With the Final Four this weekend, the NBA playoffs approaching and WrestleMania on Sunday, now is a great time to be a sports fan! And what makes it even better is that MLB Opening Day is this Thursday, meaning this is the perfect time to forecast the win totals for a couple of teams (because everyone knows how accurate these predictions always are).
Milwaukee Brewers —
Over 85 Wins
I think the Brewers will compete this season, and if they’re competing, they’ll win more than 85 games. The worst-case scenario here is that Milwaukee is out of contention by July and trades Prince Fielder, waving the white flag.
But knowing that Fielder might leave in the offseason, the Brewers front office will do everything to win now.
Zack Greinke should be back in mid-April thanks to a pickup basketball related injury, and he’ll team with Yovani Gallardo and Shaun Marcum to form a solid top of the rotation. The top five of the lineup will be very productive, but the bottom three could give the offense problems. Merely typing the names Yuniesky Betancourt, Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy scares me, but Milwaukee will need them to contribute.
If the Brewers can get everyone healthy in the first two weeks of the season, they should be in the thick of the National League Central race come September. Cincinnati caught lighting in a bottle last year, and the Adam Wainwright injury creates an opening for Milwaukee.
Boston Red Sox —
Under 95.5 Wins
The offseason acquisitions of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford mean it’s World Series or bust for the 2011 Red Sox.
Crawford will team with Ellsbury to provide an exciting base-stealing threat, and Gonzalez will be a fixture in the middle of the lineup. But the Red Sox will have to replace 48 home runs and 181 RBIs with the departures of Adrian Beltre and Victor Martinez. And while it’s easy to see Crawford and Gonzalez combining to produce those numbers, there’s always a transition period when players move to bigger markets.
By the way, I love Beltre’s career stats. In contract years, he averages 38 home runs and hits .327, while averaging 18 home runs and hitting .265 in non-contract years. When he injured his calf in spring training, I fully expected not to see him until August.
As far as Boston’s pitching rotation, the trio of Josh Beckett, John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka would be perfect in 2008. But in 2011, it’s iffy. Lackey posted his highest ERA since 2004 last year, Beckett started 21 games and had an ERA just under six and it takes Matsuzaka 389 pitches to get through five innings.
Boston is good, but 96 wins, in the American League East, is a lot to ask.
Philadelphia Phillies —
Under 97 Wins
It’s important to never go too extreme with predictions, as 100 wins is just as tough to get as 100 losses. I’ve heard the Phillies starting rotation is pretty good, but 98-plus victories in 2011 is looking questionable, mainly because of the offense.
Chase Utley will start the season on the disabled list, and General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said, “It’s a long-term process,” in regards to Utley’s recovery. Domonic Brown had hand surgery earlier this month, Raul Ibanez is a year older and Jimmy Rollins’ MVP year feels like it was two centuries ago.
And while the Jayson Werth contract was beyond ridiculous, his departure leaves a hole in the Philadelphia lineup. What had once been the team’s strongest area is now a mystery in 2011. The Phillies will take the NL East, but not even this rotation will be able to reach 97 victories.
New York Mets —
Over 77 Wins
The team is being sued for $300 million, it took them until last Monday to cut a $36 million left-handed specialist and fans detest the owners. What does this all add up to? More than 77 victories in 2011, of course!
New York finished with 79 wins in 2010, and after the disaster that was last season, is this year’s team really two victories worse? Plus, after the firing of Jerry Manuel, the Mets no longer have a manager who is a complete idiot.
Can the whole thing blow up and the Mets win only 70 games this year? Absolutely! But they have a good offense for the NL, and as long as their pitching can be somewhat consistent, they should break 77 wins.