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The 2009 Major League Baseball season is upon us and teams are ready to embark on their 162 game journey towards the playoffs, and eventually the World Series. This is the fifth in a series of six divisional previews. Our next division is was the most fickle division last year, the NL West...
|Los Angeles Dodgers||84||78|
|San Francisco Giants||72||90|
|San Diego Padres||63||99|
After the 2007 season were you had the eventual National League champion Colorado Rockies go to the World Series, 2008 was a bit of a disappointing year for the NL West. Until a late season surge by the Los Angeles Dodgers, if was feared that the division winner would have a record under .500.
The Dodgers made a big splash by trading for slugger Manny Ramirez at the trading deadline. Ramirez was incredible for the Dodgers down the stretch hitting .396 with 17 HRs and 53 RBIs in only 53 games. It was truly an incredible stretch. Along with Manny, Matt Kemp, James Loney, and Andre Either led the Dodgers to the division title. They swept the Cubs in the NLDS, but lost to the Phillies in 5 games in the NLCS.
The Arizona Diamondbacks were in it right down to the end of the season, but couldn't hold off the Dodgers. Their pitching staff was bolstered by the addition of Dan Haren, and him along with Brandon Webb were arguably the best one-two punch in the National League. Were they were let down was by the hitters, who only batted .251. This was, and has been a major limiting factor to their success.
As mentioned earlier, the Rockies went to the World Series in 2007. However, 2008 was a very rough year for the mile high club. Todd Helton hit for career lows and Troy Tulowitzki started off terribly and then got injured. Matt Holliday was solid again, but nothing like the previous year. A lone bright spot was the emergence of Chris Iannetta as their new catcher.
As for the rest of the division, the San Francisco Giants struggled with their young team but had some great pitching from Tim Lincecum, who ended up with the Cy Young award. The San Diego Padres had the worst record in baseball after playing in a playoff for the division crown the year before.
Predicted 2009 Standings:
|Los Angeles Dodgers||91||71|
|San Francisco Giants||77||85|
|San Diego Padres||69||93|
Individual Team Previews:
Arizona Diamondbacks - I'm not sold on this D-Backs offense. I like Conor Jackson, and Justin Upton should breakout a bit, but the rest of that lineup is lacking. They also lost Orlando Hudson, who was their best contact hitter last season. Mark Reynolds had 28 HRs and 97 RBIs, but hit .239. If they want to compete, they'll have to ride their great starting pitching. Brandon Webb is a former Cy Young award winner, and I think Dan Haren has the best stuff on the team. Doug Davis is pretty consistent but nothing to write home about. They lost Randy Johnson to the Giants and Micah Owings to the Reds. So they are filling those spots with Jon garland from the Angels and phenom Max Scherzer. I'm really looking forward to seeing Scherzer throw about 146 MPH on the gun. I think they have the best rotation in the division, and that will keep them competitive, but their lack of offense is going to hold them back once again. I think 79 wins is all they get.
Colorado Rockies - The Rockies could be really good, or really really bad. I guess it all hinges on the health of they're big hitters. After losing Matt Holliday this offseason, they have a BIG hole to fill. they also lost Willy Taveras, who was a nice, little leadoff guy. Ryan Spilborghs hit .313 in 89 games last season, so maybe he can fill that void. I also expect Dexter Fowler to shine as he is a tremendous talent. After watching the World Baseball Classic, I expect a really big season from Chris Iannetta, their new full time starting catcher. Hopefully Todd Helton can bounce back from a terrible season and get back to his productive self. Garrett Atkins should be solid, and if Troy Tulowitzki and Clint Barmes can stay solid, the Rockies will be dangerous, especially in Denver. As for pitching, Jeff Francis is out for the season and Brian Fuentes is now an Angel. Two very big losses. After a very solid season last year by Aaron Cook, i can't expect the same to happen this year. Also, Jason Marquis comes on board which will give them a little more depth. Huston Street also came over in that Holliday deal, but I've never liked him. Like I said, there are a lot of ifs. I think things fall into place and they rebound from a poor showing in 2008.
Los Angeles Dodgers - The Dodgers are clearly the best team in this division. Manny Ramirez is ridiculous and will have an insane season. I think he's the favorite for MVP. The rest of their offense is the best in the division. Jeff Kent retired in the offseason, so they picked up Orlando Hudson from the Diamondbacks. I expect James Loney, Matt Kemp, and Andre Either to continue their trend of improving each season. Also, a big factor to their future success is the health of Rafael Furcal, who missed the majority of last season. I like their bench too, which includes Juan Pierre and Mark Loretta. Chad Billingsley came on strong late last season and showed his brilliance as a young pitcher. He'll be an ace for a long while. The real question mark is the rest of their rotation. Derek Lowe, Brad Penny, and Greg Maddux are gone. But Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda, and Randy Wolf should be ok. Jason Schmidt is starting the season on the DL, but maybe he can stay healthy. Their bullpen is strong. They got rid of closer Takashi Saito to make room for flamethrower Jonathon Broxton. I think they will win over 90 games and will be fully ready for a long playoff run.
San Diego Padres - Man the Padres were terrible last season with only 63 wins. I don't know how they will score runs with a projected lineup that includes these names: Nick Hundley, Luis Rodriguez, Chase Headley...etc. They have a great player in Adrian Gonzalez, but that's about it. Brian Giles actually had a pretty nice season last year, but he's getting a bit old. Khalil Greene is gone, which is probably is good thing. Their bench isn't all that bad though, as they have leader Cliff Floyd, Emil Brown, and Scott Hairston. The pitching is pretty good at the top, but bad at the bottom. Jake Peavy is a stud, and Chris Young is very good. Kevin Correia comes over from the Giants and will be the 4th starter and Shawn hill arrives from Washington. Trevor Hoffman is gone and is now replaced by Heath Bell, who was awesome last season. I think he'll have a fair amount of saves this year. Winning more than 70 games would be a good season.
San Francisco Giants - I think the Giants will surprise some people this year. They've lost Ray Durham, Omar Vizquel, and Jose Castillo. But they've replaced them with Edgar Renteria, Travis Ishikawa, and Emmanuel Burris. also, i think Pablo Sandoval will have a pretty good season. Draft pick Buster Posey impressed the Giants execs during spring training, and I would be surprised if he gets a late call up. He's the future of this offense. (He's also James Brown's cousin) The lineup is not the reason I'm looking forward to watching the Giants. i really like their pitching staff. They added Randy Johnson to an already up-and-coming staff. Although he's not the Big unit of the past, I'm sure he has a whole lot of experience and guidance he can bring. Tim Lincecum is ridiculously good. I saw him two years ago when I lived out there. I knew he'd be good some day, and then he went out and dominated last year, winning the Cy Young award. That makes three Cy Young award winners on the staff, along with Johnson and Barry Zito. Zito seemed to figure it out at the tail end of last season, and I see him having a solid year after two disappointing seasons on the west side of the bay. I'm really excited about the progress of Matt Cain. With the other three pitchers getting the hype, I think Cain will blossom and have a tremendous year. I think a 17-18 win season wouldn't be out of the question. I think they'll improve, but not enough to challenge the better teams in the division. 77 wins sounds about right.
Divisional All-star Team:
If I was to make an all-star team with the best players at each position (including the bench and bullpens) it would look like this:
|C||Chris Iannetta (R)||Rockies|
|1B||Adrian Gonzalez (L)||Padres|
|2B||Orlando Hudson (S)||Dodgers|
|3B||Garrett Atkins (R)||Rockies|
|SS||Troy Tulowitzki (R)||Rockies|
|LF||Manny Ramirez (R)||Dodgers|
|CF||Matt Kemp (R)||Dodgers|
|RF||Brad Hawpe (L)||Rockies|
|B||Juan Pierre (L)||Dodgers|
|B||Cliff Floyd (L)||Padres|
|B||Mark Loretta (R)||Dodgers|
|SP||Tim Lincecum (R)||Giants|
|SP||Jake Peavy (R)||Padres|
|SP||Brandon Webb (R)||Diamondbacks|
|SP||Dan Haren (R)||Diamondbacks|
|SP||Chad Billingsley (R)||Dodgers|
|RP||Manny Corpas (R)||Rockies|
|RP||Hong-Chih Kuo (L)||Dodgers|
|CL||Heath Bell (R)||Padres|
Best Lineup: Dodgers
Best Fielding: Rockies
Best Bench: Dodgers
Best Starting Five: Diamondbacks
Best Bullpen: Dodgers
Best Manager: Joe Torre, Dodgers
Individual Player Superlatives:
Divisional MVP: Manny Ramirez, Dodgers
Divisional Cy Young: Tim Lincecum, Giants
Divisional ROY: Dexter Fowler, Rockies
Breakout Hitter: Chris Iannetta, Rockies
Breakout Pitcher: Matt Cain, Giants
What are your projections for the NL West? I'd love to hear them!