NL West - The Most Unpredictable Of Them All

Tuesday, March 23 2010 @ 11:30 AM EDT

Contributed by: John Northey

3 teams with 88 wins or more last year after the winner in 2008 had just 84 wins, what to expect this time? All 5 teams have made the playoffs at least once between 2003 and 2009, so again, how to predict? Mix in that, vs 2008, the Dodgers were +11, Diamondbacks -12, Rockies +18, Padres -12, Giants +16 - most variable division out there - how the heck do you predict?

Team Questions

San Diego Padres

  1. OPS+ of 96, ERA+ of 84 - Truly a land of opportunity for any kids, but are there any?
  2. Only one starting pitcher with 20+ starts, only one with 10+ who had an ERA+ over 94 (he was at 103) with 15 guys starting a game in 2009. Things have to get better right?
  3. Hope comes in the form of an average age on the staff of 26.6 years old. Outplayed their expected record by 8 games, how ugly can 2010 get?

Colorado Rockies

  1. Massive jump last year, was it for real?
  2. Despite 130+ OPS+ from both Tulowitzki and Helton and a 120+ from their LF/RF combo of Seth Smith and Brad Hawpe the team OPS+ was still just 98. Will they get the support they need to move to the next level?
  3. 4 starters with 30+ starts, 5th with 27 and all with an ERA+ over 100 (all 30 or younger too). How the heck did that happen and can you really hope for it again?

San Francisco Giants

  1. A GM many feel is an idiot yet they won 88. Offense was McDonald like - Pablo Sandoval and Juan Uribe were the only guys with 200+ PA with an OPS+ over 92. Only can add Andres Torres for one with 10+ PA's. Team OPS+ of 88.
  2. Pitching was WOW - 123 ERA+ but it was almost all Lincecum & Cain then pray for rain. OK, not that extreme but those two clearly are why they won 88 (darn you JP for not expanding the offer).
  3. Can this amazing pitching hold together mixed with just a bit more offense?

Los Angeles Dodges

  1. Russell Martin - do they get the good one (100+ OPS+, All-Star) or the not so good one (86 OPS+ last year)
  2. No starter had more than 12 wins despite 3 with 30+ starts, two with 120+ ERA+'s - Will one get the run support/bullpen support to be a Cy Young winner?
  3. Manny - need more be said?
  4. Ownership - what a mess eh?

Arizona Diamondbacks

  1. OPS+ of 88, thanks to a 1B with an OPS+ of 76 (!).
  2. Improvement should be easy, especially with average age of 26.3 years. 6 guys with 5+ starts, 4 with 27+ - Can staff health stay for 2010?
  3. Dan Haren - true ace, signed through 2013. Will anyone help or will he get sick of this ala Halladay?


Off-Season Moves

When I volunteered to help John out with the NL West I did so mainly out of curiosity after coming to the realization that I know very little about these teams.  In fact, I was about twenty minutes into my research before remembering that the division is comprised of five teams, not four.  (Sorry, Colorado, all tucked away down there).  In any event, now I know why I barely acknowledge the existence of these teams:  Nothing happens here!  Sure, there are some interesting storylines, as John has noted above, but man alive, these guys sure follow the Stand Pat mantra.  Don't believe me?  Well, check it out.

San Diego Padres
In: Jon Garland, Scott Hairston, Aaron Cunningham, Josh Barfield, Matt Stairs, Yorvit Torrealba,

Out: Kevin Kouzmanoff, Eric Sogard, Edgar Gonzalez

Not exactly a murderer's row there, huh?  Hairston and Cunningham arrive via the A's in a deal for The Kouz and Eric Sogard.  Jon Garland is here to fill as much of Jake Peavy's void as possible and Matt Stairs will hang around for a few dozen at-bats.  Other than that, the biggest news of the off-season involved who wasn't on their way out of town, namely Adrian Gonzalez and closer Heath Bell.  Both of the 2009 All-Stars were expected to be on the move at some point and while neither is likely buying season passes to the San Diego Zoo, they're both still destined for Petco come April.  Bell's departure could be hastened by the Twins' loss of Joe Nathan to Tommy John surgery, though Minnesota may not be looking to add much salary after giving Joe Mauer $2.75 trillion on Monday.  As for Gonzalez, if you read Red Sox related sites, Kevin Youkilis is apparently just keeping first base warm for him until the Padres realize that it's Boston's right to acquire the 40-HR man. 

Colorado Rockies

In: 3B Melvin Mora, C Miguel Olivo

Out: SP Jason Marquis, SP Jose Contreras, SP Josh Fogg, 3B Garrett Atkins, C Yorvit Torrealba, RP Alan Embree, OF Matt Murton, RP Matt Herges, RP Joe Beimel,

That's a whole lot of mediocrity.  To be fair, the Rockies didn't actually need to do much this winter given their excellent finish to the season with a stable of young, homegrown talent.  So, really, this offseason just involved a lot of fat trimming and bench rotations.  Melvin Mora is the prized acquisition here and will spell Ian Stewart at third from time to time.  Other than that, the Rockies will rely on their core of Troy Tulowitzki, Stewart, Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gonzalez, and the ageless Todd Helton.  The rotation looks a little shaky, however, but Colorado decided to stick with what they had rather than take serious runs at any of the available big name hurlers.  Plus, phenom Jhoulys Chacin should be ready to slide into the rotation at some point.  Might be an opportunity for the Fan 590 to unload some cologne on Denver.

San Francisco Giants
In:  1B Aubrey Huff, SP Todd Wellemeyer, RP Guillermo Mota, IF Mark DeRosa,

Out: SP Randy Johnson, 1B Ryan Garko, RP Bob Howry, SP Brad Penny, OF Randy Winn

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Aubrey Huff era!  I guess he's the impact bat the pitching rich Giants have been looking for.  Unfortunately, he had a pretty atrocious 2009 and looks about done.  Randy Johnson departs to pursue a career in modeling while Ryan Garko heads back to the AL after a pretty miserable two month stretch in San Fran.  Other than that, Giants fans will just pray that Tim Lincecum continues to rack up Cy Young Awards before realizing that he is, in fact, an awkward teenage girl.

Los Angeles Dodgers
In: IF Jamey Carroll, RP Alfredo Amezaga, OF Brian Giles, OF Reed Johnson

Out:  IF Orlando Hudson, SP Randy Wolf, IF Mark Loretta, IF Juan Castro, OF Juan Pierre, RP Guillermo Mota, Wife of Owner Jamie McCourt

Again, chaff in, chaff out.  The biggest news of the off-season was owner Frank McCourt's extremely contentious divorce from wife Jamie which has effectively forced the Dodgers into a waiting game to see if they can afford any salary increases.  Maybe weekend dad will end up taking them out for ice cream and stuff but for now, they're in limbo.  Oh, and starter Vincente Padilla got shot but recovered.  Though the Google translation stating he "left the medical center, without gravity" seems a tad troublesome.  You never can trust those erratic fireballers and their lack of respect for basic laws of physics.

Arizona Diamondbacks
In: SP Edwin Jackson, SP Ian Kennedy, 1B Adam LaRoche, 2B Kelly Johnson

Out:  OF Eric Byrnes, 1B/3B Chad Tracy, SP Max Scherzer, SP Doug Davis

There are actually a few serviceable names here.  Jackson and Kennedy come from the Tigers and Yankees respectively in the Curtis Granderson deal.  Adam LaRoche turned down two years and $17.5MM from the Giants before finding his options fairly limited and signing for one year and $5.5MM.  LaRoche played in Pittsburgh, Boston, and Atlanta last year where he managed to slug .488 with 25 HRs.  The good news is the Diamondbacks inked superstar Justin Upton to a six-year, $51MM deal so they've got that going for them.  On the flip side, Brandon Webb is injured again with no timetable for his return.  So Dan Haren and Jackson are going to need to shoulder a fairly large load for a while.


John: Sheesh - do I have to? Dodgers tend to be the favorite just due to inertia but in a crazy division like this? I'll go out on a limb and continue the craziness of the division with San Diego living an impossible dream just to get slaughtered in the playoffs while the Dodgers crash and burn to an 82 win season.

Braden:  Gah, I dunno.  I'm always an idiot at these things.  I think it'll come down to the Dodgers and Rockies with the Giants somewhat close behind.  Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley make The Leap for the Dodgers and they take the division by 3 games with 91 wins.  Or not.  Who knows.