The National League West in 2009


In previous years, I’ve used the six divisional columns to predict records and make comments about the teams. This year, I’m debating the records part. There will still be a summary column… so I’m thinking of putting records over there if I do them.

For now… let’s take a look at the NL West. The listing of teams is in the order I’m predicting the division to finish…

It’s not that this division confuses me… I’ll take the AL Central for that one. The problem out here is that, unlike the inconsistencies of play from seasons to season a division like the AL Central presents, with this group you get those same inconsistencies but no real sense of unfulfilled potential from the talent. Detroit… Cleveland… Minnesota… Chicago… all of them have had their supporters in recent years… all have had a surprise run… all have been disappointing.

Not so out here in the NL West. None of these teams look amazing on paper.

Don’t believe me? Ok.

When Detroit went to the World Series a couple of years ago… did you think it was possible they could get back to the World Series again right away? Of course you did. You didn’t know if they would… but they had shown enough to think they could. And… help me out here… exactly how successful have they been since they made the World Series?

Exactly… they haven’t been successful at all. So… is that because they haven’t done anything? I don’t know… you tell me… trade for Willis and Cabrera anyone? They’ve been as splashy and as active as just about any organization in the game today.

Now… that said… when Colorado made the World Series… did you think they had a shot of going back?

Now do you see what I mean? This is a boring division filled with boring teams playing boring baseball. Or… at least… that’s the opinion.


There are Cy Young winning arms out here. Some lights out pitching spread across the teams. Four of the teams in this division have been in the World Series roughly over the past decade. (Think about that. I’m including San Diego in that count… and Los Angeles has been the playoffs too… making the NL West and the AL West the only divisions that have sent all of their teams to the playoffs in the past ten to fifteen years. And if we remove Cleveland and San Diego from a decade ago, you get the Giants, Rockies, and Diamondbacks as representatives in the World Series since 2000. Over roughly that same period of time… Kansas City has never been in the playoffs… Chicago won a title and Detroit played for one… and, eventually you reach a point where these teams have actually overachieved while the AL Central has, possibly, underachieved. Anyway…)

I still can’t picture any of these clubs figuratively kicking the dirt and cursing to the heavens about recent missed opportunities like… say… Milwaukee. And I don’t see any of the home town press wondering what’s going wrong the way they do in… say… Detroit. And we don’t even need to get into the possibilities of considering the best three clubs in one league are quite likely playing in the same division when, at most, only two of those clubs can qualify for the playoffs.

I mean… we could look at that stuff… and we could investigate other issues… but the simple idea here is everyone in this division seems to finish just about where they deserve to finish, and no one cries about what might have been.

It’s hard to explain, but this division is just so vanilla… plain… heck, it is boring. And that just shouldn’t be the case.

Arizona Diamondbacks ~ Ok… I admit it… I like the Diamondbacks.

They brought in Jon Garland to pitch behind a great opening combination of Brandon Webb and Dan Haren. I know… he’s not Randy Johnson. But is Randy Johnson still Randy Johnson these days? If Garland offers an average of what he’s hit over the past five or six years, here in Arizona that should earn him improved stats (he’s in the National League now… potentially going deeper into games and less hitting to face) and I could see 15+ wins from a guy that isn’t yet 30 years old. As a third starter… that’s very nice.

They’ve got a decent batting order… not necessarily when looking at average or power numbers… but they get on base and should wear out opposing pitching. That’s probably the magic answer to how they win while not scoring a ton of runs… get the starters off the mound and work the bullpen.

(Someone should investigate that idea. You know how when two teams lock up for say a four game series… and in the first game one of the teams is in their bullpen early… so you start wondering how they’ll last the whole four games with their bullpen blown out in game one? Well… I wonder how a teams that get into bullpens do in those final games of a series.)

Anyway… I like the Diamondbacks.

They don’t give up many runs… and their starting rotation last year averaged over six innings a game pitched with an ERA under 4. In other words… opposing teams do not blow them out, and they always seem to be really pesky, hanging around with a shot at winning. (Again… go back and note getting into bullpens.)

What they don’t have is a hitter that scares the tar out of you. This is a team that gets on base… advances runners (though not as deliberately or as exciting as the way the Angels do it)… and I suppose you could say, simply wears you out. I’d like a little more offense.

Oh yeah… they have one bullet in their gun. Miguel Montero. You’ve heard of him as that catcher Boston supposedly would accept if Texas doesn’t eventually cave and offer on of their guys, but the Red Sox won’t do it at these prices. He’s probably the one guy on the major league roster they could trade without weakening the club that would still bring back a decent player. I doubt he’ll be in Boston, but my guess is he won’t bein Arizona by August.

Los Angeles Dodgers ~ This is going to be pretty good… or pretty ugly.

Players like Derek Lowe are gone, but the rotation is actually in decent shape up front. Young… questionable… but should be fine.

Manny and Furcal are back. Both, for now, are good things for the Dodgers. Even Casey Blake is back. What’s not to love?

And honestly, there’s not much to complain about here. Letting Lowe go was a fine move. He is older and would have commanded a four-year commitment. That move made, is anyone else complaining that they didn’t bring back Nomar or Brad Penny or Chan Ho Park? See… I didn’t think so.

But Manny wasn’t leaving. So that makes the big move Furcal. I’m not sure what else they did.

In general, I’m ok with how the Dodgers look. Manny, plus Russell Martin and Blake, should provide the foundation for a good offensive National League club. A rotation with Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw is interesting… you might say overall it’s talented and young, maybe not ready for the big time… but again, it should be fine.

The thing is… I just don’t see where this team can guarantee anything. There is no starter in their rotation that will absolutely deliver 10 or more wins. And the entire team… all over the place from hitting to defense to the bullpen… has a similar question about weighing expectations against certainties.

Last year… remember how everyone was talking about that big huge difference Manny made? Well… basically that difference was that they went 30-24 in August and September. See… 30-24… that’s a 90-win pace. And I’m finding it very hard to listen to people discussing how magical and happy and legendary a 90-win pace is for a team. It’s not. It’s good enough to maybe win a playoff spot… and perhaps to win this division. But it’s not magical.

The bullpen is going to be a bit weaker this year… the starting rotation might hit some bumps in the road… and Manny will at some point hurt his right knee (or his left knee… or his right knee but he’ll sit to protect his left knee… or… there, I’ve gone and forgotten which knee he hurts… which doesn’t really matter since he never knows which one is hurt anyway when he goes to fake his limp).

I’m guessing they play closer to a 27-27 pace over time.

San Francisco Giants ~ There are a few things about this club that I like. Adding Randy Johnson to a rotation that had a great start with Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain could prove fantastic. Obviously he needs to be a healthy Randy Johnson… and he won’t be the Cy Young winning Randy Johnson… but they could be as good as anyone on the mound in October if they are all healthy.

But Edgar Renteria? I mean… even given the market that crashed after he was signed… considering how inconsistent he’s been (American League numbers or not)… this isn’t the best solution for an offensively challenged team.

Oh… I see… you think I’ve overselling it? Ok. Fine.

Who’s the starting first baseman here in San Francisco?

How about naming two starting outfielders?

If it turns out that an 84-win pace will put a team into contention going in to the final weekend… I’ll listen to all of you that want to tell me the Giants could get into the playoffs. Until then, you’ll be struggling to convince me they’ll even have a winning record.

Colorado Rockies ~ I like the game I started with San Francisco. Let’s keep playing.

Name me one… just one… Colorado outfielder.

Come on. Doesn’t even need to be a starter.

Nope… he got traded to Oakland. Try again.

Wow… couldn’t name me one Colorado outfielder. And you’re still wondering why I said this division is boring?

I can’t say I hate the Rockies. There are players like Chris Iannetta that we should be watching for the next ten years or so. Garrett Atkins is a good enough guy to have on your club. And I thought Troy Tulowitzki did ok last year considering he missed more than 60 games.

But there’s no power to the batting order… Matt Holiday led this club last year with 25 home runs. As noted above, he won’t lead them in any categories in 2009.

Pitching? Yeah… well… they’re just ok there as well. I’m afraid that while not quite rebuilding… you never need to rebuild in the NL West… the Rockies aren’t quite ready to threaten anyone with another great run or playoff appearance.

San Diego Padres ~ I don’t get it. How did this fall apart so fast?

Don’t get me wrong… I see where alot of it happened. (Some of it is just San Diego cyclical. Still…) They never were scoring runs. And even when successful… and even though talented… their pitching staff was never the perfect balance of starters and relievers delivering stellar results all of the time. So I get that part of the dilemma.

But this Jake Peavey stuff… wow. That certainly seemed like a gorilla in the spring training locker room, and now continues to be one that evidently will be making the summer tour with them.

And how about Brian Giles? After turning down a trade to Boston last season… with the team apparently falling apart and his off-field problems mounting… he seems to think the Red Sox would offer a nice place for him. What? Do any of you see an opening for a 38-year old outfielder in Boston? (Last year he didn’t want to be on the bench. Is Giles willing to be a 25-year old catcher in Boston? If he is, they’d probably talk trade again.)

Anyway… general idea here is that I see alot of stuff swirling around that suggests this roster might not be as cohesive and united as you might hope to find. And instead of talking about the possibilities in a division that annually makes itself quite winnable for any club that delivers even the most marginally average of results… we are hearing about the trade that didn’t happen and the option that probably shouldn’t have been picked up.


They brought in players like Cliff Floyd and David Eckstein… which would make some sense to me if they had a chance at winning.

There is a chance that this club can surprise me. Peavy and Chris Young? I’ve got no complaints with that if they are taking the mound 65 times or so combined. The trouble is that they need an awful lot to go right in order to win more than they lose. And I just don’t see how all of that happens.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at