MLB 2010 – National League West


Part three and we arrive at the division that might rightfully claim some of the best pitching in baseball. The key word is… of course… might.

Five teams… all sorts of crazy stories… and yes, all sorts of impressive pitching…

San Francisco Giants
What I expect in 2010: 92-70, playoffs, World Series (loser)

What they did in 2009: 88-74

Key personnel changes: Considering their needs were almost all focused on everyday players… and we’re looking at a division with no superpowers… I think bringing in Aubrey Huff, Juan Uribe and Mark DeRosa makes for an interesting set of additions. They lost nobody. They have some great pitching. So for not spending a ton, they might have added some bargains. (By the way… interesting note… we have an official Byung-Hyun Kim sighting!)

My expectations: Well… what can I tell you that you don’t already know? Lincecum and Cain and three days of rain… am I right?

Hey… before you chuckle and dismiss this club as two great pitchers and a bunch of pretenders… this team won 88 last year with nothing else. Sure, Randy Johnson is gone. The reality is, this team lost nothing.

They added Mark DeRosa… who could hit about .285 with an on-base percentage over .350 judging by his past four seasons, which all involved regular play and 135-plus games.

They added Aubrey Huff… who could hit 20-plus home runs, and might even threaten 30 against National League pitching, while routinely being available every day.

(Think about only that… DeRosa and Huff… a team that couldn’t score runs last year adding two guys that could combine for 50 home runs.)

They already have Pablo Sandoval… simply the quietest MVP-level season ever delivered in 2009, when he hit .330 with a .387 on-base, 25 homers, 90 RBIs and 79 runs in his first full big-league season.

Things could be better… but things aren’t bad in San Francisco.

Where it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): Let’s rattle off the roll call…

Edgar Renteria… Bengie Molina… Aaron Rowand… Juan Uribe… are you seeing what I’m seeing? This could be really good, pretty average, or very ugly.

Our poster boy is Renteria… who’s quality of play has ranged from gold glove all-star to traded for a case of batting practice balls to anything in between. (And that’s just in the past two seasons.)

If this group of players each giving a decent season, the Giants will be in good shape. If two of them… we’ll point our fingers at Renteria and Rowand… play career average seasons or a bit better, look out. The Giants have the front-of-staff horses to make it to the World Series with that. And if the group flounders… well… there will be one or two teams in this division close behind, ready to pounce.

Los Angeles Dodgers
What I expect in 2010: 87-75

What they did in 2009: 95-67, playoffs

Key personnel changes: Amazingly quiet. They managed to dump Juan Pierre. And that’s about… hold on… yeah… that’s it. Brought in or signed a few one-year-flyers… Reed Johnson… Ronnie Belliard… Vincente Padilla… Brad Ausmus… but nothing stunning or amazing. Plans seem to be based on getting payroll stable after a few years of Juan Pierre, Jason Schmidt, and figuring out what Manny is doing. Guess I can’t blame them for that, but it does raise some questions if you think things will be a walk into the playoffs.

My expectations: They’ll be good.

Billingsley and Kershaw aren’t exactly covered in dust behind Lincecum and Cain. The Dodgers can at least make a claim to having some high end pitching.

Matt Kemp is establishing himself. Andre Ethier is a name all of us should be familiar with now. Furcal and Belliard are decent enough up the middle.

I don’t expect much drama out here either during the 2010 season. No 50-game suspensions and such… which, they managed to withstand just fine last year.

The problem I have is that I don’t see this club winning 95 games again. They’re just not that good. Let’s go back to the pitching.

The bullpen has the potential to be strong. But out of every five starts, the Dodgers are sending… not probably, but at least in possibility… three kegs of dynamite to the mound. And as good as Billingsley and Kershaw may be… could be… can be… neither would be one of the first three pitchers you’d pick if assembling a roster out of only pitchers in the NL West (and they might have a hard time cracking the top five considering before even drawing a breath and thinking about it we’d name Lincecum, Cain, Webb and Haren ahead of them). And after that… I don’t know. Will they get a 6-inning start every night from the other guys? Will they get a performance that keeps them, in the game?

Look… I’m just asking.

Padialla started last season in Texas before moving to Los Angeles. He starts 2009 with a 5.2-inning start, a 3.1-inning start, a 5-inning start and a 6.2-inning start. He had two 8 inning appearances while playing for the Rangers… and two others that didn’t last 4 innings. And while I’m digging at small details with those numbers, the idea is accurate… LA has no idea what they will get on any given night.

Where it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): Even with three kegs of dynamite going to the mound, this team should be ok in the National League, meaning above even. And, considering last year’s results, we could be talking 90-wins and playoff possibilities.

Manny is going to be fine, and teaming him up with Casey Blake and Kemp and Ethier… as examples… should allow the Dodgers to produce some runs. Plus… teaming Manny up with Kemp and Ethier should give the Dodgers a fairly decent outfield, even if Manny is spending most of his time chatting with fans and looking for dandelions.

Defensively though, they’re no better than average. And there are enough questions (Loney and Martin come to mind) that I could see this team being inconsistent quite often.

Colorado Rockies
What I expect in 2010: 85-77

What they did in 2009: 92-70, playoffs

Key personnel changes: Melvin Mora… geez… is that it? Yup. Melvin Mora. Well that just sucks. By the way… note… Jason Marquis and Josh Fogg are gone. Let’s not make too much of it. We’re not changing landscapes here. Heck, Fogg hasn’t done much in two years. But when a club that is often hit or miss with pitching gives up on pitching, it should at least be considered. Marquis won 15 for them in 2009 and got 28 decisions. (Sure… that means he lost 13… but he threw 216 innings last year, averaging just under 7 innings per outing. He’s been over 30 starts and 190 innings in five of the past six seasons. That’s alot of possible work for the bullpen to absorb if his replacement isn’t up to it.)

My expectations: I am quite aware that in just 110 games, Jim Tracy was 30 games over .500. There is zero way that in 162 games he accomplishes that feat and goes something like 96-66. And, honestly, I don’t see how this team clears 85 wins.

In a division filled with top-notch pitching, the Rockies are surprisingly thin in that area.

Am I being fair? Probably not. Ubaldo Jimenez turned in 15 wins last year with an ERA under 3.50. Pretty darn good. But does their staff match up with what we see on other NL West clubs? Be honest… no, it doesn’t.

It’s hard not to like a team with veteran presence like Todd Helton and rising stars like Troy Tulowitzki… but I just don’t. They have some young talent, especially in that outfield. But it’s just that… young.

Huston Street will likely be on the market by late May, and I don’t expect him in Colorado beyond July.

Where it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): Well, it could all go right if their pitching staff can be consistent… that’s all I ask.

Their batting order will scare… well… it won’t scare any opponent. But, when its clicking, they will put 10 runs on the board in a hurry. They will be an incredibly streaky team. You watch… one day they’re going to be 8 or 9 games out in the standings, and then the next time you look they’ll be 2 back. If they can control that on the bad side… stop losing streaks… they could contend.

But with so-so pitching and average defense, I don’t see how they’ll be consistent or stable. For any 5 or 6 game winning streak, I think you’ll see them lose 7 or 8 out of the next ten. Three steps forward… two steps back… one step forward… three steps back… etc.

Want something more concrete? Ok… Carlos Gonzalez should have a regular spot in the outfield this season. At 24, expect to hear his name… alot. He’s capable of hitting .300, approaching .380 to .390 for his on-base percentage, and I think estimating 25 home runs from him could turn out to be low. Good stuff.

But the rest of the outfield features young guys that can catch… but can’t hit. Or… young guys that can hit… but can’t catch.

It certainly wouldn’t stun me to see them win this division. I just look at the roster and see way too many uncertainties. I like regular lineups… especially in the National League. When it isn’t regular, it should offer some flexibility. I see Colorado as a team still trying to figure out an identity.

San Diego Padres
What I expect in 2010: 74-88

What they did in 2009: 75-87

Key personnel changes: Eventually we’ll get to Kansas City… where I’ll make some notes about a club that has no hopes for 2010 because they are doing dumb things. But here… well… no real expectations and no amazing moves. Sure… Jerry Hairston… Jon Garland… even Yorvit Torrealba. Some new faces… some interesting faces for the club. But it seems more like they got a couple of players while the price was low that they might be able to trade later rather than players no one will want in July. Obviously the big moves discussed are the ones they didn’t make. And those will just have to wait… though maybe not for long.

My expectations: I think they escape the basement based on two things… one, trouble in Arizona… two, I have to approach this expecting full seasons in San Diego from Gonzalez, Bell, Young and Garland.

If they trade Adrian Gonzalez in July, all bets are off. Last place it is. Otherwise…

Well, Chris Young is a good starter. Paired up with a healthy Garland, the front of this rotation could be ok. That’s a good thing. Because with a solid closer in Heath Bell, the bullpen is decent… probably second to the Dodgers in the division good. (Although… let’s be fair… did you know Chris Young has never pitched 200 innings in a season before? I’m not kidding. He’ll celebrate his 31st birthday in late May. He’s pitched in the majors since 2004, and essentially as a regular since 2005. Now… tell me when I cross the line for his biggest year for innings pitched. Ready? Ok… 195… 190… 185… 180… 175… 170… 165… and I’ll stop. First… did I cross the mark yet? And if I did… when did I cross it? More on this in a second.)

I hate playing the game with David Eckstein of calling him a gamer or scrappy, but if you are looking for talent on the field, it ends with Gonzalez. And there aren’t any numbers that are going to impress you other than him. Am I being too harsh? Maybe. But the reality is that the Padres will get calls for Gonzalez and calls for Bell and… if they pitch well and make their regular starts… could get calls for Young and calls for Garland. Which leads us back to…


And… umm… gamer … scrappy.

See… as crazy as it sounds, I don’t get the sense that this team will pack up their bags and go away. They have difficulty matching up with Pittsburgh and Washington, and yet… Torrealba has something to prove… Hairston feels he has something to prove… there will be some young players given chances to get on the field here. And if Gonzalez is playing, they will often take the field with the best player in the game wearing their uniform.

So if we consider Eckstein’s strength to be that he never gives up… so once in a while there is that grounder that gets mishandled or something that only matters because he’s running hard… I think this team could find a way to win a few that another team would lose.

Ok… back to Young. What did you guess? In 2006 he threw 179 innings and in 2007 he reached 173. His third best year topped out at 164. He’s around 100 or below in his other 3 seasons. And yet… this club won 75 last year. (It’s a miracle.)

Where it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): While I’m being filled with good thoughts for the Padres, the reality is…

Heath Bell and Adrian Gonzalez almost certainly both get traded in the hopes of building for 2012.

There isn’t enough here to make a run at an even record. But they could avoid the basement. The question is how the roster stays together for the year.

Arizona Diamondbacks
What I expect in 2010: 72-90

What they did in 2009: 70-92

Key personnel changes: Does Edwin Jackson thrill you? If not… and chances are, he doesn’t… then not much of Arizona’s off-season will impress you. Why? Well… Ian Kennedy is next in line for names. Realistically the biggest question for the Diamondbacks involves Brandon Webb, which isn’t a change so much as a return.

My expectations: That the club flounders and the return of Webb goes horribly wrong.

There is nothing in the infield that I like. That isn’t a fair comment, but I don’t exactly have to be without sarcasm in these reviews. Two years ago when the Diamondbacks made the playoffs they couldn’t score runs. So why should I… even if these are a combination of old guys from that team and new guys brought in… believe in a group like the infield presents of Drew, Johnson and LaRoche?

I see zero offense… I see questions all over the rotation… I don’t see a dominant bullpen… give me bringing up the rear of the division.

Where it could all go wrong (or, I suppose, right): This club could finish about 20 games above where I’m predicting they will land.

First off… the idea of “zero offense” is just wrong. Yes, I have heard of Justin Upton, and if he continues his remarkable development, he is young, talented, and should ultimately become a very special player. And when Kelly Johnson gives a team a full-season worth of work, the results haven’t been hideous. Also, you have Adam LaRoche (really like him as a person, not too thrilled about him as a player). He’s basically on a one-year deal that could expand to 2011 (but won’t unless he delivers a monster year and the Diamondbacks decide he’s worth more than a possible draft pick), and he has shown signs of being able to deliver some decent results. Lots of people like him more in the second-half of the season though, so don’t go expecting immediate positive results from him. (There, I said it… no e-mails about the zero offense and Upton… ok? Good… moving on…)

Webb and Haren should be nothing less than a force for Arizona this year. That is based on the “if healthy” question being answered in a way Arizona is happy with.

Edwin Jackson… considering the trade that brought him here… adds nothing since he was traded for the man he effectively replaces, but he’s not much of a drop off from Scherzer. The problem is, considering the results Scherzer was treated to by his teammates, Jackson shouldn’t expect much. This rotation goes two-deep, because those two are known for being incredibly stingy, and then faces a potential nosedive. Still… it should be a great two-deep. Few National League teams feature strength beyond two or three starters, and with a few more runs there could be something here.

(Funny thought… Arizona putting Webb and Haren on the mound… possibly sending both to the mid-season coin flip… and the pair finishing in the top ten of Cy Young voting… all while the team lands 20-games below even.)

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