The National League West in 2011


I want to come up with something funny to say about the West. Maybe something insightful and thrilling that will shock you… not a chance you’ve heard it.

I’ve got nothing.

Giants win.

Rockies threaten.

Everyone else struggles and looks horrible, or seems to be solidly rebuilding.


San Francisco Giants
What I expect in 2011: 90-72, playoffs

What they did in 2010: 92-70

Key personnel changes: Hmm… Miguel Tejada. (Pause… pause… just a minute… hold on… pause… one more second.) Yeah… sure… ok… as opposed to Edgar Rent-a-wreck? Fine.

Nothing too amazing here. Defending champions… not exactly loaded with spending money… brought in lots of guys on minor league deals, and yet nothing worth examining too closely.

My expectations: Honestly… I think the Giants could be headed back to the World Series.

In addition to Lincecum and Cain they bring three lefties to the mound. Yeah… I know… one of those lefties is named Barry Zito. It’s still the best rotation in the West, and certainly the second best rotation in the National League as the season begins.

And… don’t laugh… but the play of Buster Posey suggests this lineup won’t be easy to get around. Huff is true professional that should do fine once again for San Francisco, and I think the Panda will be ok as well. The trick is, the top of the order is decent and will score some runs against average pitching.

And that mix of a deep rotation and better than average offense means this… in a league that does feature some good pitchers, Lincecum and Cain are still capable of winning on any night. But now it also means that when the stars align and the three-four-five guys are going for both teams, the Giants are still likely to have the better pitcher on the mound… and a lineup capable of scoring when the opposition isn’t at its best.

Win when you’re supposed to win and let the rest take care of itself.

Where it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): Well… first off if Colorado gets their act together, that roster is more talented. (I have not been drinking.)

Let’s not kid ourselves… this is a team that San Diego brought to the final weekend of the season in the playoff race.

The Padres.

And no one else cleared 83 wins.

That means alot of divisional wins are there for the Giants. (In 2010, the Giants played their best against the NL Central. Won 2 out of every 3 there. Only 4-games over .500 against their division. And yet… for reasons I just don’t have the energy to look at… only Minnesota and Cincinnati, and sort of Philadelphia, did really well in their own divisions. So…)

If the Giants don’t take advantage of a what I expect to be a less impressive Padres team, a still weak Diamondbacks team, and figure out how to get those wins that a more balanced NL Central may not again give up so easily, they could run into some troubles.

And let’s be realistic… that pitching has to overcome what appears to be a dreadful defense. (Welcome to San Francisco… the only club in baseball willing to put Tejada back at short.)

Colorado Rockies
What I expect in 2011: 87-75

What they did in 2010: 83-79

Key personnel changes: Biggest news was extensions… Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. No major additions… no big losses.

(A few people are going to want to note Ty Wigginton. Got it. He’s a scrappy player, and I like him just fine. But let’s be realistic… ok? The club also had an off-season that involved Matt Lindstrom and John Maine. There are other areas to be interested about.)

My expectations: Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki give this club a nice start on the field. Add in Ubaldo Jimenez at the front of the pitching staff and you have a solid foundation for this team.

I like them to improve and be in contention when August becomes a memory and the postseason race really takes off.

Still… I just cannot bet against the starting rotation in San Francisco. And, despite the players Colorado has… there isn’t a ton of depth. If everyone doesn’t produce, from the beginning of the season to the end, they’ll arrive in September too far behind to be a serious threat.

Where it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): Well… I’m not sure they can add much if they need to. I may be wrong… but I don’t see alot of payroll flexibility or prospects they would be willing to trade. In July if they are lockstep for a division title or wild card spot, the roster that completed the first four months will be virtually identical to the one they plan to use in the final two of the competition.

The club was awful on the road last year… both in record and performance. More than 60% of their runs were scored at home last year. Easily… comfortably… more than 60% of their runs.

The Rockies are a funny club. Not too far out of the World Series appearance… good enough to get you to appreciate their talent… and possessing a roster that doesn’t need home field and 14 runs to win a game. But they’re still tinkering. Maybe they’ve found the right mix for 2011. I still think we’re a year or two away with them.

Los Angeles Dodgers
What I expect in 2011: 78-84

What they did in 2010: 80-82

Key personnel changes: The Dodgers used the off-season to raise tons of questions. See… I can’t tell you that Russell Martin or George Sherrill leaving makes much of a difference.

I can tell you that tons of one-year contracts and the departures and the potential of cash problems means 2011 isn’t looking much better than 2010 so far.

The lack of changes… or, more specifically, the changes that have been made, how they’ve been made, and the lack of a big change… flies directly against the stream of public relations that has been saying they have the money to make a big move if the club is contending.

Why? Well… mainly because they will not be contending. So it’s all just talk. But more to the point, everything seems to be set up to drop the payroll as low as it can be dropped.

My expectations: I’ve got nothing. Zero expectations.

Where it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): Can it all be pitching? I mean… Clayton Kershaw and some other guys?

Because that’s the problem here.

I’m not saying Manny Ramirez was a good signing (he wasn’t… though the playoff result might defend the trade). What I am saying is that the foundation that was supposed to hold the Dodgers together seems about as solid as the marriage that owns the club. And if we use Ramirez as an example, and the trade for him as an example, we find a club that is consistently turning itself over… changing their approach… signing a player, calling him a big part of the future success, only to a few months later claim (and attempt to defend) he’s a good role player and actually that’s what they wanted when shelling out the money… and starting again without using the rebuilding words in the description of what is going on.

Or… am I dreaming? Did Jason Schmidt never happen? Did everyone else forget Juan Pierre and Casey Blake and Rafael Furcal and Russell Martin… and… and… and, yeah, I don’t think I owe the Dodgers an apology here. The divorce efforts are better organized and more consistent than this baseball team.

Matt Kemp and Andre Either are nice… but turmoil and hidden messages? While proofreading this column I saw questions beginning to surface about Either. Seems whether or not he will be there long term is in doubt. Too long a story… and not really so amazing that it is worthy of reliving here… but the idea remains that the Dodgers are a team in disarray. I don’t know what you are going to get… but whatever is on the field can’t expect much support from management.

Arizona Diamondbacks
What I expect in 2011: 75-87

What they did in 2010: 65-97

Key personnel changes: Let’s see… Adam LaRoche. Anyone up for more on that change? Because he’s gone. Not playing for Arizona in 2011.

Melvin Mora? Xavier Nady? They’ve arrived in town.

No? Nothing of interest there?

Well… you’re right. Minor tinkering, alot of action, and in the end it’s mostly smoke and mirrors.

Oh, hey… Kris Benson retired. I guess his wife, Anna, won’t have to pay off on that Cy Young promise. (You can go ahead and look that one up on your own. This is a family web site. (Kind of.))

My expectations: Way… way… way too high for victories. I should have them around 70. Tops. I should have them around 65. That would be better. Maybe I’m just a believer that Kirk Gibson will kick some butts, hold players responsible, and win a few they don’t really deserve.

Facts are facts though. They are in rebuild mode right now, and almost definitely will be listening to offers on any player during the year.

Where it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): Once a pitching haven… or at least bursting with Webb and Haren possibilities… the Diamondbacks now can’t get out of their own way.

Ian Kennedy is probably the best pitcher in their rotation.

(I will repeat that.)

Ian Kennedy is probably the best pitcher in their rotation.

(Really… I have them too high.)

San Diego Padres
What I expect in 2011: 72-90

What they did in 2010: 90-72

Key personnel changes: Lost Adrian Gonzalez. The club is playing in a division that turns itself over quite often, and they may be on the road to a solid future. But in the NL West, after a very surprising 2010, all that matters is their best player changed leagues and coasts.

My expectations: Mat Latos is a name to become familiar with. Very familiar. Because the play last year in San Diego cannot be attributed to one player and this guys could be really, really good.

Sure… they are not a 90-win team… they are not a playoff team. But they did win 90 games. And as the final weekend of the 2010 season played out, they could have won the division or even the wild card.

There are no runs to be scored in San Diego this year though. And that is going to cause all kinds of problems.

Where it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): I do believe that in two or three years, the Padres could surge as they did in 2010 and win this division. I even more strongly believe that in four or five years they could be a consistent threat to field a winning team and make the playoffs every year.

2010 was amazing. It wasn’t reality though.

The ballpark hides all sorts of faults with the pitching staff, and they could have a ton of problems playing on the road this season. Gonzalez isn’t the only player that’s not returning for 2011, and much of their talented youth won’t be at more than a AAA level this season.

I do believe they’ll clear 70 victories. I probably believe now that they’ll finish fourth (and maybe even be able to pass the Dodgers for third). I don’t think you can expect more than that.

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