on a limb and call this the craziest division in baseball. I don’t
see any club that can be amazing… heck, even in the AL Central
I would understand if you though a team like the White Sox could
be incredibly dangerous. If the Cubs sort out some issues and
just play baseball, any of four teams could find itself playing
in the postseason.
What I expect in 2011: 88-74, playoffs
they did in 2010: 86-76
personnel changes: As we’re going to find is the case
with many clubs this year… either alot was done or nothing was
done… and the Cardinals look very similar in 2011 to the team
that played in 2010. Since Adam Wainwright is now hurt… it’s hard
to say they’re better and be convincing.
Berkman? Gerald Laird? Look, they signed Ian Snell on a flyer
and then the guy retired two months later.
there might be some interesting stuff taking place outside of
our view, that involve changes in some way.
Holliday is now firmly entrenched with the organization… which
could mean better play. I mean that. Last season it was free agency
and can they afford him and Albert Pujols and the playoffs and
missed opportunities and… this year, pretty smooth sailing into
the new season.
a division where no team is a 90-win certainty, easy-going balance
is a nice thing to have.
Berkman could be another Larry Walker addition… end of his career,
but something to contribute.
expectations: I’m putting the Cardinals into the postseason
based on one reason… no real drama.
mean even the Pujols thing… does anyone really think Albert Pujols
is getting traded? Really? Because the situation you would have
to put in place for me to buy that it could happen would be insane
and involve his never being able to set foot within 100-miles
of St. Louis again.
if he’s not getting traded… even that situation brings about little
drama. Until he actually leaves, he’s staying. Let’s talk about
Sabathia opting out… because Pujols in another uniform doesn’t
make sense and any suggestion of it won’t make sense until December.
middle of this order… now featuring Pujols, Holliday and Berkman…
should produce. And the pitching seems solid enough, even without
are holes, but this is a decent National League club.
not planning on a major run beyond what they gave us in 2010.
I’m just expecting alot less from everyone else.
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): Well… two
if everything goes right in a place like Milwaukee, that group
could get to 92 or more wins. I don’t see where this St. Louis
team can get much beyond 90. So if last year wasn’t a fluke for
Cincy… or if Marcum and Greinke are consistent and the Brewers
play well… the Cardinals are in trouble. Big trouble.
second, Chris Carpenter played well last year. Will he stay healthy?
Because alot is riding on his ability to start over 30 games.
the way… when was the last time Berkman spent alot of time in
the outfield? Just asking. Don’t tell me. The Cardinals probably
don’t want to know.)
What I expect in 2011: 86-76
they did in 2010: 77-85
personnel changes: You could say Milwaukee pushed their
entire stack of chips to the middle of the table. Because they
are going for it in 2011.
kept Prince Fielder… who is going to leave and play for Chicago
in 2012. (Always follow the money… and that’s where the money
will be once St. Louis and Albert Pujols get over it and shake
like the addition of Shaun Marcum almost as much as the addition
of Zack Greinke… and actually, I might like it more than Greinke.
Not because he’s better… on his game, Greinke is up there with
the best… but because Marcum has done nothing except continuously
improve, even while playing in the AL East, and he’s only 28.
is possible this club could set things up nicely for 2012 and
beyond. Hey… this is yet another season with their doom and gloom
predicted because the next off-season will force them to change…
and yet here they are once again.
they have obviously set themselves up for a year they believe
will deliver a winner.
expectations: I think they’ll have a winning season.
I don’t know beyond that. And I’m not comfortable predicting greatness
for them. Things in Milwaukee are… summed up in a single word…
this as an example… if the bottom drops out, who are the Brewers
likely to try and trade?
answered Prince Fielder.
if you did… don’t be impressed by my getting it right… it’s the
obvious answer. And if you didn’t… you probably tilted your head
when you saw I said Prince Fielder and started nodding… because
looking to get a return on Fielder right away (instead of from
future draft picks when he leaves) makes sense if they fall out
let’s check out the market for him…
injury, the Red Sox and the Yankees don’t need Fielder… not now
and not in the future… and won’t get involved in any talks for
him. (You’d have a better chance of seeing those two clubs trying
to figure out how to add Pujols. And that ain’t happening either.)
Phillies are set too. Cardinals have Pujols. Cardinals plan to
running out of places that could be playoff bound and looking
to add him as a rental.
is the location everyone… including me… expects to see Fielder
in 2012. Maybe bring him in early? Negotiate an extension for
the trade to happen? Problem though… the Cubs signed Carlos Pena
for 2011 and can’t play both of them without a designated hitter.
And Pena being successful would be a necessary part of the Cubs
being in any playoff scenario.
figuring out how to trade Fielder would get complicated.
it keeps going. Do the Brewers have any way to add players in
the middle of the season? I don’t really know. Trades over the
past few years… including this off-season… don’t exactly have
them loaded with remaining prospects.
as to the actual team… you heard Zack Greinke is injured, right?
hurt his ribs and should be back quickly. My problem is this…
a rib injury could linger for the whole year. It is one of those
things that a pitching motion just doesn’t treat kindly. And if
it is bothering him… well… even the slightest alteration in his
motion could make him less effective.
what I mean? Questions. All over the place. Complications.
that visited the club during spring training said the players
were having fun and it was looking good. Awesome. I hope I’m wrong
and they win the division.
doesn’t seem that simple.
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): I haven’t
mentioned players like Ryan Braun and Yovani Gallardo yet. Still
haven’t mentioned Corey Hart.
other words, there are lots of places on this roster where Milwaukee
rotation is very solid. I know the National League has a couple
of great rotations… so I won’t go crazy in building up the Brewers…
but in the Central, on paper, in Milwaukee it is about as good
from top to bottom as it gets and I think leads the division.
Braun has an MVP type of year… definitely possible… and two of
their pitchers are in the conversation for postseason awards…
again, possible… this team will be tough to beat.
What I expect in 2011: 82-80
they did in 2010: 91-71
personnel changes: Edgar Renteria. I honestly don’t know
what else to say. This team wasn’t looking to make a splash… and
they didn’t… and yet they committed about $45 million to contracts
this off-season, not including extensions for Bruce, Cueto and
expectations: About two years ago I mentioned that I
thought Tampa had massively overachieved when they went to the
World Series in 2008… so in 2009 I predicted a mid-80s win total.
A return to their true level. I was a bit wrong on that. I have
watch Tampa for a while, and they are a talented club. Still…
that surge in 2008 had to be followed by a drop.
I like Cincinnati just fine, I have a really hard time wrapping
my head around 90-plus wins for a second year. For instance… starting
pitching. The Reds have some good pitching, and a deep staff.
Can you name some of their starters? And if I told you that Bronson
Arroyo is one of their best, what would your reaction be?
course, Arroyo is joined by guys like Edinson Volquez. They won’t
be amazaing to kick off games, but they should be ok. And the
bullpen is light years above any other Central team. Because of
that, their pitching is good overall. But their rotation is not
nearly as good as Milwaukee’s.
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): I’ve got
them dropping. Proving me wrong means taking the division again.
And… yeah… they could.
Bruce… Rolen… Stubbs… Phillips… you may not be comfortable and
familiar with the names, but the batting order has the ability
to drive opponents nuts in many ways. Virtually all of them are
capable of showing power… and are capable of proving me wrong.
guess I’m probably wrong in saying Tampa for a comparison. Because
much like Texas a couple of years ago… we’ve got a solid batting
order and a good bullpen, but no horse leading the rotation.
What I expect in 2011: 78-84
they did in 2010: 75-87
personnel changes: Hmm… Carlos Pena is in town, and Kerry
Wood is back. Nice trade for Matt Garza. If those are the additions
and Xavier Nady is the big departure, there isn’t much to complain
about. It’s a nice, tidy improvement without going broke. Some
risk… and yet no long obligations that will kill them if they
expectations: Not much.
want to expect big things here. Matt Garza and Carlos Pena could
be big pieces in a successful season.
the presence of pitchers like Dempster and Zambrano, the move
to the National League and the experience of facing the Red Sox
or Yankees about 25% of the time could turn Garza into one of
the top pitchers in the National League. (Ok… look… I’m not going
crazy. I’m just suggesting that Garza could win 15 or more while
going seven innings every start with solid stats.) If you told
me you thought Chicago had the best rotation in the division,
I wouldn’t agree… and I wouldn’t laugh at you either.
I see alot of ways to pitch to this batting order and stay out
the full roster… well…
reminds me of someone that has something good, but it always looking
for something better.
Pena is fine… they can’t wait for Fielder to hit the market, and
dare to believe Pujols might be willing to call Chicago home.
have contracts they want to get rid of, and can’t wait for them
to finish… say Soriano… and yet they are counting on those very
players to contribute in order to have a winning year.
doesn’t add up.
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): If… and
it is a big if… everyone contributes, the Cubs could not only
have a winning record, they could win this division.
I already mentioned… there are worse rotations than one starting
with Zambrano, Dempster and Garza. That’s actually not bad. I
think it’s second in the division… but it could be very strong.
some of those bad dollars coming off the books, the Cubs could
look to add a player or two. That funny Fielder scenario I set
up, where Chicago is the likely landing spot if Milwaukee moves
him but unfortunately they have no room, could be as simple as
basing a trade around Pena for Fielder.
point is… with no club poised to run away, the Cubs won’t be out
of the race. And if they are playing well in July, they could
be active. Of all the clubs in the NL Central with a shot at the
postseason, they have the best opportunity to add an impact player.
What I expect in 2011: 69-93
they did in 2010: 76-86
personnel changes: Nothing.
have no jokes. I don’t want to try and make one. The Houston Astros
saw Bill Hall play last year. I’ve seen him play in past years.
His 2006 with Milwaukee was an unexpected treat. He’s borderline…
possibly better than a utility player, not quite strong enough
year after year to be playing every day… and he’s had a good career.
He will not dazzle Houston.
Lindstrom is a good addition for Colorado. Hard to be amazed though
by a guy that has spent four years playing in the National League,
and the past two seasons (when he was 29-30 years old) were weaker
than the first two (when he was 27-28). Go deeper into comparing
the first two years to the last two… less games pitched… less
innings pitched… higher ERA, higher batting average against… you
see where this is going.
Houston Astros did nothing.
expectations: Carlos Lee?
top of the rotation that features a winning record from last season?
the really good stuff?
Hard to get excited in Houston.
Lee has more or less become the anchor everyone was expecting.
It’s not that he’s really bad… it’s just that with nothing else
around, nothing happens.
that top of the rotation pitching combined for 25 wins in 2010…
and 12.5 wins on average from your top two guys doesn’t get you
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): The Astros
are on the market… will not make any significant moves during
the season… and have a roster filled with questions marks and
going to be a long summer for this club.
a potentially bright note… do you have your own catching equipment?
Because if you show up at any Tuesday or Wednesday home game in
May or June, and have your own equipment, the Astros are running
their “Be a Big Leaguer for a Day” promotion. Show up around 3pm,
get set up behind the plate, and a coach will throw ten times
off the mound to you. The contestant that drops the fewest pitches
gets a uniform and the start in that night’s game. They even have
a cool slogan. Astros fever… catch it!)
What I expect in 2011: 63-99
they did in 2010: 57-105
personnel changes: I like Lyle Overbay. Don’t know why.
Just do. And that’s all I have to say about this.
expectations: So… damn… young.
McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez lead the way of names to know. I like
Neil Walker at second base.
there isn’t much to build victories on.
Overbay is a good addition for this team in that he… to my knowledge…
is a steady player that wants to get on the field. Not a bad guy
to have around the youngsters. But he’s not a top six guy for
any batting order, and in Pittsburgh they will have him in a middle-of-the-order
it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): It’s a
waiting game. Can the Bucs get the pieces in place before some
of this youth reaches a point where they can leave?
2011… anything above 65 wins will be impressive.
still have the
best ballpark I’ve ever been to.)