The National League West is a division known for great pitching and weak hitting. Last season the World Champion San Francisco Giants showed their mettle by out-pitching Philadelphia’s heralded starters and then thumping the Texas Rangers in the World Series. The Giants and Padres battled until the last day of the season as the Padres lost out on the division title as well as the playoff spot.
This year in the NL West, one thing is certain. The team that pitches the best will win and once again be a threat for the World Series.
The San Francisco Giants
In baseball, timing is everything and the San Francisco Giants timed their stretch run just right last season. Known for their weak bats, the Giants did not lack for live arms that showed their best when the money was on the line.
From their championship team, the Giants lost infielders Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria who played big roles in the stretch run. Also gone are outfielders Jose Guillen and Eugenio Velez along with reliever Chris Ray. The Giants added just one veteran Miguel Tejada who will fill the hole at shortstop.
Although the Giant names are familiar, many of them were not on the opening day roster last season, including catcher Buster Posey and right fielder Cody Ross, who has a bout a shot a post season as could be had.
The starting pitching is the best in the division and will challenge the Phillies with youth against experience in the playoffs.
The starting lineup looks like this:
1. Andres Torres CF
2. Freddy Sanchez 2B
3. Buster Posey C
4. Aubrey Huff 1B
5. Miguel Tejada SS
6. Mark DeRosa LF
7. Pablo Sandoval 3B
8. Cody Ross RF
The weakness of this team is not in the bullpen or in the starting rotation. The team’s ability to score runs is the only question mark. Linecum, Cain and Baumgartner will all have strong seasons in 2011. Success breeds success.
The Colorado Rockies
The Rockies were busy in the off-season. These are their 2011 additions: P Felipe Paulino, C Matt Pagnozzi (MIN), 2B/INF Jose Lopez, 1B/INF Ty Wigginton, 1B Eric Duncan (MIN), C Jose Morales, 1B Mike Jacobs (MIN), P Billy Buckner (MIN), 3B Matt Macri (MIN), OF Jeff Salazar (MIN), 2B Tug Hulett (MIN), P Matt Lindstrom, IF Hernan Iribarren (MIN), P Sean White (MIN), Claudio Vargas (MIN), P Josh Muecke (MIN), P Jim Miller (MIN), 3B Joe Crede (MIN), P Clayton Mortenson, OF Wily Taveras (MIN), 1B Kala Ka’aihue (MIN) and UT Alfredo Amezaga (MIN).
The Rockies gave up on these players: Joe Beimel, 2B Clint Barmes, SP Jeff Francis, P Octavio Dotel, OF Jay Payton, OF Chris Frey (Rule V), SP Ethan Hollingsworth, SP Wes Musick, P Jonnathan Aristil, P Paul Bargas, 3B Melvin Mora and SP Chaz Roe, RP Manny Corpas, OF Brade Hawpe, RP Manny Declarmen, P Samuel Deduno, C Miquel Olivo.
Any team with that much activity is making changes in philosophy. The Rockies were 52-29 at home and want to do better. They won just 31 road games.
The Rocky lineup looks solid in the middle with question marks at both ends.
1.Dexter Fowler CF
2. Eric Young Jr 2B
3. Carlos Gonzalez, RF
4. Troy Tulowitszki, SS
5. Todd Helton, 1B
6. Seth Smith, LF
7. Ian Stewart, 3B
8. Chris Iannetta, C
The pitching rotation is set. Ubaldo Jimenez is the ace of the staff and gets support from fellow starters Jhoulys Chacin, Aaaron Cook, Jorge De La Rosa and Jason Hammel. This staff got it done early in the year but ran out of gas after mid season.
The Los Angeles Dodgers
The high profile Dodgers have a change at the helm as Don Mattingly takes the reins from Joe Torre. Torre ran into Manny troubles and the locker room problems that have plagued the Dodgers for years. Mattingly will have his hands full capitalizing on the talent that the Dodgers have. When this team is hitting on all cylinders, they are hard to beat.
Some changes were inevitable. Gone are Ryan Theriot, Reed Johnson, Scott Podsednik, Jeff Weaver, Chin-lung Hu, Russell Martin, George Sherrill, Trent Oeltjen, Brent Leach. Martin, Sherill and Jeff Weaver will be missed although Sherill was a disappointment after coming over from the Orioles.
The Dodgers had holes to fill and they added some well-traveled veterans. Jon Garland, Blake Hawksworth, Juan Uribe, Tony Gwynn Jr, Dioner Navarro, Matt Guerrier, Eugenio Velez, Oscar Villareal, Gabe Kapler, Roman Colon and Marcus Thames will put a veteran feel in the clubhouse. Thames, Garland and Tony Gwynn, jr. will all contend for jobs. Juan Uribe may add some pep to 2nd base but at third, Casey Blake’s offense slipped last season.
Left-hander Clayton Kershaw is the established ace and should have a breakout season. His stuff is overpowering. Chad Billingsley got off to a good start last season and is a strong number two pitcher. Hiroki Kuroda has a great repertoire but it is time to win some games. Former Cub Ted Lily and former Padre Garland will hold the four and five slots to start the season.
The Dodgers have talent in the bullpen but coordinating it is a full-time job. Closer John Broxton was hit hard at the end of the season while Hong-Chi Cho was virtually unhittable. Now, throw Matt Guerrier in the mix and there is plenty of power in the pen.
The Dodger lineup features seasoned players with good numbers.
The Dodgers need to get production from Uribe and Gibbons. Always known for strength behind the plate, catcher Rod Barajas will surely be tested early in the year. If the Dodgers do not beat themselves, Mattingly will keep them in position to win.
The San Diego Padres
The Padres’ 10 game skid at the end of 2010 is still burning bright at Petco Park. The team made some changes to better suit their park but the young starting rotation remains inconsistent.
Gone are a host of players including 1B Adrian Gonzalez, C Yorvit Torrealba , 2B David Eckstein, SP Jon Garland, IF Jerry Hairston Jr, SS Miguel Tejada, SP Kevin Correia, OF Scott Hairston, OF Tony Gwynn Jr, RP Ryan Webb, RP Edward Mujica, RP Adam Russell, SP/RP Cesar Ramos, PH Matt Stairs, and SP Chris Young.
That roster changes left plenty of room for newcomers OF/1B Brad Hawpe, 2B Orlando Hudson, SS Jason Bartlett, OF Cameron Maybin, IF Jorge Cantu, SP Aaron Harang, RP Samuel Deduno, SP/RP Dustin Moseley, RP Chad Qualls, C Rob Johnson, RP Pat Neshek, OF Eric Patterson IF Kevin Frandsen, RP Randy Flores. The pickups of veteran 2b Orlando Hudson and ss Jason Bartlett will solidify the infield and the Padres can use some of Brad Hawpe’s clout. Flores may surprise.
The staring lineup will look like this:
RF Will Venable
SS Jason Bartlett
2B Orlando Hudson
Lf Ryan Ludwick
1b Brad Hawpe
3b Chas Headley
CF Cameron Maybin
C Nick Hundley
The Padres only generated 655 runs last season and that will be the benchmark, This lineup may have difficulty equalling that mark.
The Pardes are proud of the hard-throwing and young starting rotation. Matt Latos will lead the way for fellow starters Clayton Richard, Tim Stauffer, Aarion Harang and Wade LeBlanc. The Padres have good depth if a starter goes down.
Their bullpen is also strong with closer Heath Bell back as closer. The setup guys will be Mike Adams, Luke Graderson, Chad Quallis and Ernesto Frieri.
The Padres seem to feel they have straigthened out their problems. From here, it does not look like enough. A bigger bat and a fifth starter might have improved the Padre chances.
The Arizona Diamondbacks
After finishing in the NL West for the second straight year, change was in the Arizona air. Kevin Towers was brought in to be the General Manager and Tower, who won four titles with San Diego, retained last season’s Manager Kirk Gibson. Gibson was promoted half way through the 2010 season.
Tower’s first mission has been to imprvoe the worst bullpen in the major leagues (5.74 ERA) and add strength to a weakend starting pitching rotation. For the rotation, Tower will rely on ace Ian Kennedy and number 2 Daniel Hudson. Joe Saunders (LAA) will anchor the third spot with Barry Enright who showed good struff at the end of 2010. Zack Duke was acquired from Pittsburgh as the fifth starter.
The Diamondbacks will lineup will be young and prone to strikeouts. Gibson will have his hands full with these hit or miss lineup.
- 2b – Stephen Kelly
- SS- Steven Drew
- RF – Justin Upton
- CF – Chris Young
- LF Xavier Nady
- 1b – Russell Branyan
- 3b – Melvin Mora
- c – Miguel Montero
There is improvement here but not enough to mount a threat.
NL West Projections
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- San Francisco Giants
- San Diego Padres
- Colorado Rockies
- Arizona Diamondbacks