Thursday, March 31, 2011: opening day is here!
In 2010, the San Francisco Giants defeated the Texas Rangers to win their first World Series since 1954. The 2010 season was dubbed as “the year of the pitcher” as Roy Halladay tossed a perfect game (Halladay also tossed a no-hitter in the postseason). Dallas Braden, Ubaldo Jimenez and Edwin Jackson also tossed no-hitters during the 2010 season. Several other pitches came within several outs of tossing no-hitter. Rookies Starlin Castro and Jason Heyward were impact players for their clubs.
The big stories in the offseason were the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies. The Red Sox acquired first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and outfielder Carl Crawford. I believe the Red Sox now have the best lineup in baseball. The Philadelphia Phillies shocked the baseball world by re-acquiring pitcher Cliff Lee. Lee joins Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels in what may be one of the greatest pitching rotations of all time.
With the 2011 season now upon us, it is time for predictions.
NL East: Philadelphia Phillies
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals
NL West: Colorado Rockies
NL Wild Card: Atlanta Braves
NL MVP: Albert Pujols (.326 AVG, 41 HR, 129 RBI)
NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay (22 W, 2.69 ERA)
NL Rookie of the Year: Freddie Freeman (.268 AVG, 19 HR, 71 RBI)
Despite the uncertainty around Chase Utley’s knee injury, the Phillies will finish with the best record in baseball. The pitching rotation of Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Hamels and Blanton will be the best rotation in baseball. Halladay, Lee, Oswalt and Hamels are all capable of approaching 20+ wins. Had Hamels not been a poor victim of run support in 2010, he likely would have notched 20 wins.
Despite Adam Wainwright’s season-ending injury, I believe the St. Louis Cardinals will win the NL Central in 2011. Albert Pujols will win the NL MVP in what could possibly be his last season as a Cardinal. If the Cardinals do not win the NL Central, I still do not see the Cincinnati Reds repeating as NL Central champs in 2011. Should the Cardinals not win the NL Central, I foresee the Milwaukee Brewers then winning the division with their improved pitching rotation.
AL East: Boston Red Sox
AL Central: Detroit Tigers
AL West: Texas Rangers
AL Wild Card: New York Yankees
AL MVP: Adrian Gonzalez (.292 AVG, 49 HR, 126 RBI)
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander (20 W, 2.84 ERA)
AL Rookie of the Year: Dustin Ackley (.282 AVG, 16 HR, 62 RBI)
With the acquisitions of Crawford and Gonzalez, the Red Sox are the clear favorites in the AL. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz will carry their pitching rotation while John Lackey provides excellent support. If Josh Beckett returns to form and pitches like he did years ago, that will be a great bonus for the Red Sox. Daisuke Matsuzaka showed promise in spring training; however, he has a history of being unpredictable with his control. The New York Yankees will also reach the postseason and face the Red Sox in the ALCS.
Just like the NL Central, I find the AL Central to be an intriguing division. The Tigers, Twins and White Sox are all capable of winning the division; however, I give the AL Central to the Tigers for their pitching. Justin Verlander will win the AL Cy Young Award while winning 20 games for the first time in his career. Rick Porcello will have an ERA under 4.00 and start to show his true potential later in the season.
The Seattle Mariners have top prospect Dustin Ackley in the minors to start the 2011 season; however, he is expected to be called up eventually. Playing time permitting, I believe Ackley is capable of launching 20+ home runs as a rookie. Keep Ackley on your watch lists in your fantasy leagues. If you are in a keeper league, you should entertain the notion of plucking Ackley from waivers now.
2011 World Series: Philadelphia Phillies defeat Boston Red Sox in 6 games.
I believe the Phillies are capable of winning it all with or without Utley; however, it is imperative for Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard to stay healthy if Utley is out. With or without Utley, the Phillies may have just enough talent in their lineup to win it all while their pitching rotation shuts the opposition down.