Wednesday, March 30, 2011
The Double Preview Mega-Post
If you're face didn't look anything like that when you saw that Opening Day is less than 24 hours (from the time of this post being written) away, then I don't know what's wrong with you, and why you've read anything I've written in the past two months.
I contemplated separating this into two posts, one that previews the Dodgers specifically (record, NL West standings, what happens, etc), and one that previews the rest of the MLB (World Series winner, important awards, etc.), but I decided to just make one mega-post. Again, your reaction should similar to the face seen to the left. And now, on with the post!
The Los Angeles Dodgers (of Los Angeles, for anyone who was wondering), could be one of the most unpredictable teams heading into 2011. This is because they were in the NLCS in 2008 and 2009, and haven't lost too much talent since those years (Besides this one guy named Manny, who you may have heard of). If 2009 was a year in which everything went right, 2010 was a year in which everything went wrong. With the team itself is overshadowed by the McCourt divorce, and lacking the star power that Joe Torre and Manny Ramirez brought, this team has flown under the radar all spring. This is good. A common trend in sports teams is that those talented teams who fly under the radar tend to have great success. Just ask the 2010-2011 Green Bay Packers. They were at their best when everyone forgot about them as they were sneaking into the playoffs.
But enough introduction, I predict the 2011 Los Angeles Dodgers will finish 2nd (!) in the NL West behind the Colorado Rockies (!) with a record of 88-74. They will not make the playoffs, as the Atlanta Braves will take the Wild Card spot. Fans will be happy with the managing debut of Donnie Baseball, and won't be too upset at what most will call a surprisingly successful season for the Boys in Blue, even if they don't make the playoffs. Now, if absolutely everything goes right, this is certainly a team that could win 95+ games. I have no doubt of this in my mind, but betting on everything going right for any sports team is foolish. Josh Beckett of the Red Sox can suddenly be really bad, then hurt, then really bad again. A.J. Burnett of the Yankees can have his worst year ever. The once-frightening Phillies lineup can suddenly become destroyed by injuries and merely average across the board. Things like this happen in every sport, all the time. The Atlanta Falcons can win 13 games, but then suddenly remember nobody on their team can get open besides Roddy White, and get blown out in the playoffs by the Packers. You get my point?
So why will the Dodgers improve from an 80 win season? Well, because Jon Garland will (likely) man the 5th starter spot all year long, this year's Left Field platoon will outhit Garret Anderson and Scott Podsednik, and Juan Uribe will absolutely outhit Blake Dewitt/Ryan Theriot at 2nd Base. Matt Guerrier will help bring stability to what was a thin bullpen. Clayton Kershaw will improve, and Chad Billingsley could very easily get a little bit better. These are mostly guarantees.
What could hold them back? Well, Rafael Furcal's back could continue getting hurt at the same rate as Yao Ming's legs. Casey Blake can continue turning into an over-the-hill, below average player. Jonathon Broxton might start listening to everyone telling him he has no spine and can't close. Hong-Chih-Kuo's arm could get hurt (side note, I hate to predict injuries, because they are really random, especially with pitchers. But when guys like Furcal and Kuo have a history with them, you have to take them into account), and Kenley Jansen could suddenly remember he's only been pitching since 2009. James Loney could also continue being the mediocre hitter (and below average hitting 1B) he's shown himself to be.
But enough speculating. Here's what I think will happen. The pitching will be top 7ish in the league, and surprise quite a few people. Kershaw will continue to develop, Bills will get a bit better, and Kuroda, Lilly and Garland will all be solid. Broxton will have a good year and re-establish himself as a top-tier closer, and the rest of the bullpen will be reliable and effective. The offense will hold them back though. Ethier will have another solid year, and Kemp will rebound like the team needs him to. But Loney won't have the success this team needs of him, and will ultimately be traded halfway through the season. Jerry Sands will take his place, but he won't hit well enough in his first big-league stop, and will simply be a bit better than Loney. Furcal will miss 65ish games, and while Tony Gwynn Jr. and Marcus Thames will hold down Left Field fairly well, but it won't be enough. Uribe and Rod Barajas will have power, but will not be able to get on base nearly enough, and Casey Blake will play far too many games as a not-so-effective starter. In short, while the pitching will be a complete package, the hitting just won't be there.
NL Division Winners:
West: Rockies - The Giants don't have anyone besides Buster Posey in that lineup who scares me. It's not wise to bet on veterans all having career years at the same time. It's plain stupid to bet on it twice.
East: Phillies - Pitching will be just as advertised. Hitting will be good enough, especially once Dominic Brown settles in.
Central: Brewers - Offense equal to the Reds, but I like their pitching a lot more.
Wild Card: Braves - This team (as well as the Rockies) is the most complete team in the NL.
Al Division Winners:
West: Rangers - Offensive juggernaut will carry the average pitching staff to the playoffs. A's and Angels aren't quite there yet.
East: Red Sox - Pitching staff worries me a bit, but still the most complete team in the MLB.
Central: White Sox - Deep Pitching, the hitting is better than you think.
Wild Card: Angels - Struggled with this pick the most. Pitching and Hitting is better than you think, similar to the White Sox.
AL - Adrian Gonzales. Just wait to see what this dude can do when over half his games are played in Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Camden Yards, and The Rogers Centre instead of Petco Park, AT&T Park, and Dodger Stadium. He'll have unlimited lineup protection by hitting next to all of the Red Sox hitters, rather than the AAA lineup of the Padres. I'm excited as a Baseball fan to see what this guy can do in Boston.
NL - Troy Tulowitzki. I probably have an NL West bias, but he's going to put up his usual monster hitting numbers, while playing Gold Glove defense at Shortstop (not usually an offensive position), and the Rockies will win the division. Being the best player on a division winner can easily net you the MVP award. No disrespect to Pujols or Votto, but they don't play Shortstop.
Cy Young Award:
AL - Justin Verlander. The AL doesn't have one guy who makes you say "Wow, this guy is unbelievable". I don't think Jon Lester or David Price puts up good enough numbers, and honestly, I just really like Verlander as a pitcher.
NL - Roy Halladay. Wow, this guy is unbelievable.
Rookie of the Year
AL - Jeremy Hellickson. This is mostly because I don't know of any other AL rookies getting much pre-season hype. I think he'll be good, and unless Dustin Ackley in Seattle hits amazingly, the award will go to the guy pitching really well in the AL East.
NL - Dominic Brown. It amazes me that a guy with so much hype last year has been forgotten about. He'll be one of the better hitters in a Phillies lineup that has suddenly found itself to be thin. They'll win the division, and he'll take his award.
And now for the moment you've been waiting for... Your 2011 World Series Champions are:
The Boston Red Sox. Their lineup is amazing, and if Beckett and Lackey improve at all, the pitching will be there. I'll say they beat the Braves in 6 games.
Thank you, readers, for sticking around through all of this. Please, feel free to leave a comment to make fun of me, question how anyone who watches Baseball can leave the Yankees out of the playoffs, or whatever you want.
And remember, enjoy your 2011 Baseball season!