Ben’s 2011 Season Predictions

By Ben Gellman
Broadcast Assistant

It’s about that time of year where baseball commentators of all stripes put on their Nostradamus hats, whisper “Presto Change-o!”, and rub their lucky rabbit feet in an attempt to accurately predict the outcome of the upcoming season.  Intuition tells us that this is unlikely to succeed, and hard math confirms our intuition.  Predictions are empty, useless things, telling us nothing and ultimately futile.

So let’s engage in them now, shall we?  These are Ben’s Predictions for the 2011 MLB Season!

AL EAST

1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Toronto Blue Jays
5. Baltimore Orioles

The Red Sox have reloaded thanks to the big-ticket free agent signing of Carl Crawford, the splashy trade for Adrian Gonzalez, and a few savvy free agent signings in Bobby Jenks, Dan Wheeler and Andrew Miller.  They’re projected by many as baseball’s top team.  The Yankees lost Andy Pettitte to retirement, and whiffed when they tried to sign Cliff Lee in free agency.  Somehow, Bartolo Colon doesn’t strike the same fear into hitters that he used to.  Tampa Bay still has one of the best starting rotations in the majors, but the defections of Crawford, Rafael Soriano (Yankees) and Carlos Pena (Cubs) as well as the loss of Matt Garza (traded to Cubs) will be too much for the Rays to overcome.  Toronto is a team on the rise, and they’re finally shed of Vernon Wells’ atrocious contract, but their pitching isn’t strong enough to compete in the AL East…yet.  Baltimore has a lot of young talent, but there just isn’t enough firepower there for them to vie for a playoff spot, though better days are on the horizon.

AL CENTRAL

1. Minnesota Twins
2. Detroit Tigers
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Cleveland Indians
5. Kansas City Royals

The Twins got a huge boost when Justin Morneau came back to game action in spring training recently.  If he’s healthy for most of the season, they’ll be a fearsome team indeed.  Detroit added a bunch of pop to the lineup with the signing of Victor Martinez, and their young starting pitching is looking dangerous.  But the bullpen should give them pause, and they may be just a year away.  By signing Adam Dunn, the White Sox added even more power to an already juiced lineup.  If Jake Peavy can get and stay healthy and perform up to his capabilities, the Pale Hose could leapfrog all the way to the top of the division.  The Indians and Royals have stocked farm systems, but their major league cupboards are barren, and either club would be fortunate to scrape 70 wins.

AL WEST

1. Texas Rangers
2. Oakland Athletics
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
4. Seattle Mariners

The Rangers may have lost their half-season ace when Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies, but they return one of the most dynamic offenses in the majors, and they still have terrific bullpen depth.  Oakland’s starting rotation, anchored by Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill, might be the best one you’ve never heard of.  They’ll contend, and could surprise a lot of folks.  The Angels missed out on signing Crawford, and look a little bit older in the outfield.  And with Mike Napoli’s potent bat gone, their offense could take a hit.  Seattle still has the best pitcher in the majors in Felix Hernandez, and Ichiro provides excitement in the outfield, but the rest of the team is unlikely to strike fear in opponents.

AL AWARDS
MVP: Justin Morneau
Cy Young: Felix Hernandez
Rookie of the Year: Chris Sale (White Sox)
Manager of the Year: Buck Showalter (Baltimore)
Wild Card: New York Yankees

NL EAST

1. Atlanta Braves
2. Philadelphia Phillies
3. Florida Marlins
4. Washington Nationals
5. New York Mets

The Phillies have a rotation for the ages, and Ryan Howard keeps bopping homers at a strong clip.  But the loss of Jayson Werth and Chase Utley’s injury could hamstring the Phillies, and make them a much weaker club than expected.  Atlanta is a team on the rise, and Jason Heyward is a talent reminiscent of Hank Aaron and Ken Griffey, Jr.  Tommy Hanson isn’t so bad on the mound, either, and the Braves should have a shutdown bullpen.  They will challenge the Phillies for the division crown.  Florida still has one of the premier players in the game in Hanley Ramirez, and Mike Stanton should blossom into a superstar in his second season.  It doesn’t hurt that the Fish have a superb top three in their starting rotation.  The Nationals made a splash with their signing of Jayson Werth, but losing Adam Dunn will sting.  Jordan Zimmermann should help a rotation hurt by the injury-provoked absence of phenom Stephen Strasburg.  Mets fans may suffer through the coming season with their players; Carlos Beltran is still hobbled by injury, and Johan Santana is half the pitcher he once was. It could get ugly in Flushing.

NL CENTRAL

1. Milwaukee Brewers
2. Cincinnati Reds
3. St. Louis Cardinals
4. Chicago Cubs
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
6. Houston Astros

Is this the year the Brewers contend for a World Series berth?  They’ve gathered a bright group of stars in Milwaukee, and the bullpen looks solid.  Defense and health may be the only stumbling blocks for the Brew Crew this year, but Zach Greinke’s injury may throw a wrench into the works.  Cincinnati returns most of its core from last year’s breakout squad, including reigning NL MVP Joey Votto.  Aroldis Chapman will continue firing darts in the bullpen, although only as a setup man…for now.  The Cardinals were crushed when Adam Wainwright went down for the year because of Tommy John surgery.  Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Chris Carpenter may not be enough in a younger and stronger NL Central.  The Cubs upgraded by getting Carlos Pena and Matt Garza in the offseason, but they still don’t have enough ammo to keep pace with the top of the division.  The Pirates have burgeoning stars in Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutcheon (one of baseball’s brightest talents), but will continue to finish near the cellar until they get good pitching.  Houston lost its best hitter (Lance Berkman) and pitcher (Roy Oswalt) from last year, and there isn’t any top talent in the farm system to help out.

NL WEST

1. San Francisco Giants
2. Colorado Rockies
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. San Diego Padres

The Giants return almost all key pieces of their World Series run, and look poised to make noise again now that Pablo Sandoval (AKA Kung Fu Panda) has slimmed down at third base.  The Rockies will be nipping at their heels, as always, and Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki will continue to anchor one of baseball’s best lineups.  The Dodgers have tons of talent, but also have nagging questions in the bullpen (can Jonathan Broxton be consistent?) and in the lineup (Which Matt Kemp will we see in 2011?).  They may just not be able to overcome their inadequacies.  Arizona has plenty of thump in the lineup with Justin Upton and Stephen Drew, and the addition of J.J. Putz should help solidify the bullpen.  The rotation needs to get better before the D-Backs do, though.  San Diego lost Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Young to the ravages of free agency, and the Friars may have a bit of a slump this year.  Mat Latos is still an ace-level pitcher when healthy, though, and the bullpen might be baseball’s best.

NL AWARDS
MVP: Albert Pujols
Cy Young: Cliff Lee
Rookie of the Year: Freddie Freeman (Braves)
Manager of the Year: Ron Roenicke (Brewers)
Wild Card: Colorado Rockies

PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS
Divisional Series:
Red Sox def. Twins
Rangers def. Yankees (WC)
Giants def. Brewers
Rockies (WC) def. Phillies

League Championship Series:
Red Sox def. Rangers
Giants def. Rockies

WORLD SERIES:
Red Sox def. Giants

Those are my predictions for the year!  If I get even ten percent right, I’ll be thrilled.

Agree?  Disagree? Sound off to us at crawdadsradio@gmail.com.

Ben Gellman is in his first season as Broadcasting Assistant for the Hickory Crawdads.

1 Comment

I still haven’t received the megamix yet!

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