The National League West in 2013


San Francisco Giants

My prediction: 90-72

2012 finish: 94-68, World Series Champion

Worthy of note: Two Cy Young awards… two World Series titles… and Tim Lincecum is virtually an afterthought for the Giants.

2013 changes: Not much… which is fine. Biggest change might be last year’s acquisition of Marco Scutaro. In 2013, they get to have him for the full season.

With the sun shining and calm seas: The Giants are once again a title contender.

Trouble in paradise: They can still struggle on offense. Don’t get me wrong… things actually look a bit better. Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval are around, and Buster Posey showed in 2012 that he is back to form. So this isn’t the club that was pitching-or-bust in 2010. They do have some pop.

And it’s hard to argue the results of their design… maybe it was different rosters, it’s still two of the last three titles.

But they’ve been winning (and winning) because the pitching is so amazingly good. People that claim it isn’t the same -- and during the regular season, it hasn’t been (see also: Tim Lincecum, 2012) -- aren’t applying what Zito and Lincecum did in the 2013 playoffs. And with clubs like the Nationals gaining experience and growing up while possessing what appears to be significantly more depth and balance, the Giants may need more than stellar pitching to win it all in 2013.

2013 expectations: The difference between very good and great could come down to Tim Lincecum. And that’s saying something.

Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner… and Ryan Vogelsong… are at the front of the rotation. Barry Zito continues to hang around. (Oh come on… Zito has been inconsistent, and sure, not good. Still, he had moments in 2012 that showed he isn’t completely lost. Too expensive… has not lived up to the contract… but as a fifth starter, it’s not bad.) They have scary pitching talent all over. So if Lincecum is just good… wow.

They have a good defensive lineup. So they don’t need to score a tone of runs.

The trick is… on-base numbers need to stay up, since they are not a huge threat for displays of power.

All of that said… watch the starting rotation. Once again, the Giants go as far as their starters can take them.

Los Angeles Dodgers

My prediction: 89-73

2012 finish: 86-76

Worthy of note: Could be me. Maybe I’m just hesitant having watched the Red Sox crash and burn in 2011, and then follow it up with a simply horrendous 2012.

I am hesitant about anointing the Blue Jays this year as well… since they have several of the players that were part of Florida’s roster last season.

Still… Hanley Ramirez is injured. Zack Greinke had some elbow issues during spring training. So maybe it’s me… but I see what could potentially be a fragile team that does not handle things well if the boat starts rocking in rough waters.

2013 changes: Wow… between the trades during the 2012 season, and then signings like Greinke… this club has completely remodeled itself.

I have zero clue what kind of stability or depth they have in the minors… this club has done everything they can to put an all-star at every position with the parent club. (Have they got an all-star everyplace? No. They’ve added one great player… Adrian Gonzalez… and lots of aging veterans that could flip to either side of the coin -- one-last-grasp-of-brilliance or complete-has-been. (Seriously… Ramirez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford. It sounds impressive. It might very well be impressive. (Provided they are off the golf course and disabled list, and on the field.) Then you remember what made all of them available to the Dodgers.))

With the sun shining and calm seas: World Series.

Don’t for a second forget some of the other names here. Clayton Kershaw is one of the best pitchers in the game. They still have Andre Either and Matt Kemp… despite years of rumors about those two changing uniforms.

Yeah… without any tinkering, this club could win it all.

Trouble in paradise: Time will tell… the organization certainly has amazing resources right now, and likely will have the highest payroll in baseball for 2013 and beyond. But…

First, I believe that people that don’t get it, don’t get that they don’t get it.

In other words, there’s a very good reason why Beckett would order take-out for the Red Sox clubhouse, and then while trying to recover from the firestorm that followed that story and a historic collapse, would go play a round or two of golf after being scratched from a start. It’s nice that the attitude in LA-LA land has supposedly improved things so much for some of these guys. I would 100% agree with ex-Boston players that the media attention in Boston can be a negative to a degree that cannot be measured. And yet, the media isn’t pulling a five-iron out of their bag on a day when they were getting rested for early-season health concerns.

And second, these are big splashes and spending for the major league roster. It takes time and wise decisions to create a strong farm system.

Now combine those thoughts.

Results. None of it guarantees results. None of it guarantees quality. You can buy a Bugatti Veyron… it doesn’t mean you know how to drive it… it doesn’t mean you have it in the right place to get it to its top speed.

Beckett has an amazing record as a postseason pitcher… he’s never been a regular season ace (although he has been mistaken for one). And is Hanley Ramirez still a shortstop? We’re supposed to find out.

And if the stars don’t align… well… there aren’t lots of options in place yet to draw upon in roster depth or the minors.

2013 expectations: I have to admit, I do think players like Carl Crawford could turn into impressive acquisitions. I think players like Gonzalez and Ramirez might be motivated to prove some things. There are some amazing pieces in place… and with Kershaw leading the staff, those pieces could pay off very quickly.

I think this club could make the playoffs… heck, I’ve got them in the playoffs. But once they get there, I’ll need to see their “superstars” actually be superstars before I’ll believe they can take a postseason set from Washington, Atlanta, Cincinnati or San Francisco. (And by set… I don’t mean one game. Clayton Kershaw can win a wild card play-in game on his own.)

Don’t be lulled to sleep by the Dodgers. The roster is loaded with talent. The organization has the resources to make moves. This is simply the classic debate between the differences of on paper and actually playing the games.

Arizona Diamondbacks

My prediction: 81-81

2012 finish: 81-81

Worthy of note: Until Adam Eaton gets back on the field, I think predicting things for Arizona is tough. Count them out… they win the division. Expect big things… they’re fighting to get out of the basement of the NL West.

2013 changes: Heath Bell.

That’s the thing that has me confused.

Trading away Justin Upton? Well... you know… I like Upton. If Atlanta figures out how to get past Washington in the next year or two (or three or more), chances are really good Justin Upton will be the league MVP when it happens. But having watched the trade market swirl around Upton’s name for several seasons, I actually believe this is a case where he was worth more to the Diamondbacks in what he could return than he was worth wearing their uniform.

The question becomes whether or not Kevin Towers, in all his moves, actually ever did get more in return. Which sends me right back to where I started this section.

Heath Bell.

And it’s more like this… Heath Bell?

No… Bell wasn’t part of the Upton package. I know that. I just mean I’m not sure I understand some of the moves made by the club, and they made several in the offseason. If Heath Bell is an answer in one of them, then I think there may be reasons to think they didn’t get enough for Upton.

With the sun shining and calm seas: Well… I suppose second in the division. The problem is… ok… next section…

Trouble in paradise: I can see this club getting to the mid-80s. I wouldn’t call you crazy for even saying 87 or 88.

And I can see a team (the Dodgers) not working as a group and sliding down the standings.

Unfortunately, there is nothing that the Diamondbacks do that I don’t see several other teams doing better.

You like how Ian Kennedy has done in Arizona and what Wade Miley did last year? Great. The Nationals brought in Dan Haren to be their fifth starter. (Their fifth starter.)

Excited about Martin Prado and Adam Eaton? Sure. But… Eaton’s on the DL right now. And the Reds have Joey Votto and Jay Bruce.

So things are just wonderful… a step or two behind everyone else.

Now go read about Cain and Bumgarner… and consider Kemp and Ethier and Gonzalez and Kershaw… and explain to me how the Diamondbacks manage to get into the postseason race based on their divisional opponents.

2013 expectations: Good pitching from the starters… potentially great pitching from the relievers… likely good defense and decent offense.

Nice balance.

The thing is… I picked on them by comparing them to Washington and Cincinnati a moment ago. And then I asked to just consider their division.

Does their pitching rotation match up to San Francisco’s? I say no… and that’s a no with Tim Lincecum not even considered.

Does their regular lineup compete with what Los Angeles has assembled? That’s to be determined, but odds are good that the Dodgers will get seasons from three or four players that no Arizona regular will match.

Good club. Not a very good club. (Yet.)

San Diego Padres

My prediction: 75-87

2012 finish: 76-86

Worthy of note: The Padres played better ball… over .500 ball… to finish the year after a simply brutal start in 2012.

2013 changes: Am I missing something?

I mean… you may be surprised to see that Jason Marquis and Edison Volquez are here in San Diego. But Marquis was released by Minnesota and joined San Diego last year in May. And the reason the Reds have Mat Latos is because of a December 2011 trade that sent Volquez (and, by the way, also Yonder Alonzo) to the Padres.

There isn’t much that changed between seasons. Most of the moves had already been made… you just might not have noticed.

With the sun shining and calm seas: Chase Headley looks like a great player. And I happen to think Alonzo has been good, and could be great. (He’s about to turn 26 in April.)

This is not a bad team. It’s just not yet a good team either. (The thing is… there are some interesting young players here. Catcher Yasmani Grandel is 24. Last year in 60 games he hit .297 with 8 homers and 36 RBIs. Yeah… yeah… those are the classic three numbers that need a bit more. His on-base percentage was .397, and over 162 games his numbers projected out to 22 home runs and 97 RBIs. I told he’s 24, right? So the Padres are a true sleeper. There’s talent here.)

If they can keep the band together… those talented youngsters… the Padres will be fighting for the division in the next two or three years. They have some good players here, and more coming through the minors.

Trouble in paradise: The Padres of late generally trade great players. Their timing is off… and they haven’t joined in the flurry of spending other teams have enjoyed recently. So when players like Peavy or Latos or Adrian Gonzalez begin to perform well, it’s usually nearing time for free agency. So they get traded rather than re-signed, and the process begins again.

It’s a shame… San Diego is such an incredible place to live that it should attract several players just from location.

2013 expectations: I got none.

Since the roster looks very similar to last year’s, I’m going to give some credit to the last 100 or so games from 2012 and place them right around where they finished last year. I don’t think they’ll play as good as they did to end 2012… but I also don’t think they’ll be as bad to start the 2013 season as they were beginning 2012 either.

Colorado Rockies

My prediction: 64-98

2012 finish: 64-98

Worthy of note: I got nothing. You look at the roster -- Troy Tulowitzki… Michael Cuddyear… Carlos Gonzalez… Todd Helton -- and you want to think capable, reliable, steady, and other decent adjectives.

You do.

And then you realize that the same old problems sink this team. Like… for instance… pitching. Their home field burns out pitchers.

And where are the 2013 Rockies the weakest? Go figure. Pitching.

2013 changes: Zippo. (At least nothing worth really spending time on.)

With the sun shining and calm seas: Well I just mentioned it -- Tulowitzki… Cuddyear… Gonzalez -- the club has the ability to score and has a nice foundation. They just can’t seem to build on it.

Trouble in paradise: This team has one of the weakest pitching staffs in all of baseball… and easily the worst staff in every way in their division. Not good when you will be playing slightly less than half of your games against the division.

And Gonzalez… there’s a lot to like there. But his home and road numbers are alarmingly different, and his contract may be untradeable. (Home – .337 batting average, .394 on-base percentage, with basically twice as many home runs and RBIs as he has on the road. And road? Ok – .260 batting average and .314 on-base.)

2013 expectations: They should end up being one of the worst teams in baseball in 2013.

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