasons to date in 2011, despite only starting 23 games for the Braves. I expected him to put up 12 wins and a 3.50 ERA in a “good” comeback year.

    Well, Jurrjens actually came up with 13 wins and a 2.96 ERA. He surprised me by going south of 3.00 and had six losses, giving him a pretty impressive overall record. I really wish this guy could stay healthy consistently, because he’s just so dominant.

    I know a 13-win season with that ERA is something you look at and think it’s good, but not great. But then you need to take into consideration that Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum of the Giants had similar numbers this year.

    All I’m saying is maybe Jurrjens hasn’t gotten the exposure that he yet deserves. Give him a full, healthy season and maybe a little media exposure, because this 25-year-old has a lot of good years ahead of him.

    Another cool thing about Jurrjens, maybe his best quality actually, is that he has the same birthday as me! But seriously, I hope one day we see him receiving a Cy Young award for his golden right arm. Another underrated young pitcher plays for the…


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    …Oakland Athletics. Gio Gonzalez was one of those prized trade chips Billy Beane acquired a couple years ago in a flurry of trades. Gonzalez came over from the White Sox as one of the biggest pitching prospects in the majors. Since earning a regular starting spot in the rotation, he’s been money.

    But, he’s still young, and this year proved that. He still went 16-12 with a 3.12 ERA and 197 strikeouts. Unfortunately, I had him down for 20-7 and a 2.75 ERA, on the way to a serious Cy Young contention. Well, as for the award, I think Justin Verlander had that sewn up around May 14.

    But I definitely should have been a little more relaxed with the stats. He’s got a rubber left arm and had some ridiculous starts. He came up big in pressure situations and is definitely looking like the ace of the A’s team for as long as he plays in Oakland. I was wrong this year, but I’ll go ahead and predict a 22-5/2.20 ERA for next season. Just kidding. Or am I?

    Really though, he has a chance to be the next great lefty in the game. I think if he masters his control, he could be almost as good as one of the ace lefties in the rotation for the…


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    …Philadelphia Phillies. They have Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. All have been successful major league pitchers for a number of years and have tremendous postseason resumes. That’s probably why I got a bit too excited when predicting their average numbers.

    Before the season, I was so amazed with what they had done in the offseason, that I predicted they would average 17 wins, 180 strikeouts and a 3.00 ERA this year. I don’t think I realized the significance of that hypothetical rotation.

    Yet, somehow, I was right. Halladay and Lee are Clayton Kershaw’s main competition for the N.L. Cy Young, and Hamels put up big numbers, too. Oswalt had a below-average season but still racked up a 3.69 ERA. That’s not bad for a fourth (some may argue fifth) starter in a rotation.

    The big four actually averaged just south of 15 wins each, 186 strikeouts and a 2.80 ERA. So, I narrowly missed on the wins, but nailed the rest of it!

    Those four, plus the discovery of Vance Worley (11-3, 3.01 ERA) makes this the most dominant rotation in recent memory. And a big reason why the Phillies won 102 regular-season games. I fully expect that team to make it to the Fall Classic this year. Too bad I picked them to play the…


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    …Boston Red Sox. I will go ahead and ease my pain right up front by pointing out that everyone, and I mean everyone got this wrong. I’m not usually one to buy into preseason hype, especially in a long season like baseball, but this team was just too good to be true.

    No seriously, they were too good to be true. Injuries decimated them, but that’s no excuse for such a historic collapse. The baseball gods must have decided that their comeback in 2004 against the Yankees needed to be balanced out. So, they spotted the Red Sox a nine-and-a-half-game lead in September, and sat back and laughed in their Rays hats, as they blew it one slow, agonizing game at a time.

    The fact that this Boston team didn’t even make the playoffs is absolutely ludicrous to me. And unless they plug the hole quick, it’s going to keep leaking. Terry Francona is already gone and Theo Epstein might be next. Unbelievable turnaround. The team I picked to not only cruise to an A.L. East title, but win the World Series in 2011, is currently licking its wounds at home or on the golf course.

    Back in the day, the Red Sox were America’s favorites. The idiots in 2004 rode the magic to a second title in 2007, all the while sweeping the nation’s interest and undivided attention. They way they won was memorable and the stars they had were magical. The new form of that legendary club might be the…


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    …Milwaukee Brewers. Part of me wants to hate the Brew Crew because star outfielder Ryan Braun is trying to out-MVP my boy Matt Kemp. But really, Braun is incredible so I can’t hate too much. Plus, Prince Fielder is one of my favorite players in the whole world to watch hit a baseball. When he puts that gargantuan swing to work and connects with a ball, it’s pure bliss to watch him watch it go up and WAY out of the ballpark.

    It’s only right that I end this thing on a slide I can brag about. Not that predicting Fielder to have a monster year is something special, but I was pretty close with his numbers. I’m a big believer in contract year performance trending up. And this is a walk year for one of the already most explosive hitters in the game.

    I estimated that Prince would go .285, 40 homers and 115 RBI in 2011. Instead, he smashed a line of .299, 38 homers and 120 RBI. Overall, that’s one of my best guesses of the entire season. If he leads the Brewers to a World Series title this year, who knows? Maybe he’ll be back in Milwaukee in 2012.

    You know, I always said my favorite Home Run Derby ever would just be a swing-off between Fielder and Matt Stairs. Until one of them dies, I am holding out hope that this dream will come true. Fielder will be the second-biggest free agent this offseason, and whoever gets him is getting a damn good ballplayer. Mr. McCourt, you think you could pony up a couple hundr…what’s that? Okay, I’ll leave. Damn it…