April 1, 2009

Staying out West

by Dan Bilicki In: Baseball

Remember a few seasons ago, when the Padres, Diamondbacks and Rockies went right down to the wire and the Dodgers and Giants weren’t that bad either? Well this isn’t going to be one of those seasons. The NL West isn’t going to be anything special with three teams under .500 for sure and two whose seasons could be just over that mark, including the division champion.

Starting at the bottom, the San Diego Padres could be the worst team in baseball this season. Seriously, the best baseball that the Petco Park crowd will see this season happened in March when they hosted some WBC games. With their owner in full-out selling mode, this should be the start of a heavy rebuilding phase. They even let all-time saves leader and face of the franchise, Trevor Hoffman pack up his things and leave for Milwaukee after the Padres gave him the slap-in-the-face lowball offer. It’ll be depressing in San Diego this season — especially after they inevitably deal Jake Peavy. It’s a good thing the weather is nice there.

In San Francisco, everyone will be ranting and raving about wunder-kid Tim Lincecum again. The Giants ace is worthy of all the buzz he’s received and deserves your attention. The problem is that the Giants don’t have much else going on after him. Their lineup is nothing special and needs some time to develop. Their rotation may have potential with Matt Cain and Jonathon Sanchez, but there’s still Barry Zito weighing them down and Randy Johnson’s nothing special any more. I’d be quite surprised if the Giants can top 75 wins.

The Rockies are in a decline. Last season, coming a loss in the World Series to Boston, Colorado showed what they were really made and tumbled down the division standings. Now, after dealing away Matt Holliday, their best player because he had a year to go before becoming a free agent, this season is looking great for the Denver faithful. Sure, they could surprise everyone, but an outfield of Ryan Spilboroghs, Seth Smith and Brad Hawpe just isn’t going to cut it, even in a weak division.

Depth is a concern for the Diamondbacks to me. Looking up their team on Yahoo! shows that there are only three outfielders on their roster and one, Eric Byrnes, missed significant time last year. The D-Backs will always be anchored by their two aces, Brandon Webb and Dan Haren, which should be good enough to keep them in contention, but they’re in need of either a third great starter or another big bat to help their push into the playoffs.

By bringing back Manny, the Dodgers have put themselves in the driver’s seat to take the West again. Los Angeles has a loaded lineup and will put up a ton of runs. The rotation will be better than average and the bullpen won’t blow too many leads. As long as they stay healthy and can fend of any Arizona advances, the Dodgers should repeat as champs.

Prediction:
1st: Los Angeles Dodgers
2nd: Arizona Diamondbacks
3rd: San Francisco Giants
4th: Colorado Rockies
5th: San Diego Padres

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