Thursday, March 31, 2011

MLB Season Opens: 2011 BTTN Predictions For Everything Important

We love Francisco Liriano for 2011, enough
to finish 2nd in AL Cy Young voting
Yes, the weather may not show it in Toronto and some northern US cities, but baseball has started, and all 30 teams will have kicked off their season by late-night tomorrow.

The Jays of course are playing the Twins in a Fri-Sat-Sun series (7:07 pm Friday) that starts their season, while 12 teams are in action today.

Without further ado, here are BTTN's 2011 MLB Predictions:

American League

AL East
1. Red Sox 96-66
2. Yankees 88-74*
3. Rays 86-76
4. Blue Jays 85-77
5. Orioles 79-83

Comments: This year's AL East is one of the strongest single-season divisions in recent history. I have faith in projecting four teams to finish over-.500 and perhaps five if Baltimore can continue to play well under Buck Showalter. I think the Yankees pitching staff is mildly underrated, AJ Burnett should bounce-back with at least a 4.40 ERA, and Ivan Nova should be good enough to be at least a league-average starter.

The Red Sox are clearly baseball's best team, with a deep staff and great lineup.

AL Central
1. Twins 86-76
2. White Sox 84-78
3. Tigers 84-78
4. Indians 64-98
5. Royals 59-103

Comments: As in recent years, the AL Central will be an open race right up until the final week with three teams racing for the pennant. Ultimately, I think that Francisco Liriano will improve greatly (as his 2010 2.66 FIP would suggest he should) and lead the Twins to another division title with Morneau and Mauer hitting at their 2009 paces.

AL West
1. Athletics 85-77
2. Rangers 83-79
3. Angels 75-87
4. Mariners 66-96

Comments: I do not at all like the Rangers pitching staff. After losing Cliff Lee, there's not much remaining and whether or not you believe in the Verducci Effect, it's impossible to not be concerned about C.J. Wilson's incredible spike in innings pitched from 2009-2010. After Wilson is a solid third starter in Colby Lewis who is due for at least some regression. After Lewis is, well, nothing really of note. I'm really at odds with the unproven combo of Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter and others and think the back of the rotation will be their Achilles heel.

Meanwhile the A's have a great, albeit overrated, pitching staff accented by a fantastic bullpen. They won't out-slug anybody, but their mix of good pitching and average hitting should be enough to take the division.

1. Robinson Cano 2. Evan Longoria 3. Mark Teixeira
Cy Young
1. Jon Lester 2. Francisco Liriano 3. Felix Hernandez
Kyle Drabek 2. Jeremy Hellickson 3. Tsuyoshi Nishioka

National League

NL East
1. Braves 87-75
2. Phillies 86-77*
3. Marlins 84-78
4. Mets 76-86
5. Nationals 70-92

Comments: The Phillies may have one of the best rotations ever, but that doesn't give them a free pass. I'm cautious to project them for more than 85 wins due to their weak offense and the questionable status of batting order stalwart Chase Utley. Without Utley in the game and with Rollins playing as he has been recently, there's not much pop in this lineup with the exception of Ryan Howard.

This leads me to project the balanced Atlanta Braves to take the division title. They have a top pitching staff and the offense to match. The Marlins should make some noise as well, as I think their young rotation and lineup will continue to improve and propel them to a better-than-.500 record.

**The Phillies will beat the Brewers in game 163 of the season, in a 1-game playoff.

NL Central
1. Reds 86-76
2. Brewers 85-78
3. Cardinals 82-80
4. Cubs 75-87
5. Pirates 71-91
6. Astros 66-96

Comments: It's hard to know for certain what happens of the NL Central's wide open field, but I think the Reds will repeat as division champions. If they can properly manage their young arms and the offense just has a repeat season, I can seem them running away with this race. But, Votto, Rolen and others are due to regress, leading me to project them cautiously.

The Brewers will be good, but not quite live up to the lofty expectations. I just don't see them winning 90 games with the dead weight they have at the back of their rotation.

NL West
1. Giants 84-78
2. Diamondbacks 82-80
3. Rockies 81-81
4. Dodgers 77-85
5. Padres 75-87

Comments: I think the Diamondbacks will take a huge step forward in 2011, everything's in place for them to do so. They were 16th in runs in 2010, and I expect them to improve on that number while their pitching will be much improved. It will not however be enough to overtake the Giants.

The Rockies and Dodgers have good foundations, but I just don't think they have the depth to contend in 2011, and the Padres just don't have anybody to do anything on offense. 

1. Prince Fielder 2. Hanley Ramirez 3. Albert Pujols
Cy Young
1. Roy Halladay 2. Cliff Lee 3. Yovani Gallardo
1. Danny Espinosa 2. Freddy Freeman 3. Brandon Belt

Red Sox over Athletics in 6
Twins over Yankees in 7

Braves over Giants in 6
Phillies over Reds in 5

Red Sox over Twins in 4
Braves over Phillies in 6

World Series: Red Sox over Braves in 6

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