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2021 Major League Baseball predictions

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In which I go out on the usual limb to pick this year’s order of finish and playoff results.

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

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 at BCB for the last 16 years, you’ll find this prediction format familiar — and yes, you’ll find most of this introductory text familiar too (copy/paste being a useful tool). For those of you new to this site, read on.

I started this format more than 25 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 this method 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 30 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 Mike Trout is a top choice to win another A.L. MVP Award, that Cody Bellinger could contend for another NL MVP or that Jacob deGrom has an excellent chance to take the NL Cy Young? Just before the 2020 season started, would you have predicted that Don Mattingly and Kevin Cash would be Managers of the Year? Last summer, did you predict Devin Williams would win the 2020 NL Rookie of the Year Award? (No. No, you did not. Neither did MLB.com, USA Today, Yahoo or ESPN. Not a single mention of Williams anywhere in those.)

And in any case, anyone using the search function here, or Google, can come back here in October and tell me how wrong I was.

Here are my abbreviated predictions for the abbreviated 2020 season. Oddly enough, I picked all six division winners correctly, but didn’t account for the 16-team postseason, so I’ll give myself only partial credit for that. I did managed to call the correct teams for last year’s World Series, but picked the wrong team to win it.

As for these other random predictions I made for 2020:

  • The MLB home run leader will have fewer than 20 — Wrong! Luke Voit hit 22. (He was the only one with 20 or more, though.)
  • The MLB saves leader will have fewer than 30 — Correct! Brad Hand led with 16.
  • A qualifying position player will hit .400 — Wrong! DJ LeMahieu led MLB at .364.
  • A qualifying pitcher will have an ERA under 1.00 — Wrong! Shane Bieber led MLB at 1.63.

I also said:

This season will not reach its conclusion and will have to be halted for pandemic-related reasons.

Well, that one was way wrong. All but two scheduled games were played, and MLB generally did a good job navigating the pandemic.

This year, no doubt, will be better. Without further ado, my picks for 2021!

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

1) ATLANTA BRAVES

Hitting: Ridiculous
Pitching: Young
Defense: Very good
Intangibles: Best N.L. team east of L.A.

2) NEW YORK METS (2nd wild card)

Hitting: Powerful
Pitching: Outstanding
Defense: Well, they have some
Intangibles: Spiffy new owner

3) WASHINGTON NATIONALS

Hitting: Young and upcoming
Pitching: Returning
Defense: Solid
Intangibles: Had a bad pandemic year after their WS title

4) MIAMI MARLINS

Hitting: Young, but also old
Pitching: Young
Defense: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Intangibles: Derek Jeter is no longer the most hated man in baseball

5) PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Hitting: Let’s try this again
Pitching: Old
Defense: Next question?
Intangibles: Someday, they will get this right

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

1) CHICAGO CUBS

Hitting: Rejuvenated
Pitching: ♬♪♫ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” ♬♪♫
Defense: It had better be good
Intangibles: Impending free agency

2) ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Hitting: Arenado!
Pitching: Questionable
Defense: Um, next question?
Intangibles: Pixie dust

3) MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Hitting: Returning (mostly)
Pitching: Returning
Defense: Improved
Intangibles: ♬♪♫ “Zing! Boom! Tarrarel!” ♬♪♫ (Also, what’s a “tarrarel”?)

4) CINCINNATI REDS

Hitting: Too many outfielders
Pitching: Not enough starters
Defense: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Intangibles: Too many outfielders. Where do they all play?

5) PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Hitting: Who...
Pitching: ... are ...
Defense: these guys?
Intangibles: Can you figure this team out? I can’t

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

1) LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Hitting: An embarrassment of riches
Pitching: Expensive
Defense: Good
Intangibles: Which Trevor Bauer do they get?

2) SAN DIEGO PADRES (1st wild card)

Hitting: Coming into its own
Pitching: New? Yes. Improved? Maybe
Defense: Excellent
Intangibles: Real contenders for the first time in a decade

3) SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Hitting: Old
Pitching: Older
Defense: Oldest
Intangibles: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

4) ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Hitting: Returning
Pitching: Questionable
Defense: Very good
Intangibles: I can say all kinds of nice things and they’ll still finish at .500

5) COLORADO ROCKIES

Hitting: In that park? Always
Pitching: In that park? Never
Defense: Good enough
Intangibles: Weirdest ownership/management in MLB

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

1) NEW YORK YANKEES

Hitting: Lots of home runs! Fun!
Pitching: They have depth. They will need it
Defense: Good enough
Intangibles: A manager who’s better than you think he is

2) TAMPA BAY RAYS (1st wild card)

Hitting: Very good
Pitching: New, but old
Defense: Solid
Intangibles: Always, always play better than you’d expect

3) TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Hitting: Better than you might imagine
Pitching: Yes
Defense: Miscellaneous
Intangibles: They could sneak up on this division

4) BOSTON RED SOX

Hitting: Some guys
Pitching: Hope and a prayer
Defense: Yes
Intangibles: Not tanking, but not really trying, either

5) BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Hitting: OMG
Pitching: Lots of home runs! F — oh, wait.
Defense: I guess they have some
Intangibles: The return of Trey Mancini

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

1) CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Hitting: Powerful
Pitching: Still a few questions
Defense: Infield? Yes. Outfield...
Intangibles: La Russa’s hire, either the dumbest or smartest thing they’ve done

1) MINNESOTA TWINS (2nd wild card)

Hitting: Still bringin’ rain
Pitching: Surprisingly good
Defense: Adequate
Intangibles: Their cerebral manager

3) KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Hitting: Better than you think
Pitching: Hopeful
Defense: Solid
Intangibles: Might be turning the corner

4) CLEVELAND INDIANS

Hitting: Traded
Pitching: Traded
Defense: Traded
Intangibles: Could be fighting with the Tigers for last place

5) DETROIT TIGERS

Hitting: Next question!
Pitching: Will be traded at the deadline
Defense: Does it matter?
Intangibles: Again fighting it out with the Orioles for the worst record in baseball

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

1) OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Hitting: Anonymous, but good
Pitching: Anonymous, but good
Defense: Anonymous, but good
Intangibles: Fanatically loyal fanbase

2) HOUSTON ASTROS

Hitting: Missing a big guy from 2020
Pitching: Missing a big guy from 2019
Defense: Average
Intangibles: Boooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

3) LOS ANGELES ANGELS

Hitting: Trout. Rendon. Who needs more?
Pitching: Did someone mention pitching?
Defense: Irrelevant
Intangibles: Ohtani!

4) TEXAS RANGERS

Hitting: A bunch of guys
Pitching: New
Defense: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Intangibles: Full capacity on Opening Day? Really?

5) SEATTLE MARINERS

Hitting: Kyle Seager and what army?
Pitching: Don’t ask
Defense: Acceptable
Intangibles: Trades are inevitable

Postseason predictions

Wild-card games: Padres over Mets, Rays over Twins

Division series: Cubs over Dodgers, Braves over Padres, Yankees over White Sox, Rays over A’s

Championship series: Braves over Cubs, Yankees over Rays

World Series: Yankees win their first World Series since 2009

Poll

Where will the Cubs finish in 2021?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    World Series champions
    (37 votes)
  • 1%
    N.L. champions, but lose the World Series
    (7 votes)
  • 15%
    Win a division series but lose the NLCS
    (62 votes)
  • 29%
    Win the N.L. Central, lose a division series
    (119 votes)
  • 5%
    Win the wild-card game, lose a division series
    (24 votes)
  • 8%
    Make the wild-card game but lose it
    (33 votes)
  • 30%
    Miss the postseason
    (124 votes)
406 votes total Vote Now