- Wednesday, March 30, 2011 5:02 AM
- Written By: Andrew Simon
Months of waiting are finally over, and the 2011 season has arrived. To mark the occasion, everyone is making their predictions, saying what they think will happen this season.
What a boring, glass-half-full approach. Here is what WON’T happen in MLB in 2011.*
* To answer your first question, yes, I hate your favorite team and am out to get them, and no, I don’t know what I’m talking about. Just wanted to be upfront about that.
Last year’s World Series participants get back to the playoffs.
Since the six-division wildcard format was introduced in 1995, 19 of 30 World Series teams have returned to the postseason the next year, with five returning to the championship round. This will not be one of those years. Rather, this will be like 2006 or 2007, when neither World Series participant from the year prior played extra ballgames.
To be clear, I don’t think what the Giants or Rangers accomplished last season was a mirage. Those were both talented clubs, and they certainly have a good shot to reproduce their success. But a lot of things – not everything, of course – broke right for both teams last year, and that rarely happens twice in a row. Both San Francisco and Texas are flawed teams, flawed enough that I have them being overtaken this year by Colorado and Oakland, respectively, and finishing behind the second-place team from the East for the wild card.
The Yankees and Red Sox both make the postseason.
Sorry, TV network executives! For the seventh straight year, your dream ALCS will not come to fruition. Now, you certainly could argue that the Yankees and Sox look like the two best teams in baseball, and that would be hard to dispute. There are concerns with both, but you also know they will do what is necessary to address any issues with in-season trades.
That said, whether it’s my NY-BOS fatigue or the fact I’m currently reading Jonah Keri’s fascinating The Extra 2%, I’m going to say the Rays find a way to steal one of the two playoff spots that will almost certainly go to the AL East. Losing Carl Crawford to Boston and the whole bullpen to various other teams were tough pills to swallow for Tampa, but I think additions like Manny Ramirez and Jeremy Hellickson will push the Rays through.
The Phillies starting rotation proves to be the greatest of all time.
No, I’m not invoking the SI cover jinx. And I do believe the quartet of Halladay-Lee-Hamels-Oswalt is good enough to drag the Phillies’ wounded lineup into the playoffs and maybe even the World Series. That said, I think expectations probably have gotten a bit outlandish in the off-season.
The Big Four have been a pretty durable bunch in recent years, but of course it’s not hard to imagine one of them going down with an injury somewhere along the line. Pitching is a tough business. And consider this: The 1997 Braves had four starters with an ERA+ of at least 138 (100 is league average). The Phillies’ four have combined to reach that number in 15 of 29 seasons in which they made at least 20 starts. So while it’s certainly possible all four will enjoy great years, I think it’s pretty reasonable to believe at least one will get hurt or have a down season. And I’m not convinced run support will be in abundance, which means that those paying attention to pitcher wins might be disappointed.
The Reds take the next step toward building an NL Central power.
Those were heady days in Cincy last season. Joey Votto was NL MVP, Jay Bruce took a step forward, Scott Rolen managed 537 productive plate appearances, and Dusty Baker and company cobbled together a decent pitching staff. The result was a division title and the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 1995.
Granted, the Reds played as well as their record indicated last year, based on run differential. And they are a young club with room for growth. But as we’ve seen in recent seasons with teams like Arizona, young and talented teams can hit some speed bumps after initially finding success, and I think that happens with the Reds in 2011. The rotation in particular has some blow-up potential with Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey likely starting the year on the DL, Edinson Volquez not too far removed from major arm surgery and the rest of the bunch awfully short on big league credentials. With the Brewers improved, the Cardinals still dangerous and the Cubs likely to be better, I think someone overtakes Dusty’s crew this time around.
Follow Hitting The Cutoff Man on Twitter at HitTheCutoff