Blog Entry

NL West Preview

Posted on: February 10, 2010 11:29 am
Edited on: February 10, 2010 11:32 am
 

The football season has been over for two days now, the Super Bowl has been rehashed and discussed to the point of nausea. Meanwhile, the baseball teams are checking the oil and tire pressure on the team buses and getting set to head out to Florida and Arizona.  That's right, pitchers and catchers report one week from today.  So how will this year play out?  Will it be the usual suspects contending for the World Series?  Probably.  But recently there have been a few dark horses that have found themselves in the mix.  Who will be this years Rays or Rockies, which team with a sub $100 million dollar payroll will find themselves toe to toe with the big boys? 

Below are snapshots of the 2010 versions of the five NL West teams, the much underrated division that has produced the NL wild card 3 of the past 4 years.  And looking at the make ups of these teams it looks like it will be another close division race and not surprising if the wild card team was again one of the five.

So here is the tylenol for your football hangover, the NL West preview.

Dodgers

The Dodgers lost a few key players this off season including 2B Orlando Hudson, OF Juan Pierre, and LHP Randy Wolf, while remaining relatively inactive in acquiring new players.  This could be in part that a number of their younger players were arbitration eligible and received huge pay raises.  While losing Juan Pierre shouldn’t be too much of an issue for the Dodgers crowded outfield the loss of Hudson and Wolf leaves them thin at 2B and in their starting rotation.

The infield of the Dodgers features James Loney, Blake DeWitt, Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, and Russell Martin at catcher.  In 2009 Loney had the highest average of the five with .281; Casey Blake had the most home runs with 18.  They should see improved production from Blake DeWitt, who will put up decent power numbers but not a great batting average, and both Rafael Furcal and Russell Martin will probably increase their batting averages around 10-20 points.

The outfield is made up of Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier, three players who could all realistically hit 30 plus home runs.  Matt Kemp is an emerging star who hits for average, has 30 home run 30 stolen base potential, and is solid defensively.  Andre Ethier put up a respectable .272 batting average and equally respectable 31 home runs last year, and while he might not be the natural talent that Kemp is he is a very solid player and will probably improve his average slightly while retaining the same power numbers. 

Manny Ramirez was one of the leagues most feared hitters as recently as last April, but after serving a 50 game suspension for a banned substance he struggled to find his old form.  He began the season strong, hitting .372 in April, but in the following months he saw his average drop considerably, hitting only .255 with 10 home runs after the All Star break.  It remains to be seen if Manny will return to his old form or if last season was the beginning of the end. 

The starting rotation will consist of Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, and Hiroki Kuroda.  All three had decent ERAs but none had more than 12 wins last season.  Chad Billingsley will probably improve his numbers some this season, most likely reaching 15 wins and lowering his ERA slightly. 

Relievers George Sherrill, Ronald Belisario, Jonathan Broxton, Ramon Troncoso all played a part in the Dodgers having one of the strongest bullpens in the league last season.  They will be hurt, however, by the loss of Guillermo Mota who pitched the fourth most innings in relief for the Dodgers in 2009 and posted a 3.44 ERA.

Rockies

The under the radar Rockies have been the NL Wild Card team two of the past three years and will look to finally grab the division title in 2010.  The team lost 3B Garret Atkins and starter Jason Marquis while remaining relatively quite on both the trade and free agent fronts.

The infield is made up of Todd Helton, Clint Barmes, Troy Tulowitzki, Ian Stewart, and Chris Iannetta. at catcher.  Todd Helton remains one of the most reliable hitters in the game and

Tulowitzki is proving himself as an elite SS.  In 2009 he hit for a .297 average and 32 home runs, the most of any SS in baseball.  On top of his offensive prowess he also remains one of the better defense players at his position. Stewart, a high end prospect, should have a better batting average this season with similar power numbers.  Chris Iannetta has the potential to be a strong offensive catcher but hit only .228 last season.

Brad Hawpe, Carlos Gonzales, and Dexter Fowler will be chasing the balls in the rarified air of the Rockies outfield.  In 2009 Hawpe hit .285 with 23 home runs, Fowler hit .266 with 27 stolen bases, and highly touted prospect Carlos Gonzales appeared to be finding his pro form, hitting .284 with 13 home runs and 16 stolen bases in 278 at bats. The Rockies also have Seth Smith to fill the outfield, who is capable of posting respectable numbers.  Look for similar production from the Rockies outfield, with possibly some increased production from “CarGo.”

The Rockies starting rotation is probably the most consistent 1-5 in the division and will have most of the same faces returning with Ubaldo Jimenez, Aaron Cook, Jorge De La Rosa, Jeff Francis, and Jason Hammel.  The team will miss 15 game winner Jason Marquis, who followed the money to Washington, but it does have Jeff Francis returning from injury.  While the staff may not have any household names they do get the job done, with De La Rosa, Jimenez, Cook, and Hammel all posting sub 4.50 ERAs in 2009, and De La Rosa and Jimenez both winning 15 games.

The Rockies bullpen saw almost no movement this off season, which is an area they could have improved on as they finished the 2009 season with the fourth worst ERA of all NL teams.  They will again rely on closer Huston Street to come up big in the final inning while Manny Corpas, Rafael Betancourt, Matt Daley, and Franklin Morales will be used in middle relief.

Giants

The Giants are probably built more on pitching than any other team in the division.  In 2009 they had the second best ERA among relievers in the NL and tied for the second best ERA among starters.  Conversely on the offensive side they were fourth worst runs scored.  They did see some movement to try and bolster their offense with the signing of INF/OF Mark DeRosa and 1B Aubrey Huff.

The Infield sees the return of Pablo Sandoval, who had a great 2009 season, batting .330 with 25 HR.  Joining Sandoval will be SS Edgar Renteria, newly acquired Aubrey Huff at 1B, 2B Freddy Sanchez, who was acquired at last seasons trade deadline, and C Bengie Molina.  Huff and Renteria will look to bounce back this season and could potentially improve their averages between 20-30 points.  

The outfield will also look to improve offensively, with Mark DeRosa, Aaron Rowand, and Nate Schierholtz all producing very mediocre numbers in 2009.  DeRosa does give them versatility however, as he is capable of playing 1B, 2B, and 3B in addition to the OF. 

Regardless of any improvements seen offensively the Giants will be heavily leaning on their pitching staff, which includes Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito, and Jonathan Sanchez.  Lincecum and Cain were fantastic last season, posting a 2.48 and 2.89 ERA respectively.  Zito and Sanchez also contributed with sub 4.30 ERAs.

The dominant bullpen of the Giants suffered some losses with the departures of Justin Miller and Bob Howry.  Howry pitched the third most innings by a Giants reliever in 2009 and had a 3.39 ERA.  The bullpen retained notable pitchers Jeremy Affeldt, Brandon Medders and closer Brian Wilson.

Padres

Somewhat expectedly the Padres had a very quiet off season.  They traded Kevin Kouzmanoff and signed Jerry Hairston Jr, but other than that no notable moves.  The Padres are a team of players little known outside the San Diego area. 

The infield will be made of 1B Adrian Gonzalez, 2B David Eckstein, SS Everth Cabrera, 3B Chase Headley, and C Nick Hundley.  Adrian Gonzalez led the team in every major offensive category last year, including batting average with .277. No other infielder hit over .270 or more than 12 HR.  Although no one outside of Gonzalez has any power potential, Cabrera will look to have between 30-40 stolen bases.

The outfield has Kyle Blanks, Tony Gwynn Jr, and Will Venable.  None of the young players played a full season last year.  There is little power to speak of, but Kyle Blanks has the potential to hit 20 homers.

Chris Young, Kevin Correia, Mat Latos will make up the front end of the rotation. Latos could eventually be top starter but none figure to have any significant impact in 2010.

The Padres bullpen is most likely the strength of the team.  Closer Heath Bell had 42 saves in 2009 and Mike Adams, Luke Gregerson, Edward Mujica, and Joe Thatcher all had very respectable ERAs. The bullpen, which ranked sixth in the NL for ERA last season, is returning for the 2010 almost completely in tact.

Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks were probably the busiest team in the NL West, and with good cause, they finished dead last in the division last year.  They made the biggest splash being part of a three team trade during the winter meetings and later signed a few notable free agents, resulting in one time fan favorite Eric Byrnes being designated for assignment. 

The Diamondbacks infield will welcome new acquisitions 1B Adam LaRoche and 2B Kelly Johnson as they join 3B Mark Reynolds, SS Stephen Drew, and C Miguel Montero.  This is a much improved infield from last season, both offensively and defensively, as LaRoche provides a solid glove and consistent bat at a position that has been a long time liability for the team.  Kelly Johnson is coming off a forgettable season in 2009 and the Diamondbacks will look for him to return to his 2008 form.

The outfield will remain somewhat similar to 2009, with Chris Young and Justin Upton returning to their spots.  Conor Jackson, who missed most of the 2009 season with illness, will return to LF where he played much of the time in 2008.  Jackson is a consistent .280 hitter when healthy and the team will need his reliable bat if they are to compete for the NL West title.  Filling in when the need arises will be Gerardo Parra, who is coming off a very nice rookie season where he hit .290.  If Chris Young continues to struggle like he has the past two seasons look for Parra to get a large chunk of the playing time. 

Their pitching staff will look considerably different after losing middle of the rotation man Doug Davis to free agency and trading former first round draft pick Max Scherzer.  Meanwhile, they acquired Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy to fill in the rotation and will have Brandon Webb back from a season long injury.  If Brandon Webb can pitch like he has for most of his career the Diamondbacks will have one of the strongest front ends of the rotation of any team with the one two battery of Dan Haren and Webb. 

The Diamondbacks bullpen is an area of concern for the team and one that cost them many games in 2009.  The bullpen’s collective ERA last season was 4.61, third worst in the National League behind only the Pirates and Nationals.  It may not be a coincidence that those teams, along with the Diamondbacks, made up the three last place teams in the three NL divisions.  The bullpen did add Bob Howry and Aaron Heilman to try and cure some of its woes, but if they get the same inconsistent performances from the rest of the pen as they did last year it will be of little help.

Comments

Since: Nov 4, 2006
Posted on: February 25, 2010 2:09 pm
 

NL West Preview

just saw this. nice work here oldstyle.



Since: Apr 11, 2007
Posted on: February 15, 2010 10:33 am
 

NL West Preview

Here are the winning percentages of each division last season.  So it's the division's total wins/total games played.

AL West .531
AL East .519
NL WEST .518
NL East .487
AL Central .482
AL Central .470

So the mediocre NL West is barely behind the juggernaut AL East in terms of division winning percentage.  Not so mediocre, especially when you factor in that the AL East total payroll was $531 million compared to the NL West $364 million.


Big Brad
Since: Jul 3, 2009
Posted on: February 14, 2010 7:53 pm
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator




Since: Dec 13, 2006
Posted on: February 14, 2010 1:00 pm
 

NL West Preview

Let's keep in mind, that the Dodgers won 95 games last year and were nearly 30 games over .500 (best record in the NL).


I like your theory Big Brad, but your math is off.... the Dodgers were only 14 games over .500. 81-81 is a .500 record. To be 30 games over .500, they would need to win 111 games.


Big Brad
Since: Jul 3, 2009
Posted on: February 14, 2010 5:10 am
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator




Since: Aug 18, 2006
Posted on: February 12, 2010 8:22 pm
 

NL West Preview

Everything sounded reasonablel as if they had a decent maybe fun to watch group of guys until you mentioned Correia, if a team wanting to finish above 4th place ran him out there as the 2nd, 3rd or 4th starte they better not make the playoffs and save the embarrasment.



Since: Apr 11, 2007
Posted on: February 12, 2010 12:02 pm
 

NL West Preview

The comment by Dirksong, I feel, reflects the attitudes of many baseball fans outside of the NL West market.  That the division is mediocre at best.  Easy to feel that way, there aren't a lot of big names in the division.  At least not yet.  Guys like Matt Kemp and Pablo Sandoval and Troy Tulowitzki will be household names within a couple years.  It takes a little longer for players out here to develop a reputation because the largest baseball markets are all back east, so that's where most of the national media attention is focused. 

But in reality collectively the division probably had the best cumulative record of any NL divsion last season and probably better than two out of the three AL divisions.  I don't have the records off hand, maybe I'll look it up later.

Keep in mind that not only did the NL West produced the wild card team but the Giants were also the second place wild card team.   



Since: Nov 29, 2009
Posted on: February 12, 2010 11:35 am
 

NL West Preview

I have to believe that the Rockies are the favorite to win this division.  They have great hitters and I believe the pitching is going to be just good enough to allow them to win alot of ball games this year.  San Francisco is super stacked at pitching, but where are they going to score runs at?  The Dodgers are going to have a monster lineup, but who is going to shut other teams hitters down for this team?



Since: Mar 9, 2007
Posted on: February 12, 2010 10:16 am
 

NL West Preview

Really the NL West turns out to be the weakest, yet internally most competitive division in the NL. I am excited for pitchers and catchers already.If this division is the weakest then why does it consistently produce 2 playoff teams year in and year out?? Yeah, start scratching your head



Since: Jan 26, 2010
Posted on: February 12, 2010 10:01 am
 

NL West Preview

In response to the thoughts on the Padres chances to make the playoffs...or get close...I strongly disagree. Before looking at the team itself, spend some time on the division...one that celebrates mediocrity. There is no chance that any of these teams contends for the wild card because a record of 10 games over .500 will win the division. This will not lead to a wild card berth because there are too many other good teams in the NL that will be competing for the spot. If by compete, you mean one of the teams mentioned in the hunt for the wild card...then it is a possibility, but this division will struggle to produce a wild card team.

The future of the Padres does look somewhat bright...but only if they can hold onto Gonzalez. As of right now, until Blanks gets regular playing time, he is the only strong offensive threat. What the Padres need is for Blanks to lose about 40 pounds and become an outfielder. His body makes his transition to the outfield very difficult as he tries to chase down fly balls while he has been used to playing first base. Eventually the team will have to decide to trade one of them...Gonzo or Blanks...for the team to have success if he cannot adapt to the outfield.

The more interesting battle in this division is between the great pitching staffs. Which places the Padres in last place. Every other team in the division has three quality pitchers headlining its rotation.  The strongest could be the Diamondbacks if Webb returns to form, followed by the Giants (regardless of the number three), then it's a tie between the Dodgers and Rockies...can Francis return to form and will Billingsly rebound. It is because of strong pitching that this division is always so close...every teams rotation has the ability to stop the others offfense.

Really the NL West turns out to be the weakest, yet internally most competitive division in the NL. I am excited for pitchers and catchers already.


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