The ‘Boys of Summer’ are back.
It’s Opening Day of the 2011 Major League Baseball season, leaving 30 teams with a clean slate and high hopes of making a playoff run.
Yes, including the Pirates.
Capping off the season preview, KP presents his 2011 MLB season predictions – from division winners, wild card berths, Cy Young award winners, rookies of the year and more.
Pick Your Knows: 2011 MLB Season Predictions
American League East
1) Boston Red Sox (Division Winner)
2) Tampa Bay Rays*
3) Baltimore Orioles*
4) New York Yankees*
5) Toronto Blue Jays
KP’s Take: I realize that I’ll take a beating from many on the Yankees, but I’m going to stick to my guns here. This is assuming the current roster, and that New York won’t make a “balls to the wall” move for an ace. If that happens, New York would move to the number two slot*. Also:
- The Red Sox have balance, with strong pitching, a deep ‘pen and an offense that adds four bats that weren’t there last September: Carl Crawford (Tampa Bay), Adrian Gonzalez (San Diego), Kevin Youkilis (Injured) and Dustin Pedroia (Also Injured).
- The Orioles’ offense was revamped, there are five former closers in the ‘pen and the young pitching was dynamite under Buck Showalter in the final months of 2010.
- The Yankees’ starting rotation doesn’t impress me. Garcia is an injury risk, Nova is unproven, Hughes’ velocity is down this spring and Burnett is very streaky.
- Many think the Rays will miss Matt Garza. Rookie Jeremy Hellickson will make them forget, and there’s plenty of young pitching in the organization.
- The 2-4 slots* will be a game or two apart and likely all in the wild card chase, but the division is so strong, that it will beat itself up throughout the year.
Who Will Win The American League East Division in 2011?
- Boston Red Sox (46%, 18 Votes)
- New York Yankees (23%, 9 Votes)
- Baltimore Orioles (18%, 7 Votes)
- Tampa Bay Rays (10%, 4 Votes)
- Toronto Blue Jays (3%, 1 Votes)
Total Voters: 39
American League Central
1) Minnesota Twins (Division Winner)
2) Chicago White Sox (Wild Card)
3) Detroit Tigers
4) Kansas City Royals
5) Cleveland Indians
KP’s Take: The key to the Twins’ season will be the health of Justin Morneau on offense and Joe Nathan in the bullpen. If neither can stay healthy, the race gets tighter. Also:
- The issues with Miguel Cabrera are too much of a question mark for me, and think it will also be a distraction for the Tigers.
- Chicago’s lineup will be brutal for opponents to handle, especially when playing at home. If Jake Peavy can get healthy and pitch effectively, watch out.
- You should start seeing growth out of Kansas City’s young players – so much that the Royals will not finish in last place this season.
- Playing a large number of games against the Royals and Indians will help the AL Central earn the Wild Card over its stronger AL East opponents.
Who Will Win The American League Central Division in 2011?
- Minnesota Twins (27%, 11 Votes)
- Chicago White Sox (24%, 10 Votes)
- Detroit Tigers (24%, 10 Votes)
- Cleveland Indians (17%, 7 Votes)
- Kansas City Royals (7%, 3 Votes)
Total Voters: 41
American League West
1) Oakland Athletics (Division Winner)
2) Texas Rangers
3) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
4) Seattle Mariners
KP’s Take: Oakland’s pitching staff is the most underrated in all of baseball. The A’s added a few complimentary bats to improve its offensive production, and if the young starting rotation can stay healthy, Oakland surprises and wins the division. Also:
- The Rangers have question marks in the rotation: Cliff Lee is in Philly, C.J. Wilson has been battling hamstring issues and Tommy Hunter is out with a groin strain.
- The A’s had the best team ERA in the American League last season, and were the only AL team to crack the top 7 in baseball.
- The Angels could make a run in what should be a tight race, but the veteran bats with a potential for declining numbers make them tough to pick.
Who Will Win The American League West Division in 2011?
- Texas Rangers (53%, 9 Votes)
- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (35%, 6 Votes)
- Oakland Athletics (6%, 1 Votes)
- Seattle Mariners (6%, 1 Votes)
Total Voters: 17
National League East
1) Philadelphia Phillies (Division Winner)
2) Atlanta Braves (Wild Card)
3) Florida Marlins
4) New York Mets
5) Washington Nationals
KP’s Take: The Phillies have question marks on offense, but still have arguably the best rotation in baseball – and assuming the team finds a way to acquire bats (if necessary) – they should be able to still eek out the division, but not by as much as people think. Also:
- The Braves are a balanced team, with solid pitching and a legit offense. Atlanta will likely rely on a pair of young arms at back of the ‘pen, plus Heyward and Freeman to help carry the offense. Uggla should continue to hit, and Chipper’s health is key.
- The Marlins could be a darkhorse in this division. They are very young, but have a ton of talent both on offense and in its starting rotation. Keep an eye on them.
- The Mets will have too many issues with its financial problems, coupled with another slew of injuries, which are already affecting them this spring.
- The Nationals do not have the starting pitching right now, but still have a bright future when Strasburg returns, and when Bryce Harper makes his debut.
Who Will Win The National League East Division in 2011?
- Philadelphia Phillies (81%, 17 Votes)
- Atlanta Braves (5%, 1 Votes)
- Florida Marlins (5%, 1 Votes)
- New York Mets (5%, 1 Votes)
- Washington Nationals (5%, 1 Votes)
Total Voters: 21
National League Central
1) Milwaukee Brewers (Division Winner)
2) Cincinnati Reds
3) St. Louis Cardinals
4) Chicago Cubs
5) Pittsburgh Pirates
6) Houston Astros
KP’s Take: I think Milwaukee’s offense is stellar, with bats such as Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Casey McGehee and Corey Hart. The starting pitching has a nasty trio now that Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum have joined Yovani Gallardo. The bullpen and defense could be a question mark, but there’s enough there to conquer this division. Also:
- Albert Pujols will be a force, but could his contract status become a slight distraction? The Cards would say no, but I say perhaps it could. The bigger issue in St. Louis will be the rotation without Wainwright. His loss hurts.
- If it all comes together, the Cubs could make a run. The talent is there, but Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Pena and Aramis Ramirez have been question marks in recent years.
- The Reds will be in the mix all season, but there were no major additions to the roster. I’m banking on a few players to not have nearly the same impact they had in 2010.
Who Will Win The National League Central Division in 2011?
- Cincinnati Reds (36%, 10 Votes)
- Milwaukee Brewers (29%, 8 Votes)
- St. Louis Cardinals (29%, 8 Votes)
- Chicago Cubs (7%, 2 Votes)
- Houston Astros (0%, 0 Votes)
- Pittsburgh Pirates (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 28
National League West
1) San Francisco Giants (Division Winner)
2) Colorado Rockies
3) Los Angeles Dodgers
4) San Diego Padres
5) Arizona Diamondbacks
KP’s Take: The NL West should once again be a tight race that goes down to the wire, but with the pitching staff that the Giants currently have, it’s hard to pick against them. San Francisco’s rotation is not far behind Philadelphia’s starting five – and I truly believe that. Also:
- Colorado’s offense will be the best in the division by far, but the pitching staff remains a question mark. Which Ubaldo Jimenez will show – 2010’s first or second half version?
- The Padres should have solid pitching again, especially at PETCO Park. But missing Mat Latos for the beginning of the season could hurt. San Diego will need both Tim Stauffer and Aaron Harang to pick up the slack.
- The Dodgers’ ownership situation is still a concern. If all is still unresolved, what happens if the Dodgers need to make moves to improve the team? That, plus players like Broxton and Kemp need to rebound from subpar 2010 seasons.
Who Will Win The National League West Division in 2011?
- San Francisco Giants (70%, 19 Votes)
- Arizona Diamondbacks (11%, 3 Votes)
- Colorado Rockies (11%, 3 Votes)
- San Diego Padres (7%, 2 Votes)
- Los Angeles Dodgers (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 27
Teams That Will Surprise
American League: Baltimore Orioles
National League: Florida Marlins
Again, watch out for the O’s. Over the 2010 season’s final two months, Baltimore had the best record in the AL East – and that was playing against divisional rivals that still had a shot at the playoffs. Since, the Orioles have improved the offense and bullpen.
In the NL, I like Florida’s talent. The rotation is solid with Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco, plus I think Javier Vazquez will rebound now that he’s out of the AL East. Mike Stanton and Hanley Ramirez are stars, and the other youngsters should improve as the season progresses.
Most Valuable Player
American League: Adrian Gonzalez – Boston Red Sox
National League: Albert Pujols – St. Louis Cardinals
Others that I expect to be contenders include Kevin Youkilis (Boston), Justin Morneau (Minnesota) and Josh Hamilton (Texas) in the AL, plus Joey Votto (Cincinnati), Prince Fielder (Milwaukee) and Carlos Gonzalez (Colorado) in the NL.
Rookie of the Year
American League: Jeremy Hellickson – Tampa Bay Rays
National League: Freddie Freeman – Atlanta Braves
Others that I expect to be contenders include Zach Britton (Baltimore) and Kyle Drabek (Toronto) in the AL, and Brandon Belt (San Francisco) in the NL.
Cy Young Award
American League: Jon Lester – Boston Red Sox
National League: Roy Halladay – Philadelphia Phillies
Others that I expect to be contenders include C.C. Sabathia (New York) and Felix Hernandez (Seattle) in the AL, plus Cliff Lee (Philadelphia), Tim Lincecum (San Francisco), Zack Greinke (Milwaukee), Chris Carpenter (St. Louis) and Josh Johnson (Florida) in the NL.
2011 MLB Playoff Predictions
Red Sox OVER White Sox
Twins OVER A’s
Phillies OVER Brewers
Giants OVER Braves
Boston’s pitching and overall depth knocks out the White Sox, while Oakland’s inexperience does them in. The pitching of Philly and San Francisco get it done in the NL.
Red Sox OVER Twins
Giants OVER Phillies
AL: The Twins have trouble in the playoffs, and the Red Sox are the complete package. Boston’s pitching staff and relentless offense wear the Twins down, especially at Fenway.
NL: The top two pitching staffs meet. By this point, Belt and Posey are cruising, while the Phillies have continued issues with scoring runs and protecting Ryan Howard.
2011 World Series Prediction
Red Sox OVER Giants in 6
By now, it’s a broken record, but on paper, the Boston Red Sox should be the World Series favorites. Boston won 89 games last season, and that was while battling numerous injuries. This year, with a healthy Youkilis and Pedroia, along with additions Crawford and Gonzalez, the Red Sox have a loaded offense. The starting five is arguably the best in the American League, and the bullpen is very deep. All in all, the Red Sox have the pieces in place to win it all.
Now, it’s your turn – go ahead… PICK YOUR KNOWS!