MLB Preview: National League West

Arizona Diamondbacks

In a weak division that can probably be won with 85 victories, the D-backs have the pitching to get there. Whether they can score enough runs is another matter.

Strengths: Brandon Webb is one of the best pitchers in baseball and, if his shoulder is okay, Max Scherzer might turn out to be his equal. Adding Jon Garland to a mix that also includes the talented Dan Haren gives the D-backs a strong rotation. If Doug Davis bounces back this team could lead the league in ERA.

Weaknesses: And they’ll need to. When your third highest batting average is .248 (Chris Young) and your highest RBI total is 97 (Mark Reynolds), opposing pitchers walk out feeling like, well, Brandon Webb. Conor Jackson had a decent year in 2008, but not a great one. He, Stephen Drew, Eric Brynes, Chad Tracy, and others need to elevate their game or a lot of fine pitching will go to waste.

Colorado Rockies:

Losing lefty Jeff Francis is a big blow and trading Matt Holiday will hurt even more. There’s enough talent on this squad to surprise, but last place isn’t out of the question either.

Strengths: The Rockies offense can be pesky. Troy Tulowitzki (SS) is an igniter and Ryan Spilborghs (OF) has similar moments. Once guys are on base, Garrett Atkins (3B), Brad Hawpe (OF), and Todd Helton (1B) can plate them. Aaron Cooks manages to pitch as well in Corrs as on the road. If Ubaldo Jimenez has a better year, the Rox staff can get to Huston Street, he’s the division’s best closer.

Weaknesses: The staff has potential, but a lot of guys had bad years in 2008. Several teams sought catcher Yorvit Torrealba, for reasons that escape me. Helton’s health is a concern, and the middle relief is so-so. When you play half your game in Corrs Field so-so doesn’t get the job done.

Los Angeles Dodgers:

At this writing still no Manny. That may matter less than no Derek Lowe.

Strengths: The Dodgers are quietly putting together a very nice outfield with Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, though neither has yet lived up to their billing. If Manny Ramirez arrives both will improve; without is a question mark. Signing Orlando Hudson (2b) was wise. With Casey Blake (3B) returning and Russell Martin emerging as a premier catcher, the Dodgers offense is solid.

Weaknesses: Solid is not a word I’d use to describe their pitching. Chad Billingsley is their “ace” and he’s a three-guy at best. Their number two, Hiroki Kuroda, has back-of-the-rotation talent, and Randy Wolf won’t be the answer.

San Diego Padres:

His name keeps surfacing in trade rumors, but the Padres should build around Jake Peavy. There’s really no other reason to watch this club.

Strengths: Peavy, homers from Adrian Gonzalez (1B), flashes of brilliance from Kevin Kouzmanoff (3B), pitcher Chris Young’s potential, and that’s about it.

Weaknesses: Brian Giles is on the decline, the starting catcher (Henry Blanco) will be 38 this summer, and not a single member of the staff other than Peavy threw 160 innings. Ouch!

San Francisco Giants:

With luck this could be the team to break from the pack. If only they can score….

Strengths: The pitching staff could be awesome. It’s anchored by reigning Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum. If Matt Cain improves, Noah Lowry recovers from arm trouble, and Barry Zito finds his brain, the Giants staff could be lights out.

Weaknesses: The Giants offense redefines the word anemic. When a 35-year-old catcher (Bengie Molina) leads the club with 16 homers and his 95 RBIs are 25% better than the next guy on the list (Aaron Rowland), it makes you wonder why they wasted money on over-the-hill Randy Johnson instead of striking a deal with Manny Ramirez.


This is the worst division in MLB, so any prediction is a crap shoot, but here goes:

1. Diamondbacks—Strictly on the basis of proven (as opposed to potential) pitching
2. Giants—They won’t score runs, but neither will opponents.
3. Rockies—Could move up if they stay healthy.
4. Dodgers—Even if they sign Manny, he doesn’t pitch.
5. Padres—Subtract Peavy and this squad looks really ugly.

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