So last weekend was the start of Spring Training in Major League Baseball and I could not be more pumped. For me this marks the time of year where I can finally kiss the winter goodbye and look forward to sitting in shorts and a t shirt, my hat on backwards, watching America's past time, baseball. This season promises to be as exciting and fun as years past and I cannot wait.
I'll start my 2011 MLB preview with a focus on the two local clubs, the Yankees and the Mets, then I'll do a pretty general preview of what I think will happen this season in the entire league.
New York Yankees
Most Yankee fans this offseason are upset that the Yankees didn't do enough but I'm pretty content with the way things went. I would have loved seeing Cliff Lee sign with us but the Yanks really couldn't have done anything different in signing him. If you're upset about them not getting Carl Crawford that's a little but ridiculous because they did not need him. This offseason they needed to improve their pitching and over paying for Carl Crawford would just simply not have done that. I like the acquisition of Rafael Soriano because he does help the starting rotation by making it a shorter game. If the combination of Pedro Feliciano, Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain, and David Robertson can piece together a good 6th and 7th inning then hand it off to Soriano and Mo, the back end of the Yankees rotation will only need to give them 5 productive innings.
Strengths: Their lineup is still among the leagues best. No pitcher will feel safe having to deal with the 3,4,5 of Mark Texiera-Alex Rodriguez-Robinson Cano. They should be able to produce runs like crazy and can hopefully compensate for their pitching deficiencies. They also have a steller bullpen, as mentioned earlier, that has the ability to shorten games and take a load off the starters.
Weakness: Now way of denying it their starting pitching is a weakness. I love Sabathia and Hughes 1,2 but have major concerns with the rest of the rotation consisting of AJ Burnett, Ivan Nova, and a cornucopia of veterans. If they plan on making the World Series and beating the Red Sox they'll need to make a move by the trade deadline. Fortunately for Yankee fans knowing them, they probably will.
Outcome: I see the Yankees getting off to a seemingly ordinary start but picking up a productive arm at the deadline to make strong late push at the division but losing out to the Red Sox by a few games. I see them going 92-70 and winning the American League Wild card.
New York Mets
If I've learned anything in the past few season is that being a Yankee fan and having no emotional attachment to the Mets whatsoever, I love the Mets. They are the most entertaining franchise in baseball. Whether they're dropping routine fly balls, making bonehead plays on the base paths, or practically losing the franchise to a Madoff trustee they are MLB's lovable losers. I will admit I think by retooling the farm system and being very patient the Mets, under new GM Sandy Alderson, are heading in the right direction. I actually like the pick ups of Chris Young and Chris Capuano as low risk/high reward type pitchers. It'll be interesting to see how this Madoff thing works out and what major stars, if any, will be dealt by the deadline. (think Carlos Beltran or Jose Reyes)
Strengths: Like it or not on paper the Mets actually have a very formidable lineup. The core of Reyes-Pagan-Wright-Beltran-Bay-Davis is one that can match up with most teams out there. They need a big comeback year from Bay and some improvement from Davis but I expect a big year from Reyes, Beltran, and Wright so expect competitive number from the offense.
Weaknesses: Simply put, the pitching. Who knows when Santana will be back? Pelf is afraid of his own shadow, and they're relying on a knuckleballer as their number two starter. I do think however they will get some production out of one of the vets they brought in but overall their pitching will be an achilles heal all year for them and the primary reason they won't make the playoffs.
Outcome: I expect the Mets will hover around .500 all season staying a comfortable distance away from the Phillies. If they're out of contention early they'll make a move to deal Carlos Beltran in an attempt to bulster their farm. If they stay healthy they may have a chance to be in some sort of a wild card race for a little but of time but I don't think that will happen. I see them going 80-82 missing the playoffs.
The Rest of the League Real Quick!
American League: Red Sox win the east with a potent offense and more than formitable pitching staff. Twin to easily get the Central with a healthy Pavono, Mauer, and Morneau. And the Angels to have a bounce back year and win the west with big years from Vernon Wells and Dan Haren. Wildcard goes to the Yankees.
National League: The Phillies run away with the east with the three headed monster in their pitching staff. The Brewers to surprise everyone and with big years from new acquisitions Zack Greinke and Shawn Marcum and win the Central. And the reigning champs, San Francisco Giants, to ride their pitching to win the West. The Wildcard will go to the Atlanta Braves as the continue to display good, consistant pitching and expect big years from Jason Heyward and the newly acquired Dan Uggla.
World Series: Yankees over Phillies in 7 games.
The Sports Undergrad