2011 MLB Preview: Playoff, Award And World Series Predictions

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 10: The Tampa Bay Rays at bat against the Texas Rangers during game 4 of the ALDS at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 10, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The staff at SB Nation Dallas looks at the 2011 MLB season and predicts division, award, league championship and World Series winners.

Tomorrow is Opening Day in Major League Baseball. Seriously - MLB 2011 kicks off tomorrow. Where does time go? It seems like it was just yesterday, much to the chagrin of Texas fans, that Tim Lincecum bested Cliff Lee and the Giants won the World Series. 

It's been a long, interesting offseason. Cliff Lee's saga was front and center for the entire offseason before he spurned both the Rangers and the Yankees to return to the team who traded him to Seattle a year ago - the Phillies.

Not to be outdone, the Red Sox went out and signed the premiere bat on the market in the form of Carl Crawford and traded for one of the best sluggers in the game in Adrian Gonzalez. Boston, who missed the playoffs last year, now looks poised to make a run deep into the playoffs.

Texas, after missing out on re-signing Lee and failing to acquire Zack Greinke from Kansas City, went after Plan B...or C: Adrian Beltre. Beltre had been linked to division rivals Oakland and Anaheim before the Rangers finally inked him to a longterm contract. Of course, this wasn't drama free as Michael Young suddenly lost his position and then seemingly lost at-bats when Jon Daniels traded for Mike Napoli. Young then requested a trade, which he failed to receive, causing quite the stir prior to Spring Training opening. Things are smooth enough, though, as Young seems to be staying put in Texas.

It's exciting just to be writing about baseball again knowing that we'll be able to watch a game every day for the rest of the summer. As you should expect by now, the fearless staff here at SB Nation Dallas looks into our crystal balls and looks to predict the playoff teams, World Series and award winners.

American League East

It was an interesting offseason in the American East - but really, when isn't it? The Red Sox, as aforementioned, made the biggest moves of the offseason while the Yankees whiffed on Cliff Lee and lost Andy Pettitte to retirement. Of course, the Yanks did bolster their bullpen by signing former Rays closer Rafael Soriano to be the primary setup man to Mariano Rivera, but the problem for New York may be getting to Soriano. New York's starting rotation is suspect with C.C. Sabathia and Phil Hughes forming a solid 1-2 punch, but A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia leaving much to be desired 3-4-5. 

The Rays lost their offensive catalyst in Crawford, lost Carlos Pena to the Cubs via free agency, lost Soriano to the Yankees and traded away Matt Garza to the Cubs. Yikes. Still, Tampa Bay will be an interesting team as they still have some OK players named Evan Longoria and David Price. The Rays also signed Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez, who will at the very least make things interesting when the Rays visit Fenway.

(Note: * denotes Wild Card selection)

Here's how we see the AL East shaking out:

Christopher Fittz

  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. New York Yankees*
  3. Tampa Bay Rays
  4. Baltimore Orioles
  5. Toronto Blue Jays
Maurice London
  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. New York Yankees
  3. Tampa Bay Rays
  4. Toronto Blue Jays
  5. Baltimore Orioles
Liam Ponting
  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. New York Yankees*
  3. Tampa Bay Rays
  4. Toronto Blue Jays
  5. Baltimore Orioles
Robbie Griffin
  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. New York Yankees*
  3. Tampa Bay Rays
  4. Baltimore Orioles
  5. Toronto Blue Jays
Brett Perryman
  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. Tampa Bay Rays*
  3. New York Yankees
  4. Baltimore Orioles
  5. Toronto Blue Jays
JP Starkey
  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. Tampa Bay Rays*
  3. New York Yankees
  4. Baltimore Orioles
  5. Toronto Blue Jays

American League Central

The AL Central always feels like the bastard child of baseball, doesn't it? We've got the perennial doormat in Kansas City, though, their farm system is as good as it gets currently. Ever since falling to Boston in the 2007 ALCS, the Indians have been particularly boring. Then the revolving door of Chicago, Detroit and Minnesota has been uninspiring as well. At least the Twins have Joe Mauer and outdoor baseball to boast.

Still, somebody will have to make the playoffs from the AL Central - and it's not like the teams are bad. The White Sox added Adam Dunn and will have an exciting injection of youth in their starting infield with Brent Morel and Gordan Beckham in-line for starting jobs. The Tigers added Victor Martinez to their lineup, which will help give Miguel Cabrera more RBI opportunities, provided he remains sober. The Twins have Mauer and Morneau and are getting Joe Nathan back from Tommy John surgery, so it looks as if we'll have a nice three team race in the AL Central. 

Fittz

  1. Minnesota Twins
  2. Chicago White Sox
  3. Detroit Tigers
  4. Kansas City Royals
  5. Cleveland Indians
London
  1. Detroit Tigers
  2. Minnesota Twins*
  3. Chicago White Sox
  4. Cleveland Indians
  5. Kansas City Royals
Ponting
  1. Minnesota Twins
  2. Detroit Tigers
  3. Chicago White Sox
  4. Kansas City Royals
  5. Cleveland Indians
Griffin
  1. Minnesota Twins
  2. Chicago White Sox
  3. Detroit Tigers
  4. Kansas City Royals
  5. Cleveland Indians
Perryman
  1. Minnesota Twins
  2. Detroit Tigers
  3. Chicago White Sox
  4. Kansas City Royals
  5. Cleveland Indians
Starkey
  1. Chicago White Sox
  2. Minnesota Twins
  3. Detroit Tigers
  4. Cleveland Indians
  5. Kansas City Royals

American League West

Ah yes, the American League West - where the defending American League Champion Texas Rangers reside. Quite the interesting offseason in Arlington, with the Cliff Lee saga unfolding, Michael Young demanding a trade and Chuck Greenberg resigning from the Rangers not even a year after helping leading up the team to purchase the Rangers in an auction. Texas did at the very least improve their offense and defense by signing Adrian Beltre, and addition by subtraction on defense as well with Young coming off of third base.

The same can't be said for other teams in the division. The Angels whiffed on both Beltre and Carl Crawford before trading Mike Napoli to Toronto, who made his way to Texas, to acquire... Vernon Wells. Yeah, don't ask me. The Angels have one of the oldest offenses in the game, boasting Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter and Wells. Kendry Morales is no sure bet to be at full strength this year as well as he recovers from his fluke injury last year. Oakland did improve their team by adding Josh Willingham, David DeJesus and Hideki Matsui, and they boast a young, exciting rotation featuring Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez. Seattle? Well. They have King Felix, and let's leave it at that.

Fittz

  1. Texas Rangers
  2. Oakland Athletics
  3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
  4. Seattle Mariners
London
  1. Texas Rangers
  2. Oakland Athletics
  3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
  4. Seattle Mariners
Ponting
  1. Oakland Athletics
  2. Texas Rangers
  3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
  4. Seattle Mariners
Griffin
  1. Texas Rangers
  2. Oakland Athletics
  3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
  4. Seattle Mariners
Perryman
  1. Texas Rangers
  2. Oakland Athletics
  3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
  4. Seattle Mariners
Starkey
  1. Texas Rangers
  2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
  3. Oakland Athletics
  4. Seattle Mariners

American League Awards

After the dust has settled after the World Series, all baseball fans wait for the end of the year awards - and most of us just wait to be pissed off when our favorite player didn't win, or when the BBWAA voted based on gritty and guttyness rather than statistical basis for the awards. Josh Hamilton and Felix Hernandez will look to defend their titles as MVP and Cy Young this year, and of course, a new Rookie of the Year will be crowned.

Fittz

London
  • MVP: Adrian Gonzalez
  • Cy Young: Felix Hernandez
  • Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Hellickson
Ponting
  • MVP: Carl Crawford
  • Cy Young: Felix Hernandez
  • Rookie of the Year: Jesus Montero
Griffin
Perryman
  • MVP: Joe Mauer
  • Cy Young: Clay Buchholz
  • Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Hellickson
Starkey
  • MVP: Evan Longoria
  • Cy Young: Jon Lester
  • Rookie of the Year: Jeremy Hellickson

National League East

As if Dallas fans needed another reason to dislike Philadelphia. The Phillies signed Cliff Lee, giving them one of the best rotations in recent memory with Roy Halladay, Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels one through four. Unfortunately for the Phillies, injuries have already hit with Chase Utley, Brad Lidge and Domonic Brown shelved for a bit. Philadelphia did lose Jayson Werth to the Nationals, but, Brown will likely fill that void before long.

Atlanta added Dan Uggla and will be handing over the reins at first to Freddie Freeman. Chipper Jones looks to be fully recovered from his injury, but the Bravos are going to miss Billy Wagner, who opted to retire following last year. The rest of the division looks a bit suspect - the Marlins will be relying heavily on youth as Gaby Sanchez, Logan Morrison and Mike Stanton look to be regulars. The Mets are a mess (phew!) and the Nats, well, they're still the Nats.

Fittz

  1. Philadelphia Phillies
  2. Atlanta Braves*
  3. Florida Marlins
  4. Washington Nationals
  5. New York Mets
London
  1. Philadelphia Phillies
  2. Atlanta Braves*
  3. Florida Marlins
  4. New York Mets
  5. Washington Nationals
Ponting
  1. Philadelphia Phillies
  2. Atlanta Braves*
  3. New York Mets
  4. Florida Marlins
  5. Washington Nationals
Griffin
  1. Philadelphia Phillies
  2. Atlanta Braves
  3. Florida Marlins
  4. New York Mets
  5. Washington Nationals
Perryman
  1. Philadelphia Phillies
  2. Atlanta Braves*
  3. Florida Marlins
  4. Washington Nationals
  5. New York Mets
Starkey
  1. Philadelphia Phillies
  2. Atlanta Braves*
  3. Florida Marlins
  4. New York Mets
  5. Washington Nationals

National League Central

Who knew the Cincinnati Reds would win the division last year? The Reds took the division away from the underachieving Cardinals. Cincinnati didn't do too much to help their team over the winter, but at the very least will have Cuban phenom Aroldis Chapman in the bullpen for a full year.

The Cardinals, well, they've had an interesting offseason. The Albert Pujols saga ended with no contract, so St. Louis fans - myself included - are a bit freaking out knowing that the doomsday clock of Pujols free agency looms in November. To make matters worse, Adam Wainwright blew out his arm early in Spring Training. 

Milwaukee, meanwhile, emptied out their farm system to pick up Zack Greinke from Kansas City. Though, as good as Greinke is, that trade may be a wash given that Greinke's on the DL already and the Brewers picked up Yuniesky Betancourt as well. Seriously. I feel bad for Greinke, once he's off the DL, he's going to have Yuni playing shortstop behind him. Poor anxious guy can't catch a break at short.

Fittz

  1. Chicago Cubs
  2. St. Louis Cardinals
  3. Milwaukee Brewers
  4. Cincinnati Reds
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates
  6. Houston Astros
London
  1. Milwaukee Brewers
  2. Cincinnati Reds
  3. St. Louis Cardinals
  4. Chicago Cubs
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates
  6. Houston Astros
Ponting
  1. Cincinnati Reds
  2. St. Louis Cardinals
  3. Milwaukee Brewers
  4. Chicago Cubs
  5. Houston Astros
  6. Pittsburgh Pirates
Griffin
  1. Cincinnati Reds
  2. Milwaukee Brewers
  3. St. Louis Cardinals
  4. Chicago Cubs
  5. Houston Astros
  6. Pittsburgh Pirates
Perryman
  1. Cincinnati Reds
  2. Milwaukee Brewers
  3. St. Louis Cardinals
  4. Chicago Cubs
  5. Houston Astros
  6. Pittsburgh Pirates
Starkey
  1. St. Louis Cardinals
  2. Milwaukee Brewers
  3. Chicago Cubs
  4. Cincinnati Reds
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates
  6. Houston Astros

National League West

The National League West, much like the AL West, features the defending pennant champions, except these pennant champions are also your defending World Series champions. Yes, someway, somehow, the San Francisco Giants get to be called the defending World Series champs all year long - and I'm still not sure how the team made the playoffs. It's easy to see how they won in them, though. (See: Lincecum, Tim.)

The Giants will be poised to defend their NL West title, given they will have a full of Buster Posey this year, something that clearly made a difference in the offseason last year. The pitching will be stellar in San Francisco again, led by Lincecum and followed up by Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, Madison Bumgarner and Barry Zito.

There are other good teams in this division, though, notably the Rockies. Health will be a key for Colorado, as they'll need MVP candidate Troy Tulowitzki to stay healthy for the entire year if they are to contend. The Dodgers are riddled by the McCourt divorce and weren't able to do much in the way of free agency over the winter. The Padres lost Adrian Gonzalez and well, the Diamondbacks are a mess - but hey, at least they picked up Joe Saunders for Dan Haren! OK, at least they have Justin Upton, sorry about that Arizona fans.

Fittz

  1. Colorado Rockies
  2. San Francisco Giants
  3. Los Angeles Dodgers
  4. San Diego Padres
  5. Arizona Diamondbacks
London
  1. Colorado Rockies
  2. San Francisco Giants
  3. Los Angeles Dodgers
  4. San Diego padres
  5. Arizona Diamondbacks
Ponting
  1. San Francisco Giants
  2. Colorado Rockies
  3. Los Angeles Dodgers
  4. Arizona Diamondbacks
  5. San Diego Padres
Griffin
  1. Colorado Rockies
  2. San Francisco Giants*
  3. Los Angeles Dodgers
  4. San Diego Padres
  5. Arizona Diamondbacks
Perryman
  1. San Francisco Giants
  2. Colorado Rockies
  3. San Diego Padres
  4. Los Angeles Dodgers
  5. Arizona Diamondbacks
Starkey
  1. Colorado Rockies
  2. San Francisco Giants
  3. Los Angeles Dodgers
  4. Arizona Diamondbacks
  5. San Diego Padres

National League Awards

Your defending National League award winners headed into 2011 are Joey Votto and Roy Halladay. Both figure to face stiff competition to repeat - something that's not easy for either award. 

Fittz

London
  • MVP: Carlos Gonzalez
  • Cy Young: Roy Halladay
  • Rookie of the Year: Freddie Freeman
Ponting
  • MVP: Joey Votto
  • Cy Young: Roy Halladay
  • Rookie of the Year: Brandon Belt
Griffin
  • MVP: Carlos Gonzalez
  • Cy Young: Tim Lincecum
  • Rookie of the Year: Brandon Belt
Perryman
  • MVP: Albert Pujols
  • Cy Young: Tim Lincecum
  • Rookie of the Year: Brandon Belt
Starkey
  • MVP: Albert Pujols
  • Cy Young: Tim Lincecum
  • Rookie of the Year: Aroldis Chapman

League Championship Series and World Series Picks

Here, of course, is what really matters for any sport: the championship picks. Making the playoffs is great and all, but try telling any fan that just making the playoffs is acceptable and they'll laugh at you. Or get very angry, like if a Jets fan tried to tell me that. Terms of enrampagement may ensue. I digress, here's our World Series picks.

Fittz

  • ALCS: Boston over Texas
  • NLCS: Atlanta over Philadelphia
  • World Series: Atlanta over Boston
London
  • ALCS: Boston over Texas
  • NLCS: Colorado over Philadelphia
  • World Series: Boston over Colorado
Ponting
  • ALCS: Boston over New York
  • NLCS: Philadelphia over San Francisco
  • World Series: Philadelphia over Boston
Griffin
  • ALCS: Boston over Texas
  • NLCS: Philadelphia over Colorado
  • World Series: Boston over Philadelphia
Perryman
  • ALCS: Boston over Tampa Bay
  • NLCS: Philadelphia over Atlanta
  • World Series: Boston over Philadelphia
Starkey
  • ALCS: Boston over Chicago
  • NLCS: Colorado over St. Louis
  • World Series: Boston over Colorado
Cry havoc, and let slip the hogs of war - or whatever farm animal you want. It's officially baseball season.

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