Earlier this week, I sent out some information to some of the BSR staff and one of the BSR commenters to get their opinions on how the new season of baseball will play out. There has been a lot that has happened since Brian Wilson recorded the final out to win the World Series for the San Francisco Giants. A lot of things happened in the offseason, some good and some bad. However, each person was ready for the season to start and opinions and views varied a lot in some ways (AL MVP) but in other ways were very similar (NL Central winner). There was some consensus on the World Series winner but only one person picked the Giants to repeat. What we all could agree on was that the season will have plenty of twists and turns as it kicks off today at Yankee Stadium at 1:05.
1) Last year, we had a couple candidates competing for the Triple Crown (Pujols, Joey Votto, and Carlos Gonzalez) but alas everyone fell short. Who if anyone will win it this year?
Avi Miller: I think any of those 3 could fight for it again, but a name I would also throw in there is Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera is still young like Votto and Cargo and I think he has a solid shot at it as well. And with Adrian Gonzalez out of Petco now, who knows what kind of monstrous numbers he may put up in Fenway.
Mark Brown, the Fantasy God: Since nobody has won the triple crown in 43 years I can not project anyone to do it. If I had to choose a guy who could come close it would be Albert Pujols. Will he ever do it? No.
Jeff Pilson: If anyone can do it, it is Pujols. Being in his walk year I can see him having a huge year. Votto and Gonzalez are very good players, but I expect to see both of them take a bit of a step back as pitchers have more of a book on how to attack them.
Zach Wilt: While last year it seemed that the Triple Crown could be achieved, I don’t think we’ll see it in 2011. It takes the stars to align and everything to go right for a hitter to even compete for the Triple Crown. So I’m going to be bold and say no Triple Crown Winner this year.
Brian Beasley, commenter on BSR: Miguel Cabrera, he is a beast at the plate and heading into his prime.
Gregg Cobert: I know it is unlikely to happen as the last to do it was Yaz with the Red Sox in 1968 but with Pujols in a walk year, this may be his best season yet, so he’s my pick.
2) Who will be the most important acquisition from the offseason?
AM: I think the Twins re-signing Carl Pavano to a 3 year deal is one of the most, if not the most, important ‘acquisition’ from the offseason. Pavano, who seems to have found his stride last year in Minnesota consistently, stabilizes a Twins rotation with some iffy arms. Francisco Liriano heads that rotation with his somewhat ace status, but without Pavano behind him, the Twins would surely run into some pitching issues this season. With guys like Nathan and Morneau coming back from big injuries, Pavano being back helps to settle the dust and could be the key to pushing the Twins back into the playoffs and past the vastly improved Tigers and White Sox.
MB: Adrian Gonzalez. The addition of him to the Red Sox lineup puts them over the top as the best team in the AL. Adrian will compete to be the AL MVP, reach a career high in batting average, and hit at least 35 HR with 120 RBI’s.
JP: It is hard not to say Cliff Lee, but since the Phils were already stacked with pitching I am going to go with Zack Grienke. I think he is rejuvenated in Milwaukee and leads them to the post-season. My other choice is Adrian Gonzalez. Unfortunately, I believe he will have a huge year in Beantown.
ZW: Boston made a couple great acquisitions this offseason. While everyone is probably going to say that adding Adrian Gonzalez was their best move, I think Carl Crawford brings more to Boston as a guy that’s already played in the AL East. That’s not taking anything away from Gonzalez because he’ll fit in just fine.
Beas: I had a hard time picking between Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez but since Gonzalez was the NL MVP runner-up, I think he’ll have a big impact on the Sawx offense, which has taken a dip the last few years.
GC: I really like the Zach Greinke move by the Brewers and think between him leading the pitching staff and Prince Fielder being in a walk year that the Brewers are gonna win the division and make the playoffs.
3) Who will be the surprise team no one is talking about right now?
AM: Maybe not technically a surprise team since they made the playoffs last year, but nobody is really talking much about the Cincinnati Reds right now. A pitching staff with Volquez not suspended, the Reds rotation will be top notch 1 through 5 once Johnny Cueto returns from injury. Travis Wood is definitely an unknown to look out for at the bottom of that rotation. Along with 2010 NL MVP Joey Votto, upcoming outfielders Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs (both of which could put up top 20 seasons for outfielders), and Aroldis Chapman around for a full season, the NL Central surely has their hands full. Especially with Greinke and Marcum out with injury and Wainwright done for the year, the Reds could easily jump out to a big lead in the division even through April.
MB: The Milwaukee Brewers are not being talked about. They had one of the best offenses in the NL last year and added Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum to their rotation to go with Yovanni Gallardo, Randy Wolf, and Chris Narveson. They have a shot to win the division or wild card, and nobody mentions them because of the Reds and Cardinals.
JP: I do not see any team surprising the way the Giants did last year, but a couple of teams to watch out for are Florida and Oakland. I like both of their pitching staffs and expect both teams to contend for play-off spots.
ZW: The Oakland Athletics. Watch them out west this season and on the big screen with the “Moneyball” movie debuting soon!
Beas: I like the Marlins a lot. I chose Florida because despite no fans and no budget, they still have solid young players.
GC: Is it possible for a team with a payroll over $200 million to surprise? Well the Bombers fit that profile. They are not nearly as far gone as everyone (particularly Yankee fans) make the situation out to be. They still have Sabathia, Hughes, Cano, Jeter, and Teixeira. With Sabathia giving up a box of Captain Crunch a day, he’s lost over 30 pounds and will lead the pitching staff. The two players that spark the surge and have bounce back years are A-Rod and AJ Burnett. A-Rod is 35 but during spring training he has been refocused and hit the stuffing out of the ball. In the others receiving votes category, I have the Orioles, Tigers, and Brewers.
4) Awards time: AL & NL MVP, AL & NL CY Young
MVP – Miguel Cabrera 2, Adrian Gonzalez 2 (JP, MB), Carl Crawford (ZW), Josh Hamilton (GC)
Cy Young – Jon Lester 2, Jered Weaver 1 (AM), Justin Verlander 1 (MB), King Felix 1 (Beas), CC Sabathia 1 (GC)
MVP – Albert Pujols 3, Troy Tulowitzki 1 (AM), Buster Posey 1 (ZW), Joey Votto 1 (Beas)
Cy Young – Tim Lincecum 3, Roy Halladay (ZW, Beas), Josh Johnson 1 (JP)
5) Who will win each division and the wild card for each league?
East – Boston 5, New York 1 (GC)
Central – Minnesota 3, Chicago 2 (MB, ZW), Detroit 1 (GC)
West – Oakland 3 (AM, JP, ZW), Texas 3
Wildcard – New York 2, Detroit 2 (MB, JP), Chicago 1 (AM), Boston 1 (GC)
East – Atlanta 3, Philadelphia 3 (AM, JP, ZW)
Central – Cincinnati 5, Milwaukee 1 (GC)
West – San Francisco 5, Colorado 1 (AM)
Wildcard – Philadelphia 3, Atlanta 2 (AM, ZW), Milwaukee 1 (JP)
6) Who will win the World Series and who will it be against?
AM: Twins over Reds
MB: Boston Red Sox over Cincinnati Reds
JP: Phils over the Sox
ZW: Philly wins the World Series over Chicago.
Beas: Red Sox over Braves
GC: San Francisco over Boston