Friday, March 13, 2009

Preview/Prediction: N.L. West

The N.L. West last year started as a blowout, as Arizona, with the help of two of the best starting pitchers in the National League, came out of Spring Training hotter than Biba Golic.

As Brandon Webb and Dan Haren faded into mediocrity, so did the D'Backs. Nobody emerged as a good team in the division until the trade deadline, when the Dodgers made the deal of the year, acquiring Manny Ramirez in a three-team trade.

The Dodgers went on to win the division, beating the Cubs in the first round of the playoffs, losing to some crappy team in the NLCS.

I goose-egged the West last year, putting the D'Backs in first (2), Padres in second (5, I always overestimate their ability), Dodgers in third, Rockies in fourth (3), and Giants in last (4).

Let's see if I can do slightly better this year.

1) Los Angeles Dodgers (86-76)

This was a tougher decision than you might imagine. Nobody in the West has offense. Several teams in the West have pitching, but the same was the case last year.

The Dodgers are without Derek Lowe, and for better or worse, without Brad Penny, Greg Maddux, Nomar Garciaparra, and Jeff Kent. The team will look a lot different this season, but I still think the Dodgers have enough pitching to get into the playoffs.

Chad Billingsley is young and underrated. He won't fly under anyone's radar this season as the top gun in the rotation. Anything the Dodgers get out of Jason Schmidt is a nice surprise, but as it should be, they aren't expecting anything.

The offense shouldn't be a problem, considering the perfect mix of youth (James Loney, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier), and veterans (Manny, Rafael Furcal, Russell Martin).

The acquisition of Orlando Hudson will give them solid defense up the middle and plenty of depth, considering Blake DeWitt will start the season coming off the bench.

Juan Pierre, Mart Loretta, and Brad Ausmus on the bench gives L.A. proven starters to fall back on in case of injury.

The biggest question mark is the bullpen, which suffered a hit when Takashi Saito signed with Boston, and an even bigger hit when the Dodgers, for some reason, signed Guillermo Mota.

2) Arizona Diamondbacks (82-80)

If Webb and Haren win all of their starts, the D'Backs might be able to make some noise. Two great starting pitchers works well for you when you've got a good enough offense, and maybe a couple of mediocre-to-decent pitchers to back them up.

Arizona only has two great starting pitchers. No good enough offense, no mediocre-to-decent pitchers to back them up.

The D'Backs' season relies completely on these two. The young offense still won't be able to gel, because there are no veterans to lean on when things get murky. This year's Diamondbacks team will be like the Marlins of the past few years. The energy of the young players will make noise and scare some teams for about 120 or 130 games, but not for a full season.

3) San Francisco Giants (77-85)

If any team in the division is a sleeper, it's the Giants. They may have the best set of five pitchers in the West, but that's only if Barry Zito decides to win a couple games this time around.

Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, and Randy Johnson provide a solid punch day-in and day-out. The Big Unit will be primed for this season because he's five wins away from 300. He won't throw in the towel after he gets it as long as the team is competitive.

The Giants still lack the big bat in the middle of their lineup necessary to rip opponents apart, so the bullpen will be crucial to the Giants' success.

San Fran picked up Jeremy Affeldt and Bob Howry in free agency, with Brian Wilson set to close out games...for now. Affeldt and Howry have both been closers before.

If starters go deep and the offense provides a little extra now and again, the Giants will be alright.

4) San Diego Padres (68-94)

Now that I'm picking them to finish fourth, they'll finally have a good year. It couldn't come too soon for the Padres, either.

Jake Peavy, somehow, is still in SoCal, as is Chris Young. Trevor Hoffman isn't.

Adrian Gonzalez anchors the offense, but doesn't have much around him, like usual. Brian Giles is a year older, and Cliff Floyd, if healthy, will be available to pinch hit in late innings for the Fathers.

Mark Prior has a chance to win a spot in the rotation, but the odds of him not being injured are probably about even with the chances of the Padres winning the World Series (somewhere around 100/1).

5) Colorado Rockies (60-102)

I'd love to feel bad for the Rockies, but I just don't. After trading Matt Holliday to Oakland, they're left with next to nothing.

Aaron Cook may have a decent year like he did last year (16 wins), and Garrett Atkins will look to have a .300, 30 home run, 120 RBI year, but that's a lot to ask of him without Holliday in the lineup.

Brad Hawpe, Todd Helton, Troy Tulowitzki, and Atkins will all be severely affected by Holliday's absence.

Brian Fuentes left in free agency, leaving a hole in the Rockies' bullpen as well. It will be interesting to see how Huston Street and Jason Marquis react to the climate change.


Eric said...

before i read this, get on aim.

Eric said...

Other than flipping Colorado and S.D., I pretty much agree with your standings.

Look for Ethier and/or Kemp to have a break out year this season.

Travis Miller said...

San Diego is impossible to predict. Same with the Giants. We know the Rockies are going to be bad, but SD and SF can really go either way.

Eric said...

I know a die hard SD fan and he'll be the first to tell you they will finish in last. But, we'll see.

Watch out for Eric Milton this year, Comeback Player of the Year!

You up for another fantasy league? Probably going to do it on Yahoo with less than 14 teams!

Travis Miller said...

I really don't know if I can handle two leagues this year...but I might be down. I'm not sure yet.

Eric Milton as Comeback Player of the Year?

Fine, Barry Bonds for MVP.

Eric said...

I won both leagues I played last year.

Ouch, just ouch. You'll see though. Unless we get Pedro, then I don't see Milton doing much with LA

Eric said...

whats your email address? seems like you're never on aim anymore

Travis Miller said...

Yeah, the router in my house is pretty far away from my PC so it disconnects a lot so it's not worth going on AIM most times.