Sunday, April 02, 2006

Prediction: NL West

In 2005, the NL West was baseball's weakest division. It was up for grabs all year, but no one wanted to take control. 2006 will be different.

The Padres have put together a very formidable team. They have a strong pitching staff, led by Jake Peavy and closer Trevor Hoffman, and they have good players at every position, including Mike Cameron in centerfield, Brian Giles in right and the Padres catching tandem of Doug Mirabelli and Mike Piazza. The Padres will be a contender in the NL West.

The Dodgers are a much better team in 2006 than they were in 2005. Their pitching staff should be formidable, led by Brad Penney and Derek Lowe. In the field, the addition of Nomar Garciappara should pay huge dividends. Because of his past two injury plaqued seasons, people have forgotten just how good Garciappa can be. I expect him to return to his pre-injury hitting groove and I predict that in the not too distant future, Nomar will be a gold glove first baseman. The Dodgers will be the team to beat in the West this season.

I expect the Giants to be a mess this year. Their team has some talent, but they are the oldest team in all of baseball and I expect the Barry Bonds saga to be a year-long distraction for the Giants. It's going to be a long year in San Francisco.

What can we expect from the Arizona Diamondbacks? I've struggled with this one. The D-Backs could go either way. They have some decent pitchers, but do they have enough? I expect Miquel Batista, Juan Cruz, Orlando Hernandez, Russ Ortiz and Brandon Webb to be good, but not great. The D-Back position players, led by Shawn Green, Luis Gonzalez and Tony Clark, to have good years, but not great years. Does this sound like middle-of-the-road mediocrity? That's what I expect.

Finally, the Colorado Rockies are coming off of a bad year in 2005. Expect more of the same in 2006. The Rockies have almost no pitching, although it matters less in Colorado because even good pitchers get beat up at Coors. With the exception of Todd Helton, the Rockies have very little offense. Their hitters may put up some decent numbers, but that will be more an indication of what a great hitters park Coors Field is than how good the Rockies hitters are. On the road, those hitters will disappear.

Come the end of the season, this is what the NL West will look like:

1) Los Angeles Dodgers
2) San Diego Padres
3) San Francisco Giants
4) Arizona Diamondbacks
5) Colorado Rockies

All that's left now is Opening Day. Play ball!


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