2011 MLB Predictions: AL East – AL Central – AL West

2011 MLB Predictions for the A.L.

by Badger of Predictem.com

With the end of spring training just a few weeks away, and with
opening day rosters starting to become a little bit more clear, now
is the ideal time to take a deeper look into the futures odds for the
2011 Major League Baseball regular season.

Last season I correctly predicted the San Francisco Giants as my
longshot to win the World Series (at 30-to-1), so lets see if I can
keep my good luck and momentum rolling along with a look inside each
division, as well as a look at regular season win totals for each team.

Well be looking at each team in order of how they finished in their
own division. Well conclude with a short/middle/longshot pick for
the American and National League pennants, but well save our
predictions of the teams with the best shot at winning the 2011 World
Series for another predictions article.


Odds to win AL East +750
Odds to win AL Championship 12-to-1 (+1200)
Total Wins Over/Under 84.5 (over +100/under -130)

The Tampa Bay Rays won 96 games last season and stunned a lot of
folks in New York and Boston by winning the American League East
division crown in 2009. With the early over/under for wins set at
just 84.5 games, its clear the oddsmakers have them pegged to drop a
bunch of games with a shaky offseason that lives and dies on two high-
risk/high-reward free agents in Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez.

Both Damon and Ramirez are clearly on the downside of their careers,
so it is a big risk the Rays are taking, but its one that also could
be enough to replace the loss of both Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena
in the lineup if Ramirez thrives back in the role of DH.

The Rays traded away a proven pitcher in Matt Garza (to the Cubs)
because they felt they had a suitable replacement in rookie righty
Jeremy Hellickson, who looked solid in his September call-up (4 GS,
4-0, .232 OBA). With lefty David Price moving into the role of the
ace, and James Shields, Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis all back after
solid 09 seasons, Hellickson could open in at the No. 4 or 5 spot in
the rotation and could become a matchup nightmare for other teams.
What could be the crushing blow to the Rays season is a lack of a
proven closer in the bullpen now that Rafael Soriano and his 45 saves
are now setting up Mariano Rivera in New York. Without a proven
replacement (right now the leading candidate is J.P. Howell), theres
no way the Rays hold onto as many leads as their bullpen held last year.

Odds to win AL East +175
Odds to win AL Championship +300
Total Wins Over/Under 91.5 (over -120/under -110)

The New York Yankees made more news this offseason because, for the
first time in recent memory, most of the big name free agents all
spurned them to go elsewhere. As I already mentioned, they did sign
Soriano to be an expensive set-up man/insurance policy to Mariano
Rivera in the bullpen. They also brought in Russell Martin to be the
everyday catcher, moving Jorge Posada to DH, which on paper could
make their stacked lineup with Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, Alex
Rodriguez and Mark Teixeiria even more stacked at the bottom.

But the Yankees might end up paying a huge ransom before the trade
deadline to shore up their starting pitching. C.C. Sabathia and Phil
Hughes are solid at the top, but after that you get an uneasy feeling
with A.J. Burnett and Freddy Garcia and unproven commodities in Ivan
Nova and Sergio Mitre. With a less-than-stunning class of free agent
pitchers available via trade (Ryan Dempster, Mark Buehrle, Francisco
Liriano) it could be a long year for the Yankees and a hard task to
get to another 92 win season and get over the regular season win
total on the board right now.

Odds to win AL East -140
Odds to win AL Championship +175
Total Wins Over/Under 95 (over -130/under +100)

After Boston failed to make the playoff last season, Red Sox
management decided to push all of the chips into the middle of the
table this year with the biggest and boldest moves of the entire
offseason. Not only did the Red Sox add All-Star first baseman Alex
Gonzalez in a trade from San Diego, but the also added All-Star
outfielder Carl Crawford from the rival Tampa Bay Rays, to give the
Red Sox a lineup that can match anyone from top to bottom. It is
because of these two moves that the Red Sox leapfrogged everyone into
the role of favorites to win the AL East and the American League

Boston still has the divisions deepest starting rotation one through
five, but they will need bounce back years from John Lackey and
Daisuke Matsuzaka in order to push the Yankees and Rays all the way
into September. The addition of Bobby Jenks to the back end of the
bullpen also gives the Red Sox the depth to hold leads late in the game.

The Red Sox only need a six-game improvement in the standings to
reach the mark of 95 wins, something I think they will do, but youll
have to pay the extra juice (-130) if you want to take the wager on
the over.

Odds to win the AL East +1400
Odds to win AL Championship +2000
Total Wins Over/Under 76.5 (over -125/under -105)

The Toronto Blue Jays used the addition by subtraction method of
improving their team in the offseason, trading away veteran
outfielder Vernon Wells to clear cap space and dugout space for their
young players. Two of those young prospects, catcher J.P Arencibia
and pitcher Kyle Drabek (both obtained in Roy Halladay trade) will
make the Blue Jays opening day roster this season, along with young
guys Travis Snider and Aaron Lind from previous years and proven
stars Aaron Hill and last years breakout stud Jose Bautista.

The Blue Jays could also have a sneaky good starting rotation with
Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow and Brett Cecil all gaining valuable
experience in the rotation last year. The back end of the Jays
bullpen also was addressed in the offseason, with the additions of
Frank Francisco, Octavio Dotel and Jon Rauch to give manager John
Farrell multiple options if they find themselves in the lead after
seven innings.

On paper the Blue Jays arent as sexy as they were last year, but they could actually be better than last years team that won 85
games, so the over wager of 76.5 wins could turn into a real solid bet.

Odds to win the AL East +2000
Odds to win AL Championship +5000
Total Wins Over/Under 76.5 (over -120/under -110)

No team in baseball turned things around as fast as they Orioles did
last season as soon as they brought in manager Buck Showalter. This
offseason Baltimores management went out and gave Showalter a few
interesting pieces to play around with this season too, trading for
3B Mark Reynolds and SS J.J. Hardy and adding free agent Derek Lee at
first base to totally remake their infield. They also added Vladamir
Guerrero at DH to add some pop in the lineup, so for the first time
in years theres actual excitement in Baltimore for the upcoming season.

The problem is that the Orioles did nothing to address their
weaknesses in starting pitching. Dont get me wrong, I like Jeremy
Guthrie, but hes not a No. 1 starter and ace of the staff, and the
fact that the Birds are still considering him their first option on
opening day speaks volumes about Baltimores chances in 2011. They
did add closer Kevin Gregg to Mike Gonzalez at the back of the
bullpen, and he will help the Orioles win more games this season, but
a 10-plus game improvement (in order to reach 76.5) over last year
will be a stretch unless other teams in the AL East fall apart or
have injury issues.

AL EAST PREDICTION: With everyone else taking the safe pick(s) of
Boston or New York as the division champs, Im going for the high-
risk, high-reward pick of Toronto to win the AL East (at +1400).
Since Im going out on a limb like that, Im going to lay the big
odds (-120) on the Baltimore Orioles to go over the total of 76.5
too, hoping that at least one of those two teams surprises the
experts and jumps up the standings in the tough AL East.


Odds to win AL Central +150
Odds to win AL Championship +900
Total Wins Over/Under 86 (over/under are both -115)

Does anyone get more out of less that Ron Gardenhire? You can expect
another solid year out of the Twins even though the faces and names
have changed during the offseason.

The Twins biggest move during the winter was to sign Japanese import
Tsuyoshi Nishioka to play 2B, which means Alexi Casilla will move
over to shortstop to team with 3B Danny Valencia to form a very young
left side of the infield. Justin Morneau is still recovering from his
concussion symptoms and could be slow out of the gate, but with
Michael Cuddyer, Josh Kubel, Joe Mauer and the re-signed Jim Thome
back the Twins should have plenty of pop around him to keep the
lineup competitive every day.

The Twins also re-signed Carl Pavano to join Francisco Liriano, Scott
Baker, Brian Duensing and Nick Blackburn to form a solid starting
rotation for the AL Central. The addition of Matt Capps (from
Pittsburgh) will help the bullpen in case former closer Joe Nathan
isnt ready to resume the role following Tommy John surgery last
season. Minnesota won 94 games last season and one could argue they
are likely to reach that mark again this year with a healthier team,
making a wager of over 86 regular season wins a solid wager in my

Odds to win AL Central +175
Odds to win AL Championship +1000
Total Wins Over/Under 85.5 (over -120/under -110)

On paper the Chicago White Sox look like they might have a strong
enough team to give the Twins another run for the AL Central title.
By adding Adam Dunn as their DH, they finally have a big bat to
protect Paul Kornerko in the lineup. They have speed at the top (Juan
Pierre), solid youngsters coming into their prime (Alexei Ramirez and
Gordon Beckham), and proven veterans (Alex Rios, Carlos Quentin, Mark
Teahan and A.J. Pierzynski) to give the White Sox a mixed attack
that should be able to produce some runs.

While Mark Buehrle and Jake Peavy are both another year older, they
anchor a rotation that adds Gavin Floyd, John Danks and Edwin Jackson
to form a solid staff. The biggest question mark for the Sox is the
back-end of the bullpen, with young lefties Matt Thornton and Chris
Sale expected to close games for the first time in their careers.
Sale looked great in his September call-up (32 K in 23.1 IP, .185
OBA, 4 SV in 4 SVO), so he could turn into a huge fantasy pickup as
the main closer for the Sox.

After winning 88 games last season, the oddsmakers opened the over/
under season win total for the White Sox at 85.5 expecting a slide.
With a questionable bullpen it might be a reach, but I like the White
Sox chances at the over of 85.5 wins, but the cruddy odds of -120 on
the moneyline is enough to make me pass on that wager.

Odds to win AL Central +200
Odds to win AL Championship +1600
Total Wins Over/Under 84 (over/under are both -115)

The window of opportunity for the Tigers is closing quickly, with
former studs like Magglio Ordonez, Brandon Inge, Jhonny Peralta and
Carlos Guillen all getting longer in the tooth. They went out and got
C/DH Victor Martinez to help protect first baseman Miquel Cabrera in
the lineup, but if Cabrera cant stay off the sauce the Tigers will
need more than one of the aforementioned players to have big seasons
to carry the load.

The Tigers rotation is anchored by Justin Verlander, but after the righty flamethrower its a host of one-time prospects like Max
Scherzer, Rick Porcello and Phil Coke who have yet to really have
their breakout year. Veteran Brad Penny will fill the No. 5 spot if
hes healthy, but the Tigers rotation does have some warts that could
make an AL Central title run a reach. Jose Valverde signed on to be
the closer, so the Tigers will have some great bullpen depth along
with Joel Zumaya and Joaquin Benoit setting him up in the late innings.

For Detroit to reach the current over/under total of 84 wins they
would need a three-game improvement from the 2010 season, and while
the bullpen will be able to hold some leads, Im not so sure the
aging offense will be able to put up as many runs.

Odds to win the AL Central +2000
Odds to win AL Championship +6500
Total Wins Over/Under 71.5 (over -120/under -110)

The good news for Friends of the Tepee is that the Indians should
finally start turning some of the players they received in trades
from the previous years yard sales into established major-league
roles. First baseman Matt LaPorta and LF Michael Brantley (Sabathia
trade) will be joined by 3B Jason Donald and catcher Lou Marson
(Cliff Lee trade) in everyday roles, with Marson splitting time with
a healthy Carlos Santana at catcher. Mix in veterans Austin Kearns
(free agent) and DH Travis Hafner, All-Star OF Shin-Soo Choo, and an
all-Cabrera middle infield (Asdrubal at SS, Orlando at 2B) and the
Indians lineup should be improved over last years 69-win campaign.
Cleveland might even benefit from a mid-April or early-May
acquisition of a healthy Grady Sizemore back into the lineup.

The problem the Indians might face is that after No. 1 starter Fausto
Carmona, they just dont have any clue what theyve got. Justin
Masterson and Mitch Talbot have a little seasoning, and Carlos
Carrasco (also from Lee trade) looked good in a September call-up,
but for the most part the rest of the Indians rotation will consist
of really young, really raw pitchers with plenty of room for
improvement. Chris Perez is a solid closer even though his stuff
doesnt blow anyone away, but the Tribes bullpen is equally young
and unproven making the Indians reliant on players who are likely
still a few years away from their prime.

Odds to win the AL Central +4000
Odds to win AL Championship +8000
Total Wins Over/Under 69 ((over/under are both -115)

Cut and paste all of the above references to Cleveland and their
young talent that is likely several years away from competing into
September for a division crown, then add a year or two for the Royals
in Kansas City. The Alex Gordon project moves to left field in 2011,
and teamed with newcomers in SS Alcides Escobar and CF Lorenzo Cain
(from Milwaukee for Zach Grienke) and holdover 2B Mike Aviles, the
core of the new Royals team is young and fast. Mix in RF Jeff
Francoeur and veterans C Jason Kendall and 3B Wilson Betemit, and
now the Royals are talking a slightly average offense.

Without Grienke at the top of the starting rotation the Royals will
be forced to turn to Luke Hochevar, ready or not. Kansas City did
pick up former As castoff Vin Mazzaro, and theyre taking a risk
that former Rockie Jeff Francis is back to his old form after years
of arm troubles. Joakim Soria can be a filthy closer (43 of 46 in
2010), when he gets a chance.

AL CENTRAL PREDICTION: This is my boring, play it safe pick by taking
the Minnesota Twins at +150. They have the deepest pitching in the
division, which is why I think theyll win it when its all over. The
two regular-season win totals in the AL Central that I like
(Minnesota over 86; White Sox over 85.5) both come in at such high
odds (-115 and -120, respectively), that theyre no longer a good
value and not worth the wager.


Odds to win AL West -120
Odds to win AL Championship +800
Total Wins Over/Under 86.5 (over/under are both -115)

The Texas Rangers went all the way to the World Series in 2010, so
there truly is nowhere to go but down. Losing out on resigning Cliff
Lee to anchor their rotation was a dagger to the Rangers, and will
force pitching coach Mike Maddux to perform another miracle in 2011.
Hoping Brandon Webb returns to form is not like handing the ball to
Lee every fifth day, and the Rangers could end up falling hard this
season because of it.

Offensively the Rangers will still have the strongest lineup in the AL West, with the addition of Adrian Beltre at third and Mike Napoli
at catcher making up for the loss of Vladamir Guerrero. Mike Young
wants out of Texas, but if he stays to play DH and backup Elvis
Andrus and Ian Kinsler in the middle infield, it gives the Rangers
the depth from top to bottom they will need to compete because they
will still have Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz providing the power to
drive in runs.

C.J. Wilson becomes the ace of the staff, and with youngsters Colby Lewis and Tommy Hunter mixed in around Webb the Rangers will have a
rotation that is good, but not the elite type of unit that guarantees
another title run. Neftali Feliz will have a full season of closing
games, and leads a Rangers bullpen that will rely on veterans Darren
Oliver and Arthur Rhodes to continue to defy their age.

Odds to win the AL West +250
Odds to win AL Championship +1600
Total Wins Over/Under 83.5 (over -125/under -105)

Last year the As finished at .500, 81-81 on the season, so theres
also little doubt they will either move up the standings or drop down
a notch. Looking at the depth chart I keep finding myself thinking
that GM Billy Beane has put together a nice team, but Im just not so
sure the team is good enough to move to the front of the AL West class.

With an outfield trio of Josh Willingham, Coco Crisp and David
DeJesus combining with Daric Barton at first, Mark Ellis at 2B and
Kurt Suzuki at catcher the As seemed to have cornered the market on
gap hitters with solid on-base averages. They did go out and sign
Hideki Matsui do be a run-producer at DH, but wheres the rest of the
As power production going to come from? I like the As approach, Im
just not so sure they can continue to produce runs all 162 games
during the season without suffering some serious dry spells.

Their pitching staff is a lot like their lineup, solid and young with
good potential, but in the end it might not be good enough to carry
the entire load. Dallas Braden, Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzales have
all shown flashes of ace type stuff, but one of them (or two) is
going to have to rise to the next level and be a superstar
something Im not sure they are ready to do yet. Closer Andrew Bailey
is solid, and hell likely benefit from having lefty Brian Fuentes
around to close or set-up when needed. Those two with Michael Wuertz
and Grant Balfour give the As the best bullpen in the West,
something that should gives the As a few more wins this season and
put them over 84 wins on the season in order to cash in on the total.

Odds to win AL West +225
Odds to win AL Championship +1200
Total Wins Over/Under 83 (over -120/under -110)

Last year the Angels fell from their perch atop the AL West in a hard
way, and it didnt get much better during the winter when most of the
top free agents they wanted to sign (i.e. Carl Crawford, Cliff Lee)
decided to sign elsewhere leaving them high and dry. But the cupboard
isnt exactly bare, so well see if manager Mike Scioscia can
recreate the magic the Angels had in recent years.

Its always dangerous to attach the outcome of a teams season on
just a few players, but thats exactly what Im going to do for
newcomer Vernon Wells and first baseman Kendry Morales. Wells,
acquired in a trade with Toronto when Crawford signed with Boston,
must rediscover the hitting stroke that earned him his huge salary.
Meanwhile, Morales will have to rebound from his broken leg last year
because those two players will be counted on to drive in runs for the
Angels along with Tori Hunter. The rest of the Angels lineup is
filed with role players (Peter Bourjos, Howie Kendrick, Bobby Abreu,
Erick Aybar), so they will need the big boppers to bop big in order
to compete once again in the new AL West.

The Los Angeles rotation is filled with some of the more recognizable
names in the division, with Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana,
Joel Pineiro and Scott Kazmir all capable of solid seasons with good
run support. Without solid run support, which will depend on Wells,
Morales and Hunter driving in runs, the Angels will end up short
again because the bullpen is not as strong as it used to be either.
Fernando Rodney takes over as the full-time closer, as many of the
old faces in the bullpen have moved on over the years.

Odds to win AL West +1600
Odds to win AL Championship +5000
Total Wins Over/Under 70 (over +100/under -130)

Remember last year when the Mariners were everyones darling and
experts from all over the country were boldly predicting an AL West
title and American League pennant? Instead they became sellers at the
trade deadline instead of buyers, and 61 wins later the Mariners
expectations have crashed back down to reality.

Seattle still has a lot of nice pieces Ichiro, Franklin Gutierrez,
Chone Figgins teamed up with a few promising youngsters in 1B
Justin Smoak and OF Michael Saunders and a couple of serviceable
veterans (Jack Wilson, Miguel Olivo and Brendan Ryan). Its just not
a lineup in its entirety that I can honestly say is one that will win
a division.

The Mariners have an undisputable stud at the top of the rotation in
Felix Hernandez, but after last years Cy Young winner the Ms have a
young lefty in Jason Vargas, oft-injured Erik Bedard, and a host of
other maybes (Doug Fister, Michael Pineda, David Pauley) and a
castoff (Nate Robertson). David Aardsma is a solid closer at the back
end of the bullpen, and Brandon League will be joined by Manny
Delcarmen as primary set-up men in the late innings, but overall the
bullpen had to carry a lot of innings for short starters and wore
down, something that looks like its destined to be repeated again in

AL WEST PREDICTIONS: I thought about this one long and hard, and it came down to either Oakland (+250) or Los Angeles (+225), but Ive
decided to go with the deeper pitching staff and the Angels with my
pick for the AL West. Weaver and Haren form the best one-two staff in
the division, and I like the vets behind them and the steady hand of
Scioscia on the bench. With big years from Wells, Hunter and Morales,
the Angels (+225) is my pick.


Short Favorite New York Yankees (+300) Im still a firm believer that
pitching will win out in the end, but I see a Yankees lineup that can
make any pitcher look foolish top to bottom, literally. Plus theyre
the Yankees, theyll pay any ransom to pick up another quality
starter before the deadline, so Ill take my 3-to-1 chance that the
get their guy and win the AL Pennant.

Middle of the Road Minnesota Twins (+900) The Twins have been knocking on the
door for the past several years, and this years team appears to be
the same team with only Japanese import Tsuyoshi Nishioka (who won
the Japanese Pacific League batting title last season) as the lone
replacement in the lineup. Ill take the 9-to-1 and cheer that this
year the Twins finally break through and capture another American
League pennant.

Longshot Oakland As (+1600) Since I agonized over my choice between
Los Angeles and Oakland for the AL West title, Im going to hedge
that bet with my final longshot pick in the American League pennant
chase. At 16-to-1, they have the highest reward out of all of the
teams I consider true contenders, and thats what the long shot
pick is all about, right.