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Cincinnati Reds

Looking back at 2010- They finished in 1st place with a 91-71 record. They led the league in runs scored at 4.88 per game and allowed 4.23 for 7th in the National League.

Who did they lose? Orlando Cabrera is gone at shortstop along with long-time pitcher Aaron Harang. They also lost part-time outfielder Jim Edmonds.

Who did they add? Edgar Renteria is their new shortstop as he leaves the World Champion SF Giants.

What would it take for them to win? Another season like 2010 where almost all the players had career years is the way to win it again. They return most of their position starters. Joey Votto came into his own and if he is really that good, the Reds are back in the saddle. Don’t forget the $50M contract Jay Bruce signed after having a great second half of the season. Also, the young pitching is top notch.

Why they won’t win. I have to believe that the weakest part of this team is Dusty Baker as manager. Will he overuse his pitchers the way he did Mark Prior? If Dusty pushes these young pitchers, then August could be dog days in Ohio.

Keep an eye on: Scott Rolen is a great arm with a gold glove and he is a catalyst when going well. I have to believe he is not a cleanup hitter for this team. If Dusty Baker moves Bruce to bat behind Votto, then the team is better off.

2011 Prediction: 93-69, 1st place

Milwaukee Brewers

Looking back at 2010- The Brewers finished in 3rd place behind the Reds and Cardinals with a 77-85 record. They scored an average of 4.63 runs per game for fourth in the NL and allowed 4.96 for 14th spot in the National League.

Who did they lose? All-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman, Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain and Dave Bush are all gone.

Who did they add? The loaded up on starting pitching with starters Zack Greinke, Shawn Marcum, reliever Takashi Saito and infielder Yuniesky Betancourt and outfielder Mark Kotsay.

What would it take for them to win? This team can hit and they can score runs in bunches. The top of the order can mash the ball. They have the potential for Rickie weeks, Casey McGehee, Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and Corey Hart to hit 25 homers each. They improved their pitching from 2010 as it was near the bottom in almost all the categories. A new manager, Ron Roenicke , can have a positive effect on a team for quite some time. Look for the Brewers to finally steal some bases.

Why they won’t win. There simply is no depth to this team. They traded away their future in the off-season and if injuries bite them, they will have to go outside the organization in an attempt to find replacements.  Shortstop is a black hole. Betancourt is not good and you may see 40 year old Craig Counsell manning that spot most of the year.

Keep an eye on: Speedster Carlos Gomez may be primed for a breakout season. He has the tools.

2011 Prediction: 90-72, 2nd place, NL Wildcard

St. Louis Cardinals

Looking back at 2010- The Cardinals finished in 2nd place 86-76 which was 5 games behind the Reds. The scored 4.54 runs per game for 6th in the National League and allowed 3.96 for 5th in the NL..

Who did they lose? Ryan Ludwick was traded at mid-season and Brendan Ryan was traded in the off-season. Felipe Lopez was released before the season ended.

Who did they add? At mid-season they added Jake Westbrook to the starting corps and in the off-season, Lance Berkman, Ryan Theriot, Gerald Laird and Nick Punto came onboard.

What would it take for them to win? More Albert Pujols would help along with a rejuvenated Lance Berkman would equal success for the Cardinals. If Colby Rasmus fulfills his expectations and the rotation comes together that means wins for the team. Yadier Molina needs some rest during the season to be prepared for any post-season.

Why they won’t win. Adam Wainwright is experiencing ligament issues in his pitching elbow and has become a Tommy John surgery candidate. This is a big blow to lose a 20 game winner.  The Cardinals have one of the best 3-4 hitters but once the lineup gets past 5 the team gets much worse on offense.

Keep an eye on: Lance Berkman returning to his Astros offensive output and Colby Rasmus getting on base and a steal or two.

2011 Prediction: 85-77, 3rd Place

Chicago Cubs

Looking back at 2010– The Cubs finished 16 games behind the league leader with a 75-87 record for 5th place in the National League Central.  They average 4.23 runs per game which were 10th the National League and they allowed their opponents to score 4.73 runs per game.

Who did they lose? The Cubs lost 3 players at mid-season last year in Derrek Lee, Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot. In the off-season they lost Xavier Nady and Tom Gorzelanny.

Who did they add? They added starting pitcher Matt Garza, relief pitcher Kerry Wood, first baseman Carlos Pena and added Blake DeWitt at mid-season last year.

What would it take for them to win? A continued bounce back from Carlos Zambrano after his horrid start last year would be a good starting point. After he returned he had a 1.41 ERA and went 8-0 to finish the year. A good season from new acquisition Matt Garza helps make the rotation good in starters 1-5. Opening day starter Ryan Dempster has given the Cubs three straight 200 quality innings and if he continues the Cubs fortunes improve.

Why won’t they win. Age. Too many players in their declining years usually means it can go either way. Alfonso Soriano hit just .250 in the last few years at $18M a year and Aramis Ramirez had his worst numbers as a Cub player. Wrigley Field is one that could be kind to Carlos Pena but he is just a shell of himself when he rocked In 2007.

Keep an eye on: Tyler Colvin had about 400 appearances at the plate and smacked 20 home runs. He needs to be in the line-up as much as possible. Starlin Castro hitting .300 was a definite bonus but like most young players he needs to solidify his defense a bit as he had 27 errors in 2010. Castro has to work on the throwing errors for the most past.

2011 Prediction: 4th place 78-84

Houston Astros

Looking back at 2010– The Astros slipped into 4th place at the end of the season. They had a 76-86 record and finished 15 games behind the Reds. Their offense was dismal at 3.77 runs per game which made them 15th in the NL and they allowed 4.5 runs for 11th in the NL.

Who did they lose? They had two mid-season losses in Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman. Both were jettisoned out of Houston to help acquire some young talent.

Who did they add? They added starting pitcher mid-year with the acquisition of J.A. Happ and they signed Bill Hall to patrol some outfield for them.

What would it take for them to win? Lead-off hitter Michael Bourn needs to increase his on-base percentage and he needs to continue to steal bases. If they can get 25 home runs from Hunter Pence again this year they are in the plus zone. Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers make for a good 1-2 punch but they have to get 200 innings out of them to be successful. Carlos Lee must return to form.

Why they won’t win. Carlos Lee in big decline and with a very hefty contract makes for bad baseball. A full year without Roy Oswalt on the mound and Lance Berkman will hurt. Bill Hall isn’t going to replace anyone on this team, he is just going to add to the below “average-ness” of the Astros.

Keep an eye on: Roy Oswalt may be replaceable by former Phillies pitcher J.A. Happ. He has post-season experience and in 2009 was second in Rookie of the Year voting.

2011 Prediction: 68-94, 5th Place

Pittsburgh Pirates

Looking back at 2010- They are a dismal 57-105 for last place in the NL Central. They finished last in runs scored at 3.62 per game and also last in runs allowed at a whopping 5.35 per game.

Who did they lose? Zack Duke, Lastings Milledge, Andy LaRoche and Delwyn Young all are gone for the Pirates.

Who did they add? Kevin Correia, Lyle Overbay, Matt Diaz, Chris Snyder and Scott Olsen all are added to strengthen the team.

Looking back at 2010? They need all the other teams to quit soon after the season begins. They have one of the best young players in the game in Andrew McCutchen. That translates into trading him very soon. Joe Tabata is a good outfielder and Neil Walker can be a surprise for this team.

Why they won’t win. Because they are the Pirates. The pitching is tremendously horrible. Can you name their ace? He finished last in ERA and WHIP among those that qualified. The team will allow tons of runs. Oh, the ace is Paul Maholm.

Keep an eye on: The development of McCutchen might be the only bright spot.

2011 Prediction: 62-100, Last Place

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