The 2021 MLB season is upon us. Coming off a coronavirus-shortened, all-around abnormal year, baseball will return to its usual 162-game schedule with just a few rule change holdovers from the 2020 weirdness, beginning with Thursday's opening day.
If you were tuned out or distracted grappling with the pandemic last season, we understand. Welcome back. The talent-stuffed Los Angeles Dodgers finally broke through and actually won a World Series, but even they aren’t super satisfied with that version of a championship. Those cheatin’ Houston Astros seemed to get what was coming to them … in the regular season, and then gasped back to life as a powerhouse in October. The baseball team in Cleveland acknowledged its nickname is offensive, but is going to keep using it in 2021 for reasons. Cleveland also traded Francisco Lindor to the New York Mets. Those Mets were purchased by billionaire Steve Cohen — who in his first offseason at the helm thrilled and frustrated fans with big, tantalizing goals, but also fired newly hired GM Jared Porter over sexual harassment allegations all too indicative of a problematic internal culture that persists despite the Marlins’ landmark hiring of Kim Ng as general manager. Meanwhile, those guys wearing brown are the San Diego Padres and they are the most exciting team in the sport now, OK? Just go with it, it’s going to be fun.
Without further ado, here are the Yahoo Sports staff’s predictions for the 2021 season. Surely, after years of practice, we’ll nail it this time.
The hottest baseball takes we’d say in public
Hannah Keyser: This take is more medium-well than high heat, but it is one I’d like to get on the record (in case I’m right) so here it goes: The effects of the de-juiced ball have been greatly overstated. It won’t do what you want it to do to the style of play and I’d go so far as to say home runs will keep pace with the 2019 numbers. (Update: This take may not be very hot at all.)
Chris Cwik: Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hits .300 with 30+ home runs and finishes in the top three of AL MVP voting.
Liz Roscher: The White Sox aren’t going to be nearly as good as people think they will be. A team with such dramatic turnaround potential is attractive, especially after their wild-card berth last season. But I think people are forgetting their manager is 76-year-old Tony La Russa, who hasn’t managed an MLB game in nearly a decade. And that somehow might be the least of his issues.
Jack Baer: The Padres are overhyped. Look, I know they played at a 100-win pace last year and only got better this winter, but I’m having trouble believing several of their most important players (basically their entire starting lineup minus Tommy Pham) will repeat career years in a 162-game season. I wouldn’t mind being wrong.
Zach Crizer: Baseball would be better off removing restrictions on in-game video and pitchers’ use of sticky substances. The consternation around these bogeymen dwarfs their on-field impact and distracts from the dynamic action of a game already struggling with the dampening effects of invisible margins of victory.
More takes on the 2021 MLB season:
Roscher: Yankees, Blue Jays (wild card)
Crizer: Yankees, Blue Jays (wild card)
Keyser: Twins, White Sox (wild card)
Cwik: Twins, White Sox (wild card)
Baer: White Sox, Twins (wild card)
Crizer: Twins, Cleveland (wild card)
Keyser: Angels, Astros (wild card)
Cwik: Astros, Angels (wild card)
Roscher: Astros, Angels (wild card)
Baer: Astros, A’s (wild card)
Keyser: Braves, Mets (wild card)
Roscher: Braves, Phillies (wild card)
Baer: Mets, Braves (wild card)
Crizer: Braves, Mets (wild card)
Cwik: Brewers, Cubs (wild card)
Keyser: Dodgers, Padres (wild card)
Cwik: Dodgers, Padres (wild card)
Roscher: Dodgers, Padres (wild card)
Baer: Dodgers, Padres (wild card)
Crizer: Dodgers, Padres (wild card)
World Series picks
Keyser: Braves over Yankees
I’m basing this on a matchup that feels overdue. It’ll be really cool when the Angels, Padres, Mets and White Sox all make the postseason — but I don’t see them surviving the gauntlet against more established teams. The Dodgers are probably still the best team on paper, but going back-to-back is nearly impossible. The Braves rotation was actually a liability last year — when they came within a game of the World Series — but should be a strength for years to come if their young arms stay healthy. And the Yankees’ stacked lineup of Very Strong Dudes All The Way Down seems destined to get at least one Fall Classic appearance.
Cwik: White Sox over Padres
The two young upstarts meet in the World Series to determine who will rule baseball for the next half decade. Giolito, Keuchel and Lynn make a strong top-3 in the rotation and the bullpen is loaded. New pitching coach Ethan Katz has made Dylan Cease and … gulp … Carlos Rodon look much improved this spring. Betting on big-time production from Andrew Vaughn and Luis Robert is risky, but Vaughn looks like a 10-year vet at the plate and Robert has shown the ability to make big adjustments in the past.
Roscher: Yankees over Braves
Ready for some 1990s nostalgia? The Braves and Yankees have exactly what it takes to make it to the World Series and give the world an amazing show once they’re there. If Gerrit Cole, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr. can stay healthy, it could be an all-time Fall Classic. And honestly, that’s just a partial list of the talent these two teams have. They’re shaping up to be two of the most entertaining teams in baseball, and isn’t that exactly what you want to see in the World Series? In the end, I think the Yankees will probably win out because they’re more well-rounded (and the Braves do not have their own version of Gerrit Cole), but it’ll be close.
Baer: Dodgers over White Sox
We all just watched the Dodgers go 43-17, win the World Series and add the reigning NL Cy Young winner, right? I’m comfortable picking a rare World Series repeat if that’s the case. We’re talking about a team with a rotation deep enough that David Price, a former Cy Young winner, and Tony Gonsolin, last year’s Baseball America Rookie of the Year, are coming out of the bullpen, and a lineup on track to be the best in baseball again. As for the AL, I think this is the year the White Sox finally break through.
Crizer: Braves over Astros
To the great chagrin of most of America, I think we are about to realize we have collectively underestimated the Astros. But we are here to talk about Atlanta. After pushing the Dodgers to wit’s end in the NLCS, I think they will find a way to move on this year. It is, of course, all a crapshoot in October, but the Braves have an optimist’s dream of a team. Ronald Acuña Jr., Ozzie Albies, Ian Anderson, Mike Soroka and others have their best baseball ahead of them, and they are already excellent.
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