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The phrase, “Expectations Have Never Been Higher” is starting to become cliché around these parts.
The season that culminated in the Philadelphia Phillies World Series Championship in 2008 was magical. Cole Hamels was rock steady. Brad Lidge pitched the closer role with the precision of a diamond cutter. The offensive explosion was thunderous. Millions of fans showed up at the parade in Philadelphia to celebrate a brutally long championship drought.
2009 saw the Philadelphia Phillies first flirtation with Roy Halladay, only to scoop up Cliff Lee at the deadline instead. From there, the Phillies sailed into their second World Series in as many years. Though Brad Lidge plummeted back to earth with a resounding thud that year, along with most of the rest of the bullpen, those expectations were a second-in-a-row World Series Championship. It was not to be as the New York Yankees played strong, the Phillies suffered a power-outage (except for Chase Utley), and it didn’t happen the way the Phillies’ fans nor the organization expected. Adding insult to injury, Cliff Lee was allowed to depart Philadelphia after that season over the agonizing screams of fans everywhere.
2011 Philadelphia Phillies Predictions after the jump >>
Strengths: While the Diamondbacks welcome back the power numbers of 1B Adam LaRoche (25 HR, 100 RBI) and OF Chris Young (27 HR, 91 RBI), they will need to improve their sub .265 AVGs. Closer J.J. Putz is a great addition to the bullpen, and SP Armando Galarraga, along with youngster SP Daniel Hudson, look to improve a starting rotation that struggled last year.
Weaknesses: 3B Mark Reynolds is gone. He took with him his 32 HRs from last season but also a .198 AVG. Veteran Melvin Mora will try to fill Reynolds’s shoes, but his career has been in decline for a few years now. This young team needs a leader and will remain at the bottom of the NL until someone emerges.
Analysis: Manager Kirk Gibson will begin his first year as a manager and will need to take control from the start. It’s going to be another long year in Arizona for a team that has a lot of talent but are not too sure how to use it.
Prediction: 5th in NL West
More 2011 NL West Predictions after the jump >>
2011 is finally the year the Royals are going to start winning! Wait…what’s that? That’s still a couple years away? Oh.
Experts and non-experts alike all agree that the Royals minor league system is the best in baseball this year. Here’s the problem though…the major league team is among the worst. As Royals fans we can, however, see the light at the end of the tunnel. The new wave of talent is on the horizon, with some players such as 3B Mike Moustakas expected to join the big league club by midseason, if not sooner. The bad news is the Royals are going to be dependent almost entirely on this influx of young talent. As the Indians’ exec in Major League said, “I haven’t heard of half these guys, and the ones I do know are way past their prime.” Say hello to your 2011 Kansas City Royals.
More Kansas City Royals season preview >>
Strengths: Everyone on this team is young and a work in progress. 2B Neil Walker, 3B Pedro Alvarez, and OF Garrett Jones all have shown promise, but as long as they are playing in Pittsburgh, they won’t get much recognition. The addition of 1B Lyle Overbay will give the offense a much-needed boost.
Weaknesses: Pitching. They had a team ERA of 5.00 and lost 105 games last season. Need I say more?
Analysis: Hang on Pittsburgh fans, you are in for another long season. It probably won’t be as bad as last year, but you can expect another bottom-of-the-barrel performance. You have to give them credit for trying.
Prediction: 6th in NL Central
More 2011 NL Central Predictions after the jump >>
Is it really only six weeks until spring training? Hard to believe since we can see our breath here in the frozen tundra but it’s true! Could the Packers win in the Super Bowl bring luck to the Brewers? Sure, but the Milwaukee Brewers don’t need luck, they already have what it takes to lead the National League Central this year.
More 2011 Brewers Predictions after the jump >>
Kansas City Royals
Strengths: Having an all-star closer like Joakim Soria is a great luxury, but getting the ball to him with a lead will be tough for the Royals. OF Jeff Francoeur is a nice addition in the outfield, and 2B Mike Aviles is a solid all-around player.
Weaknesses: The loss of SP Zack Greinke just adds to the woes of a very depleted pitching staff, and the outfield lacks a slugger after losing Jose Guillen last season. Pick a position, and the Royals have many questions to answer about it.
Analysis: It’s been 26 years since the Royals have made the postseason, and 2011 does not look to be the year that the streak ends. Second-year manager Ned Yost is going to have his hands full with this bunch.
Prediction: 5th in AL Central
Strengths: OF Shin-Soo Choo showed that he can put together back-to-back successful seasons and lead the team far and away in all-around offense with 22 HR, 90 RBIs, and 22 SB. Closer Chris Perez returns after posting a sub 2.00 ERA and 23 saves in 2010.
Weaknesses: OF Grady Sizemore needs to stay healthy if the Tribe wants to have any chance of contending in the AL Central. The pitching staff, which wasn’t very good in 2010, returns many familiar faces, but they have another year of experience. They aren’t going to look much better in 2011 unless the young guys in the field like 1B Matt LaPorta can hit better than the .221 AVG he put up last season.
Analysis: The Indians are in a rebuilding phase and will need to add some veterans. They did not do much in the off-season, so the pickings could be slim when they realize what they have isn’t worth very much.
Prediction: 4th in AL Central
More 2011 AL Central Predictions after the jump >>
Strengths: The Nationals can only go in one direction: Up. They added some key pieces in OF Jayson Werth and 1B Adam LaRoche. Rookie sensation SP Stephen Strasburg hopes to pitch before the end of the season after undergoing surgery last year. If he’s half as good as he is hyped to be, the Nationals have a number-one pitcher for years to come. 3B Ryan Zimmerman will also be a key player in 2011.
Weaknesses: Losing 1B Adam Dunn doesn’t hurt so bad when you pick up Jayson Werth, but his presence will be missed. The pitching staff is scary to look at, in a bad way. SP Livan Hernandez and SP Jason Marquis are way past their prime, and the rest of their pitching options are young guys with little experience.
Analysis: It’s hard to predict good things for a team with no pitching. They made some big off-season moves, acquiring Werth and LaRoche, but the offense they provide isn’t going to be enough to turn this team around. Manager Jim Riggleman is going to have to work a miracle to save this team from itself.
Prediction: 5th in NL East
More 2011 NL East Predictions after the jump >>
Strengths: Manager Buck Showalter joined the team late in the season last year and turned the Orioles into a respectable team. The additions of 1B Derrek Lee and 3B Mark Reynolds will add some much needed run producers to a team that had zero players with at least 80 RBIs.
Weaknesses: There are plenty to choose from, but the Orioles are very young. The pitching staff gave up runs in bunches last year and will need to improve if they hope to penetrate the .500 mark this season. If 2B Brian Roberts returns to form after an injury-plagued 2010, things will be looking good. If he struggles, a suitable replacement is nowhere in site.
Analysis: The AL East is arguably the best division in baseball; jumping over the Rays, Yankees and Red Sox is a monumental task. The leadership of Showalter will help, but the Orioles are a young team with few genuine stars. Look for them to improve over 2010 but struggle due to their weak pitching staff.
Prediction: 5th in AL East
More 2011 AL East Predictions after the jump >>