How the West will be won…
OK here it is, my prediction on how I think the NL West will shape up in 2009. The thought of a wildcard team coming from the NL West is seriously a pipedream if nothing else. The division just isn’t good enough from top to bottom to be a threat to likely contenders, the Cardinals, Cubs, Mets or Phillies.
Power hitter Manny Ramirez, a speedy and healthy Rafael Furcal, former Rockie speedster if not soon to be traded Juan Pierre with Delwyn Young riding on his heels, versatile catcher and infielder Russell Martin, and throw in one of the top 3 managers in baseball in Joe Torre and the Dodgers barring any major injuries should be the lone representative of the NL West in the playoffs. Their biggest loss of the offseason was Andruw Jones which was not much to lose in his first and only season with the Dodgers. Dodgers win the division by 6 games.
As much as I hate or want to admit it, the D’backs will probably finish 2nd in the West. Brandon Webb is the best pitcher in the division, sorry Barry Zito, Tim Lincecum and Randy Johnson. The D’backs are going to need a healthy and less cocky Eric Byrnes this season. More time will be given to Justin Upton this season as it should. And Chad Tracy will need to remain healthy and put up numbers like he did in 2006 with 20 homeruns and 80 RBIs. Oh and did I mention Tony Clark? There’s a reason why I didn’t.
I had a hard time deciding on whether the Giants or the Rockies were going to finish third, but I think Barry Zito rebounds this season as his first two seasons in the Bay area haven’t been anything to write home about. The addition of the ageless wonder Randy Johnson gives the Giants a chance and not to mention the Giants best pitcher in 2008, Tim Lincecum who went 18-5. The problem here is the Giants dont have any offense. Other than Bengie Molina and Aaron Rowand, scoring runs will come at a premium, but pitching may be able to keep them close in some games. If Zito implodes again this season, the Giants will fall to 4th.
Holliday, Fuentes, Taveras, all gone to greener pastures. Francis, gone for the season due to injury. In come Don Baylor, Jim Tracy and others to fix what was wrong last season according to manager Clint Hurdle, the basics. Funny how Apodaca managed to keep his job if we’re talking basics. If Helton continues to swing a hot bat during the season as he has during spring training, and the Rockies are more aggressive on the bases eventhough they lack the speed. Then factor in a solid season by Tulo, Atkins, and Hawpe, the team could be really fun to watch, maybe even competitive for most of the season. But with Jimenez and Cook as your only solid starters in the rotation, the 3-5 spots in the rotation are gonna give up some runs and give away some games. If the Rox are out of contention by June, look for Hurdle to be cleaning out his desk by the all-star break if not at the end of the season. Or the Rockies front office to find an excuse why the season went so wrong and Hurdle to be retained.
Losing Trevor Hoffman does alot for the number of games the Padres will not win this season. Outfielder Jody Gerut has the potential to hit 25 homeruns in his 2nd season in he majors. Cliff Floyd if healthy for most of the season can add another 20 homeruns. The problem here will be just like the Rockies, pitching. But beyond Jake Peavy who do the Padres have to rely on? Chris Young may be their next best with 3 straight winning seasons in San Diego. Dont look for alot of good to come from the Padres. See the stadium, visit the zoo, but dont even think about ordering playoff tickets for another couple of seasons.