Baseball Predictions 2011: Giant Optimism, A’s Hopes

by Randy Shaw on March 31, 2011

Never before in San Francisco Giants history have fans entered a season so optimistic about the future. The customary — how will the Giants blow it this year — has been replaced with — which way will the Giants find to win? That’s a good feeling, and one that Yankee fans have known for decades. While we cannot pencil in the Giants for the World Series, we can predict a division title, first round playoff win, and a series with a chance to reach the October classic. For the first time since the Giants came to San Francisco, nobody would be surprised with another post-season victory parade down Market Street. A’s fans have hope for the first time in years, with many major publications picking them to win their division. Will a winning team bring fans back to Oakland? We’ll address that amidst our other predictions for 2011.

Giants Need Brandon Belt

How great to enter a Giants season with the biggest question not starting pitching, not the bullpen, not whether we have enough bats, but rather whether Brandon Belt should start the season at first base.

The answer is absolutely. And a Giants management that once appeared unable to do right and now seems to do no wrong made the right call and put Belt on the opening day roster.

The naysayers who want to send Belt down to start the season are the same folks who felt Buster Posey “wasn’t ready” for the big leagues. Or that Madison Bumgarner was making “too big a jump.”

With Cody Ross out, the Giants need Belt’s bat in the lineup. And I suspect once he starts at first, he’ll be there when Ross returns, for the rest of the season and for many more to come.

For all the talk about the financial impact of Belt starting the season in San Francisco, the Giants made it clear their priority is putting their best team out on the field. You can’t tell me the Giants are not better with Belt.

National League Predictions

I’ve heard a lot of hype about Colorado and San Diego, with one baseball expert claiming the Padres have more hitting this year despite the loss of Adrian Gonzalez. But if the Padres could not beat a weaker Giants team last year, they will not do so in 2011.

As for the Dodgers, to paraphrase Giant great Bill Terry’s 1934 comment about their Brooklyn predecessors (and yes, I know how his words backfired), “Are they still in the National League”? The Dodgers are also getting some media backing, but 2011 is not their year.

I’m sorry to say that I will be strongly rooting against the Bernie Madoff-backed New York Mets this year, and predict another season out of the money for the Wilpon family’s team. The greater suspense is whether they will still own the team by season’s end, or be forced to sell to repay defrauded Madoff investors.

I’m also real tired of Tony LaRussa’s act, and hope the Cardinals fall hard.

I won’t root against the Phillies, and Giants fans should hope we get a chance to again prove the superiority of San Francisco’s pitching staff. We could have a repeat of the famous Clemens-Dave Stewart matchups, in which the Oakland star beat the Red Sox choker time and time again (and whereas Bonds used steroids to enhance a vibrant career, Roger Clemens’ was down for the count until injecting himself with “flaxseed oil.”

As stated at the top, it’s too soon to say the Giants will return to the World Series. But it’s not too early to predict the team at least reaching a playoff series with the Phils.

Will Fans Come to Oakland?

A’s fans have left Oakland in droves, as befits a team whose principal owner, Lew Wolff, bought the team in order to relocate it. Wolfe has been happy to live off the surplus tax imposed on the Yankees and other teams dedicated to winning, and makes former Warrior owner Chris Cohan look like he cared about on field success.

I will accept the experts and predict a winning season for the A’s. But I do not see them beating Texas or possibly even the California Angels of Anaheim — Los Angeles, and I don’t see fans returning until the summer at earliest, if then.

American League Predictions

Both the Yankees and Red Sox enter the season with questionable starting pitching staffs. Boston may have the best team in baseball not counting starting pitching, but, fortunately for Giants fans, this is the most important predictor of winning.

One would be crazy to not pick both of the above teams to make the playoffs, and the Twins, White Sox, and the American League West winner will join them.

I’m going with the Red Sox to make the World Series for three reasons.

First, Terry Francona is as good a manager as there is in baseball. The fact that he got so much out of last year’s injured team was a testament to his leadership.

Second, Adrian Gonzalez will have a monster year at Fenway. After Petco, he’ll feel like he was released from baseball prison.

Third, I don’t see any American League team with a clear edge on Boston, and Theo Epstein will likely adjust the roster if the pitching staff is faltering.

If I had to bet on any World Series matchup, I like Giants-Red Sox. And boy that would be fun.

Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron, and more content about the Giants entering this season than ever before.

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