[SPORTS] 2011 MLB Preview

Even though it still hasn’t warmed up in the northeast, it actually is officially spring. Spring is a time of rejuvenation andMajor League Baseball coverage by Chris Osburn bloom. The grass starts to look a little greener, the flowers and birds return and Major League Baseball gets back into the swing of things (literally).

Last season, the San Francisco Giants, led by outrageous closer Brian Wilson, defeated the Texas Rangers 4-1 to win the first title in franchise history. The Yankees, Rays and Twins joined Texas as AL playoff representatives. In the NL, the Phillies, Reds and Braves joined San Francisco in the playoffs.

It’s difficult to guess which teams will be playoff teams during the first week of the season, but you can bet that a few different teams will join the playoff ranks and several teams will be sitting at home wondering what went wrong come October.

American League

AL EAST:

The Team To Beat: Few teams upgraded in the offseason more than the Red Sox. The additions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzales as well as relief pitchers Dan Wheeler and Bobby Jenks have made Boston the hot pick to win not only the AL East, but the World Series. We all know that they don’t play games on paper and the AL East will be a dogfight all season with every team loaded with talent. We know that the Yankees, just like soul patches, never seem to go away.

 

Predicted order of finish and win range:

 

  1. Boston Red Sox (95-100)
  2. New York Yankees (90-95)
  3. Tampa Bay Rays (85-90)
  4. Toronto Blue Jays (80-85)
  5. Baltimore Orioles (75-80)

 

AL CENTRAL

The Team To Beat: The AL Central should be one of the tightest divisions in baseball, but the Twins look like the team with the most talent and experience. Minnesota has above average starting pitching, a great bullpen and, if healthy, one of the most complete lineups in baseball. Jim Thome has shown that he can still hit the long ball and Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer are two of the best at their positions. Don’t count out Chicago and Detroit though in this division. Kansas City may have the best BBQ of the group, but they won’t be challenging for a division title this season.

 

Predicted order of finish and win range:

 

  1. Minnesota Twins (90-93)
  2. Chicago White Sox (88-92)
  3. Detroit Tigers (80-86)
  4. Kansas City Royals (65-70)
  5. Cleveland Indians (60-65)

 

AL WEST

The Team To Beat: Clearly, the Rangers are the team to beat. I hear a lot of rumblings about Oakland, but Texas is the reigning AL champion. They lost Cliff Lee to the Phillies and Vlad Guerrero, but reloaded with Red Sox team MVP Adrian Beltre. They have question marks in their rotation, but one of the best lineups in baseball including 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton. Oakland has improved enough to be in the discussions for AL West champ, but I don’t see Seattle or Los Angeles making much noise.

 

Predicted order of finish and win range:

 

  1. Texas Rangers (90-93)
  2. Oakland Athletics (87-90)
  3. Seattle Mariners (80-85)
  4. Los Angeles Angels (70-75)

 

National League

NL EAST

The Team To Beat: On paper, the Phillies have potentially the most talented starting rotation in MLB history. Add an explosive lineup to that boasts Raul Ibanez, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard and you have a team that’s scarier than Anton Chigurh. The Braves could potentially win the NL wildcard, but Florida, New York and Washington are like Ralphie Parker looking into the store window at his beloved Red Ryber BB gun. They are on the outside, looking in.

 

Predicted order of finish and win range:

 

  1. Philadelphia Phillies (95-100)
  2. Atlanta Braves (90-95)
  3. Florida Marlins (80-85)
  4. New York Mets (70-75)
  5. Washington Nationals (65-70)

 

NL CENTRAL

The Team To Beat: Cincinnati won the NL Central a year ago, but a few division champions will probably change this season. I think the Central is one of those. The Cardinals look to have the talent to challenge the Reds for the division title. Led by pitchers Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia and fielders Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols, the Cardinals have the pieces to make a playoff run. Don’t count out the Reds, though. This was a team overlooked for most of 2010. The Brew Crew should be pretty good too and could also challenge for the division. There are too many other teams in this division for me to even mention. I may be wrong, but I think the Pirates have already been eliminated from playoff contention.

 

Predicted order of finish and win range:

 

  1. St. Louis Cardinals (90-94)
  2. Cincinnati Red (87-93)
  3. Milwaukee Brewers (85-90)
  4. Chicago Cubs (80-85)
  5. Houston Astros (75-80)
  6. Pittsburgh Pirates (60-65)

 

NL WEST

The Team To Beat: Prior to the Giants winning the World Series, this would be the part of the article where I make fun of every team in this division. It seemed, in past years, that nobody wanted to win the NL West. The West lead would change more times than Lady Gaga’s wardrobe at the VMA’s. Even now, I wouldn’t even be surprised to see four teams within five games of each other during the last week of the season. For now, the Giants are the team to beat. Until someone else wins it, they are the champs.

 

Predicted order of finish and win range:

 

  1. San Francisco Giants (88-94)
  2. San Diego Padres (87-89)
  3. Los Angeles Dodgers (84-87)
  4. Colorado Rockies (80-84)
  5. Arizona Diamonbacks (70-75)

 

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