Monday, February 15, 2010

Spring Is Upon Us: A 2010 NL West Preview

The National League West was the laughing stock of the league in 2008. The Los Angeles Dodgers won the division with just 86 wins. In 2009, they went from worst to first.
The Dodgers took the division, winning 95 games. The Rockies were right behind them, forcing a nail-biting three game series to end the season in LA.

What was fun about the NL West race was that it wasn't simply a two-horse race. The Giants finished in third place, winning 88 games. The Giants and Rockies were neck-and-neck from late July until the final week of the season. Both teams delivered blows to each other down the stretch, with an end result of phenomenal nail-biting baseball games.

How will 2010 shake out?

The NL West should once again be the division to watch, despite what John Kruk might say on Baseball Tonight. Here is a team by team evaluation of the offseason and what to expect, in order of '09 standings.

Los Angeles Dodgers:

The last thing a team in the playoffs needs is distraction. That was exactly what the Dodgers got in the NLCS when the team owners, Frank and Jamie McCourt, announced that they would be getting a divorce. As they distracted the team with the news, they vowed that it would not be a distraction.

In the next few days there were reports of Frank firing his ex-wife and having her escorted out by security. This was a preview of what the offseason would hold for the division champs.

The famous divorced forced the team to put everything on hold. That meant that All-Star Orlando Hudson was not offered arbitration, therefore the team did not even get a draft pick when the Minnesota Twins ended up signing him.

The other major casualty of the divorce was 11-game winner Randy Wolf. Wolf was the most consistent pitcher for the Dodgers and helped solidify a rotation with several questions.

Juan Pierre was also dealt to the White Sox in an effort to reduce costs. Pierre may not have been an everyday starter, but fans should not forget his contributions during Manny Ramirez's 50-game suspension.

The Dodgers will still be good. Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley are extremely talented pitchers. If those two can stay healthy there is no reason to think that the Dodgers will not be in contention come September.

Keep an eye on Ramirez. Suddenly the 38-year-old is looking like a 38-year-old. Does that have anything to do with Ramirez being off the steroids that he tested positive for in May of 2009? If Ramirez does not show up at the plate, the Dodgers are in big trouble.

Colorado Rockies:

The Rockies did their best to cram a six month season into four months. After falling 15 games under .500 in early June, the team raced to the best record in the National League from June 5th on.

The Rockies say goodbye to fiery clubhouse leader Yorvit Torrealba, who was done in by a misguided agent. They also lost 15 game winner Jason Marquis. Despite some who say that neither will be missed, the Rockies will have a tough time replacing what both players brought to the team. Without Marquis, the Rockies simply do not play in October. Torrealba was the most clutch player in baseball in September.

Despite the loses, the Rockies strengthened their team. After Torrealba spurned their offer, the Rox quickly moved on and signed Miguel Olivo, a power hitting catcher who was behind the plate for every single start the AL Cy Young winner Zach Grienke made in '09.

They also strengthened their bench by re-signing Jason Giambi and landed third baseman Melvin Mora from the Orioles. Mora should push Clint Barmes at second base and spell Ian Stewart at third if the lefty struggles with his swing.

Rockies fans also saw the team reward success by signing Huston Street to a three-year deal, keeping him in purple pinstripes for longer than most experts ever thought he would be.

Perhaps the best acquisition the Rockies made in the offseason was getting their own lefty ace back. Jeff Francis, who missed all of 2009 after undergoing shoulder surgery, is getting rave reviews from medical personnel and scouts who have been watching him throw.

San Francisco Giants:

The Giants, despite scoring the second fewest runs in the National League, was the best team in the National League not to make the postseason. Most expected the team to try and improve their lineup, but that did not really happen.

The Giants signed Orioles and Tigers castoff Aubrey Huff, who should make a slight impact, but after a season in which he posted a .310 OBP, to go along with just 15 home runs, fans by the bay should not expect much.

After the team had said that the boat had sailed, catcher Bengie Molina must have steered his boat back to the bay, because the Giants re-signed him to be their cleanup hitter for another season.

Needless to say, the Giants will be heavily dependent on their two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Barry Zito. The first two are a legitimate threat, the third will be remembered for being the worst free agent signing of the decade. The Giants will be right in it again, but fans better like defense.

Arizona Diamondbacks:

Watch out for these guys. This team has been on a free fall since April of 2008. While they may have been forgotten about, they will make noise in 2010. Especially if Brandon Webb returns to form after an injury forced him to the 60 day DL early in the year. All indications suggest that he will be ready to go, which should scare the rest of the NL West.

The D-Backs get Webb back, and also acquired Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy, which will go a long way to help their starting rotation.

Arizona has a lineup that is very talented. Stephen Drew seems to know how to inflict damage when it matters, Mark Reynolds is a constant long ball threat, and if Justin Upton and Chris Young would come anywhere close to their potential, this lineup will be as good as any.

The Diamondbacks could easily be the sleeper of the west.

San Diego Padres:

They made a few small moves in the offseason, including dealing starting third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff to the A's and acquiring Yorvit Torrealba, but the reality is, they made news more for what they did not do.

Everyone expected slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to someone who can afford him in the future. The move never happened, but from all indications it will happen long before the trade deadline at the end of July.

If the Padres finish with a .500 record it will be the biggest surprise in Major League Baseball.

With four legitimate contenders in the National League West it should be a fun race to watch.

For more on the Rockies and the National League West visit RockiesReview.com


2 comments:

  1. I'm okay with having Bengie back...I would have revolted had Posey been the Opening Day starting catcher. That said, there's absolutely no way he's batting cleanup...thank God. I'm thinking he'll hit 6th or 7th.

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  2. If I were a Giants fan I wouldn't be terribly disappointed. Catchers usually don't hit the big leagues until they are 25 or 26...and Posey just turned 23 years old. He is going to benefit from playing everyday in Fresno. Of all the available catchers out there, Molina was the best of the bunch. If he is in the six hole everything will work out well. What baffles me about the Giants is why they don't try to sign a legitimate hitter. Aubrey Huff is hardly an upgrade.

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