Today I will join thousands of other bloggers, websites, pundits, etc. in making my so-called "expert" predictions for the upcoming season. If you have been here for the last five years, you'll find this prediction format familiar -- and yes, you'll find most of this text familiar too (copy/paste being a useful tool). For those of you new to BCB, read on.
I started this format 19 years ago, when I was passing out my annual predictions to any of my friends who were willing to read them either with or without scoffing, because I found it both more interesting and challenging to do than traditional predictions. Even more so, if you're here I don't need to insult your intelligence by telling you who the ballclubs' best hitters, pitchers, etc. are. You already know. Instead, you'll find a pithy word or phrase describing the hitting, pitching, defense and intangibles of the thirty contenders for October glory.
I'm also not going to "predict" award winners. How hard would it be for me to sit here clacking away on a keyboard and be master-of-the-obvious by telling you that Joe Mauer is a top AL MVP candidate and that Roy Halladay is a top contender for NL Cy Young? Last year at this time people were ceding the Rookie of the Year award in the NL to Jason Heyward or Stephen Strasburg -- meanwhile, the actual winner, Buster Posey, started the year in Triple-A. And just before the 2010 season started, would you have picked Jose Bautista to lead the AL with 54 home runs? Anyone out there pick Josh Johnson to lead the NL in ERA? Maybe a handful, but not many.
And in any case, anyone using the search function here can come back here in October and tell me how wrong I was. Further, looking back at the six years of predictions here from 2004-2009, I note that I picked the Cubs to make the playoffs every year and to win the World Series every one of those years except 2006. Obviously, that was the optimist in me, not the realist, and although they did make the postseason in two of those years, those predictions were... well, not so smart. I didn't make that choice in 2010, and I'm not going to do that again this year.
One thing I did get right in 2010 was the World Series winner. That's right, on April 4, 2010 I wrote:
OK, so it wasn't the Red Sox losing the WS to the Giants. I got four out of the eight playoff teams right last year... can I improve on that in 2011?
Follow me past the jump for this year's picks.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
1) PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Hitting: How do they get along without Utley?
Pitching: The best in the game
Defense: Just fine
Intangibles: They really have to win with this pitching staff; a few injury concerns
2) ATLANTA BRAVES
Hitting: Young and improving
Pitching: Reworked bullpen could be very good
Intangibles: New manager Fredi Gonzalez
3) FLORIDA MARLINS
Pitching: Starters, good. Bullpen, not so much.
Intangibles: It's their last year in that football stadium. Will anyone notice?
4) WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Hitting: Werth more this year than last
Pitching: Well, they have a closer, at least.
Intangibles: .500 mark, here we come!
5) NEW YORK METS
Pitching: In disarray
Intangibles: Will they have to be sold due to the Madoff scandal?
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
1) MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Hitting: Last hurrah for this bunch; Prince Fielder is likely gone in 2012
Pitching: Can they stay healthy?
Intangibles: Team is built to win now
2) CINCINNATI REDS
Pitching: Suddenly a bit shaky
Intangibles: Always a chip on their shoulder
3) CHICAGO CUBS
Hitting: Needs to stay healthy
Defense: Um, next question?
Intangibles: Not expected to contend; could fly in under the radar
4) ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Hitting: After Pujols, the deluge?
Pitching: Body blow suffered with loss of Wainwright
Intangibles: 2010 StL=2009 Cubs. 2011 StL=2010 Cubs?
5) PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Pitching: Wait, we need pitchers, too?
Intangibles: Out of last place for the first time since 2006
6) HOUSTON ASTROS
Defense: No. Just no.
Intangibles: Ed Wade finally leads this team to the basement
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
1) SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Hitting: Who needs hitting?
Pitching: Second only to the Phillies in the NL
Defense: Good enough
Intangibles: Not a dynasty, but could have a few years run in the West
2) COLORADO ROCKIES (Wild Card)
Pitching: Way better than it has any right to be
Intangibles: They'll be very close to first place
3) LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Pitching: Very good
Intangibles: The McCourt divorce is going to ruin this team
4) SAN DIEGO PADRES
Hitting: Adrian Gonzalez is A-Gone.
Intangibles: They had their shot last year; now it's back to being bottom feeders.
5) ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Hitting: No more K's. But no more HR, either.
Intangibles: The bullpen has to be better, because it was the worst in MLB in 2010.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
1) BOSTON RED SOX
Hitting: New and powerful
Pitching: Still some question marks
Defense: Very good
Intangibles: Want to make up for last year's failure to make the playoffs
2) TAMPA BAY RAYS (Wild Card)
Pitching: Very, very young and could be very, very good
Intangibles: Don't underestimate this team -- ever.
3) NEW YORK YANKEES
Pitching: CC, AJ, and... ?
Defense: Outfield, fast. Infield, not so much.
Intangibles: Could win the East. Or could completely flop. It's that close.
4) TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Hitting: Lots of question marks
Pitching: Even more question marks
Defense: Still more question marks
Intangibles: Managed to dump Vernon Wells' contract
5) BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Hitting: Lots of home runs! Fun!
Pitching: Lots of home runs! F -- oh, wait.
Intangibles: 34-23 under Showalter in '10. Good, but hard to compete in this division.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
1) MINNESOTA TWINS
Hitting: Only Q: will Justin Morneau return to form?
Pitching: Return the entire staff and get Joe Nathan back
Defense: Very good
Intangibles: Ron Gardenhire, underrated manager
2) CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Hitting: New power
Pitching: New closer
Defense: Hint. Don't let Adam Dunn play the field.
Intangibles: When will Ozzie blow up this year?
3) DETROIT TIGERS
Pitching: Lots of question marks
Defense: Very good
Intangibles: What happens with Miguel Cabrera
4) KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Hitting: Two words -- Jeff Francoeur
Pitching: Two words -- Bruce Chen
Defense: Two words -- Melky Cabrera in CF (OK, so that's four words. Sue me.)
Intangibles: Two words -- Ned Yost
5) CLEVELAND INDIANS
Hitting: At last, have cornered the market on Cabreras
Pitching: Looks like the waiver wire
Intangibles: Biggest offseason move -- bringing back Austin Kearns
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
1) TEXAS RANGERS
Pitching: No real big names -- just winners
Intangibles: Looking to return to the World Series
2) OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Hitting: An odd mix, but somehow it works
Intangibles: Looking for a sleeper team? Might be this one.
3) LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Hitting: Too many question marks
Defense: Very good
Intangibles: Mike Scioscia always finds ways to win
4) SEATTLE MARINERS
Pitching: After King Felix, pathetic
Intangibles: Ichiro should be embarrassed to play on this team, which could lose 100+ games again
World Series: The Phillies spent a ton of money on pitching last offseason and it will pay off with a four games to three win over the powerful Red Sox.