The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
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2021 MLB Division Projections

Things are looking up for the upcoming baseball season. Opening Day will occur when it’s supposed to. Fan will get to attend games in person. We can expect full 162-game schedules and a post-season that will have true home-and-away series. Rangers fans will finally get a proper Opening Day in their new stadium.


How the teams stack up this year in the division races will largely depend on how pitching staffs hold up for a full 162-game season. With only 60 games being played last year, most starters only pitched between 50 and 70 innings the entire season. Teams will approach the season very carefully with respect to how they manage their staffs. We will likely see six-man rotations and pitch limits during the first half of the season. Bullpenning will be utilized even more than in the past few seasons. Minor-league pitching staffs may get called on pretty regularly.


Here’s how I see each division race shaping up, picking the top two front-runners in each.


AL East

The Yankees and Rays will be the front-runners again. While the Rays had a big turnover in its starting pitcher staff, they backfilled with veteran pitchers who have won before. They will provide time for younger staff to emerge. The Yankees are the Yankees, what else can I say? It looks like they will be healthy. The Blue Jays made some key upgrades in the field with George Springer and Marcus Semien, but their starting pitching lacks top of the line starters and will have to rely more on its depth.


AL Central

The White Sox and Twins will battle for the top two spots. The White Sox will be good again, despite signing on 76-year-old manager Tony LaRussa, who hasn’t been in a uniform since for ten years. (I thought the White Sox could have done much better.) Player for player at each position, the White Sox may have the best team in the AL. Their bullpen ranks right up there with the Yankees. The Twins return a roster pretty much intact from last year, with the addition of defensive wizard Andrelton Simmons at shortstop. The Indians’ pitching is actually pretty decent, but they have managed to decimate a previously good roster of position players.


AL West

The Astros will bounce back from a losing record last year (even though they still qualified for the playoffs). Their young starters stepped up in the playoffs last year, and I expect them to be even better. The A’s have the edge on the Angels based on past performance of the last three seasons. A healthy Shohei Ohtani who can both pitch and DH could be a difference-maker for the Angels. They’ll get a full season with Anthony Rendon at third base. Pitching has been their Achilles heel in the past. Can the Angels finally get over the hump this year? Would love to see Mike Trout a playoff situation.


NL East

This division will likely be the most competitive this year. The Braves are the clear front-runner again. Up and down the lineup, they are solid. With three division titles already under their belt, they could very well be mounting another streak of division winning teams like the Braves did in in the 1990s. I’m picking the Nationals to bounce back this year. Jayson Stark recently asserted that Nationals outfielder Juan Soto is the next Ted Williams. He can carry the team on his back if needed. Plus, they added Josh Bell and Kyle Schwarber to the offense. Their top three starters (Scherzer, Strasburg, and Corbin) were supplemented with the addition of veteran Jon Lester.


Although they will field good teams, the Phillies and Mets will be close followers. The Phillies managed to retain free-agent catcher JT Realmuto, which was desperately needed. The Mets improved with shortstop Francisco Lindor and catcher James McCann, but their pitching behind Jacob DeGrom still needs help. Acquiring Trevor Bauer would have provided a huge boost. One could make a case for the Marlins being on the rise since they made the playoffs last year; but they benefitted from the short season.


NL Central

This division will also be competitive, but not for the same reason as the NL East. There’s not a clear front-runner this season. All of the teams have at least one major issue to deal with. They were among the least active teams over the winter in making roster improvements. The St. Louis Cardinals made a big splash by trading for all-star third baseman Nolan Arenado. Primarily due to that reason, I’m picking the Cardinals as one of the front-runners.


I think the Brewers will bounce back from a down year in 2020 and challenge the Cardinals for first place. Christian Yelich never got on track in the shortened season; he’ll be key to a return as division winner. The Cubs have a lot of familiar names returning but have been huge under-achievers. They didn’t solve their bullpen issues over the winter. The Reds seem to have been on the verge of a breakout for the past few seasons, but they never delivered. The loss of Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer is a big setback.


NL West

This division will have two of the more exciting teams in baseball in 2021 in the Dodgers and Padres. The Dodgers finally got their World Series ring last year; and with everyday lineup that includes Betts, Seager, Bellinger, and Turner, and a starting staff that includes Kershaw, Bauer, Buehler, and Price, I think they’ll repeat.


The Padres figure they were close last season and decided to add two big arms that would help put them into the winner’s circle this year. The addition of top-flight starters Yu Darvish and Blake Snell are significant pickups to go along with a few highly-touted youngsters in the rotation. Shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. is showing he is a game-changer in all facets of the game, but he also has a good supporting cast with Machado, Myers, Hosmer, and Pham. The Giants, Diamondbacks, and Rockies will provide fodder for the rest of the league.


Post-season

I see the Yankees and White Sox (even with LaRussa) playing for the AL pennant, and the Dodgers and Braves fighting it out in the NL. I’m picking the Dodgers to win it all again, maybe in a repeat of the 1959 World Series.

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