My 2011 season predictions

Now that you’ve had a chance to weigh in with your 2011 predictions, I’m going to submit mine on the eve of opening day. I’m going to predict the divisions in order of finish, and also add Rookie of the Year to the awards you picked. Here are my choices:

NL East
1. Braves
2. Phillies (wild card)
3. Marlins
4. Nationals
5. Mets

NL Central
1. Reds
2. Brewers
3. Cardinals
4. Cubs
5. Astros
6. Pirates

NL West
1. Rockies
2. Giants
3. Padres
4. Dodgers
5. Diamondbacks

NL MVP: Albert Pujols, Cardinals
NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay, Phillies
NL Rookie of the Year: Brandon Belt, Giants

AL East
1. Red Sox
2. Yankees (wild card)
3. Rays
4. Orioles
5. Blue Jays

AL Central
1. White Sox
2. Twins
3. Tigers
4. Indians
5. Royals

AL West
1. Athletics
2. Rangers
3. Angels
4. Mariners

AL MVP: Robinson Cano, Yankees
AL Cy Young: Jon Lester, Red Sox
AL Rookie of the Year: Mike Moustakas, Royals

Division Series: Rockies over Phillies, Braves over Reds, Red Sox over White Sox, Yankees over Athletics
Championship Series: Rockies over Braves, Red Sox over Yankees
World Series: Red Sox over Rockies in 6

A couple thoughts: First, I think this sets up to be one of the most wide-open seasons we’ve seen in years, and I don’t think I would have said that in December. Maybe it’s just backlash against the Phillies, but I think they’re beatable, especially as their lineup shows some age and vulnerability to injury. I also think Roy Oswalt shows some cracks, and Cole Hamels can be streaky. They’ll have enough talent to win a very tough NL East, but I like the Rockies’ lineup, and they’ve got just enough pitching to advance through the NL.

The Red Sox don’t have many holes, though I don’t think they’ll just waltz through the American League. Many people are writing off the Yankees, but they’ve still got one of the best lineups in the game, and the three other playoff teams from last year (the Rays, Twins and Rangers) should all be down. It’s enough of a crack for the Yankees to slide past this year’s It Team (the A’s) and set up an ALCS with the Red Sox for the first time since 2004.

In the end, I think we’ll see a rematch of the 2007 World Series, with the Rockies giving the Red Sox a tougher time this year. But Boston just has too much depth, both in its lineup and pitching staff. It’s going to be very tough to shut the Red Sox down in a seven-game series if everyone’s healthy, and I think their big offseason of spending will carry them to their third title in eight seasons.

A couple surprise teams to watch out for: I really, really like the Marlins - especially if young players like Gaby Sanchez and Mike Stanton continue to progress. I almost put them in the NL wild card slot. And though the A’s have gotten enough publicity to not be off the radar, they’ll make a return to the postseason for the first time since 2006 on the strength of the AL’s best young pitching staff.

As for the Nationals? Their defense will be better, and they’ll benefit from an improved clubhouse that should do a better job of policing the little things. But I still think their lineup is one batter too short - Jayson Werth wouldn’t be hitting second if they had two good hitters at the top of the order - and their pitching staff simply isn’t good enough yet. Their bullpen is deep, but they don’t have a sure thing late in the game. I think Danny Espinosa will have a big rookie season, and could be hitting at the top of the order a few months into the year. If the Nationals can get a few pieces in place, they could be a productive offseason away from contending in 2012.

For now, though? I’m predicting 74-88.