Yesterday we looked at common themes among the teams in the National League West, as well as who might be impact players for those teams.
Today, a look at how they'll finish, and why.
Here, from left to right, is how I think the final standings will look in the NL West:
I really think the Giants are the team to beat out west. They have incredible pitching. Tim Lincecum is probably the best pitcher in the league, and Matt Cain isn't far off the pace. They push one another, too, to become better. Jonathan Sanchez is up-and-coming, and Barry Zito, while no ace, is a pretty good number 4. Their number five starter could be a rookie named Madison Bumgarner, who is a good prospect, and could just make their rotation a strong one through five.
So the question is the Giants' offense, which is why Freddy Sanchez is so important. He can't do it by himself, but the Giants have Pablo Sandoval, who is Vladimir Guerrero-esque in his approach at the plate...and with the results. The Giants also added Mark DeRosa and Edgar Renteria, who both might thrive in San Francisco, where they won't be the focal point. There are a couple of question marks in that lineup, but I think it's improved enough to give the Giants the edge in the division.
They'll finish ahead of the Rockies because I think there are way too many question marks in the Rockies' lineup. It's like I mentioned yesterday - there are platoons at too many positions, and question marks at others (Clint Barmes). Maybe Jim Tracy will find a lineup that works and it will be consistent, but I'm not sure they'll be able to catch the Giants. (Might the Rockies win the wild card? I'll make that judgment when I finish with all the divisions.)
I think the Dodgers are at the beginning of a fall downward. They have some nice players in Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, but it almost seemed like they were faking it last year, especially at the end of the year, when the wheels seemed to fall off. (If the season was a week longer L.A. would have lost the division to Colorado...and maybe fallen out of playoff contention.) I think the Dodgers will be one of the more frustrating teams in the league, with a lot of talent but going nowhere. And Manny Ramirez's act will wear thin this year...it seems like it's about time. And he'll get help from (correction time), Vicente Padilla, who is back with a full season to ruffle feathers. The Dodgers re-signed Padilla a few weeks ago. Sorry, I missed that re-signing. There seems to be a difference between Padilla contributing to a contender down the stretch and in the rotation (and clubhouse) for a full season. I think the Dodgers will experience that negativity this year.
The Diamondbacks could struggle this year, but if Brandon Webb returns to Cy Young form, he might be worth two spots in the division standings. I'm thinking he's cautious for too much of the year, and will make a late run in order to secure a new contract, but it won't be enough for Arizona to have a good season.
The only saving grace for Arizona could be the Padres. They'll be in the news a lot because they have two pretty valuable trading chips in Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez, but I don't think they'll be making any news on the field.
NL WEST NOTES
-What is going on in Coors Field in July? The Rockies have a 10-game homestand heading into the All Star break, then leave the break with 16 straight on the road, returning to Coors August 1st. Is there some kind of convention going on there that is forcing them out? Don't discount that stretch when looking at how the Rockies didn't win the division come the end of the year.
-Seems to me this McCourt divorce situation parallels the Mets' ownership situation a little bit. It's an ugly divorce, and Jamie is challenging Frank's claim that he is sole owner. Bottom line - if she wins, the team will have to be sold because neither one has enough money to buy out the other half of the team. This uncertainty, say many, kept the Dodgers from opening up their pocketbooks for free agents this off-season. It reminds me of the doubts over the Mets' unwillingness to spend related to the Bernie Madoff scheme. I know this has been denied up and down, but it's like the Mets hit a wall with spending the past two off-seasons, rather than showing a willingness to spend, spend, spend. Those two situations reminded me of each other.
Next Week: AL Central