It’s part of the annual passage of Spring — the transition from ripped up brackets and vasectomies to fantasy baseball drafts and predictions. And nobody does it better (worse?) than Doc and Del. We’ve been previewing the MLB season and pronounced the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies the biggest contenders. Now it’s time to put our virtual ink where our mouths are. Or something like that. Here are Doc Brown’s predictions for the 2011 MLB season (playoffs/World Series picks and MVPs at the bottom)
1. Philadelphia Phillies – Their season is off to a bad start with Chase Utley and Brad Lidge hurt, and I suspect more players will join them on the DL. I think they’ll disappoint this year but their pitching is enough to take the division.
2. Florida Marlins – The starting pitching is really solid here, led by Josh Johnson and Javy Vazquez. Mike Stanton will have a monster season and help Hanley Ramirez carry the offense. They’ll surprise folks with a second place finish.
3. Atlanta Braves – They have a solid offense up and down and pretty good pitching. Freddie Freeman will disappoint, but the addition of Dan Uggla will help pick up the slack. Their bullpen will be fine without Billy Wagner, but not spectacular.
4. New York Mets – There will be a turnaround in New York before long, but not yet. Jason Bay will have a bounceback season and help the offense, but Carlos Beltran’s knee will keep him from being the stud he was in the past. Chris Young will have a good year at Citi Field but the pitching staff is not as good as the top three in the division.
5. Washington Nationals – When they get Strasburg back and Harper up, they’ll ascend from the cellar. For now, they’re still in the bottom of the division but they won’t embarrass themselves. Mike Morse could be a missing piece in their offense but the slow start of Adam LaRoche will hurt them.
1. Chicago Cubs – Yup, call me crazy for this pick — I know you will, but I think this division will be down and the Cubs will be up. Their pitching is good and the additions of Matt Garza and Kerry Wood will help the team. Starlin Castro will be a revelation at the top of the lineup and set things up for Aramis Ramirez who will bounce back and Marlon Byrd who will continue his emergence. Baseball will be back on the North Side.
2. St. Louis Cardinals – Losing Adam Wainwright will cost them greatly, and the rest of the staff is only average-to-slightly above average once you get past Chris Carpenter. Still, any lineup with Albert Pujols (not to mention Matt Holliday) is good enough to contend for a division crown.
3. Milwaukee Brewers – This was the year they were going all-in, unloading the farm for Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum. Greinke screwed that up getting hurt and will miss time to start the year. It’s not a good way to open things up and gives me concern. Their team defense hurts them and they need to hit consistently day-to-day rather than exploding for 15 one game and scoring two the next three. I like the Brewers, but they need to pull it together.
4. Cincinnati Reds – Call me crazy again, but everything came together for this team last year. Joey Votto was an MVP, Scott Rolen was a first-half monster, and all the pitching did well. Many of their young arms will get hurt this year and their pitching will fall off. I do like their bullpen, but this team will fall off and disappoint.
5. Houston Astros – With Houston, we’re in the portion of the division where there’s a huge dropoff. Four teams will compete and the other two will stink. Houston has Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez, but the rest of their pitching stinks and so does their bullpen. Watch Bill Hall and Chris Johnson produce offensively and give them a respectable lineup, but they have too many holes the rest of the way.
6. Pittsburgh Pirates – By law they start off at the bottom. They have some new names like Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata who may grab our attention, and Andrew McCutchen is already an All-Star, but their pitching is just way too weak to be respectable.
1. Colorado Rockies – With two MVP candidates in the lineup like Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, they’ll be in contention all season long. Seth Smith and Ty Wigginton will add to the offense, and Ubaldo, Chacin, De La Rosa, and Hammel will form a surprisingly good pitching staff.
2. San Francisco Giants – Needless to say, they have one of the best staffs in baseball. Buster Posey is a future great one and Pablo Sandoval will bounce back, but they’ll see dropoffs from Torres and Burrell. Having Brian Wilson begin the season on the DL is not a good start and I think they’ll have a World Series hangover, but they may be good enough to pull it together by the end of the season and win the Wild Card.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers – Their pitching is quite good and quite deep and their pen of Broxton, Kuo, and Jansen is pretty stacked. Matt Kemp will have a strong season and they’ll need Furcal to stay healthy. What they’re missing is another big-time bat.
4. San Diego Padres – Tim Stauffer is their opening day starter. Need I continue? OK, Aaron Harang will have a good year now that he’s healthy, but Adrian Gonzalez carried this offense so much while he was there, they’ll struggle mightily to score runs without him.
5. Arizona Diamondbacks – Remember when the Diamondbacks were supposed to be the next NL dynasty? Hahahaha. So do we. Kevin Towers better hope this group turns back the clock five years.
1. Boston Red Sox – This team is so deep even injuries won’t derail them. Josh Beckett and Dice-K could struggle again, but between Lester, Lackey, and Buchholz plus their bullpen, that should be enough. This offense is one of the best we’ve see in a long time. Just sick.
2. New York Yankees – As shocking as it is to say so, the Yankees are actually underdogs. The Red Sox and Yanks are pretty even offensively and in their bullpens, but the Yankees don’t have a deep enough pitching staff. CC will carry them like usual, and A-Rod may have an MVP season in him to carry the offense.
3. Tampa Bay Rays – Their pitching may be the best in the division, led by Cy Young contender David Price and fellow youngster Jeremy Hellickson’s emergence. The bullpen has holes, and they desperately need two-three other players to step up beyond just Evan Longoria. Paging B.J. Upton.
4. Toronto Blue Jays – They’re not all that bad, but playing in the AL East you need an awesome squad to compete. They have good power hitters but nobody who hits for average. Their pitching is alright, but not special like it was when they had Halladay, Marcum, and Burnett.
5. Baltimore Orioles – Offensively they’ll be more than set and actually a fun team to watch. They’ll score runs and win games and may be able to beat out Toronto, but garbage pitching is their downfall. Guthrie and Matusz are solid, but after that … yuck.
1. Minnesota Twins – They have holes in the infield, but top to bottom they’re still the best team in the division. They can complain about Target Field hurting their offense, but the dimensions help their pitching. How Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan return from injuries will say a lot about whether this becomes a close race or runaway.
2. Chicago White Sox – Adding Adam Dunn and bringing back Paul Konerko gives them the pop we’re accustomed to seeing on the South Side. Their pitching is alright, but not great, and Jake Peavy’s lat injury kills them.
3. Detroit Tigers – I’d love to put them higher, but they’re an organization on its way down. Magglio is going to hurt them and so will Austin Jackson. After Justin Verlander, it’s a bunch of injury-prone question marks on the pitching staff. Still, having Miggy and Victor will keep them at least around .500.
4. Kansas City Royals – SI has cursed them saying they’ll be a dynasty in 3-4 years, but they’re not ready yet. They were hot in the spring and that’s a good sign, but it doesn’t mean they’ll keep it up in the season. Their pitching is pretty doo-doo and they’ll need Luke Hochevar to finally have the year they’ve been waiting for. Kila, Aviles, and Billy Butler will be steady all year.
5. Cleveland Indians – To think, they used to have Sabathia and Cliff Lee. To think, they now rely on Mitch Talbot and Josh Tomlin. They have too many weaknesses and not enough average players to make noise. Hey, there’s always next year!
1. Texas Rangers – Their pitching is weak without Cliff Lee and they’re not reaching another World Series, but you have to hand it to them that they have an awesome offense. Nelson Cruz is a big-time stud for them and will show it. Can the rest of their offensive players stay healthy? That’s the question.
2. LA Angels – The pitching, once thought to be strong, is quite shaky. Scott Kazmir has been awful in the spring, but at least their other top three guys have been steady. They have some solid bats like Abreu, Vernon, and Hunter, but the key is the infield. They need production from every spot on the infield to win the division, and I don’t see it happening.
3. Oakland A’s – I’m not as in love with this team as so many other people are. Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzalez are good starters, but who thinks Trevor Cahill will repeat his success or that Dallas Braden and Brandon McCarthy will be good? Josh Willingham was a nice pickup, but they still are lacking punch. The real strength is their bullpen, but they’ll be missing Andrew Bailey to start the year.
4. Seattle Mariners – Remember when they won 85 games in 2008 and seemed to be on the upswing? Yeah, that was a long time ago. Their offense still lacks way too much punch and there’s no way around it. That limits their upside at like 77 wins, regardless of how good their pitching and defense is.
NLDS: Phillies over Giants, Rockies over Cubs
ALDS: Red Sox over Rangers, Yankees over Twins
NLCS: Rockies over Phillies
ALCS: Red Sox over Yankees
World Series: Red Sox in 5 over the Rockies
MVP: Troy Tulowitzki, Alex Rodriguez
Cy Young: Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander Google+