First of all I must apologize for failing to make an entry yesterday. I was asleep for most of the day, and while I was awake I was watching Trading Places. Great movie. Anywho, I will now begin my series of forecasts for the upcoming baseball season, starting with the NL West. The Dodgers claimed the title in the West last year; but this year could be very wild wild and could possibly go the way of several different teams. This year I see the Diamondbacks taking the wild wild West, with the Dodgers, Giants, Rockies and Padres in their wake. There have been a lot of changes in the West this year, and taking all of them into account I like the Diamondbacks chances to make the playoffs over any of the other teams.
It is hard to discount any team managed by Joe Torre, especially a team that made it to the NL Championship Series last year. However, I think that the Dodgers offseason moves left a lot to be desired, and left a lot of responsibility to several as yet unproven pitchers. The Dodgers let staff "ace" and innings eater Derek Lowe flee via free agency and also let former closer Takashi Saito sign with Boston as a set up man. These are two huge losses for LA. Joe Torre is hoping Chad Billingsley, who is already injured, and youngster Clayton Kershaw can pick up the slack left by D Lowe, but I think it is too early to put so much faith into those two and that they will falter down the stretch. Also, Jonathan Broxton may throw gas, but it would have been good to have Saito there in case of injury or in case Broxton goes through Matt Stairs syndrome. With their lineup improving, decent pitching and the managing styles of Joe Torre the Dodgers will contend, but in the end the curtain will fall on the Dodgers in Mannywood this summer.
San Francisco has a great rotation with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, Randy "He should put a towel on" Johnson and Barry Zito; but thats about it. Their bullpen, even with Dorne's favorite player Brian Wilson, is nothing to write home about and their lineup is god awful. Talk about some no names: Travis Ishikawa, Kevin Frandsen, Fred Lewis, who are these guys? I'll tell you who they are. They are all projected starters for the Giants. Yikes. Until their lineup becomes a little more seasoned, the power arms will go to waste for the Frisco Giants.
The Padres are pretty much a shell of a team built around Jake Peavy and Adrian Gonzalez. These two guys have way too much pressure on them, which is scary considering how shaky Peavy looked in the WBC. The Padres could very well lose 100 games this year. Chris Young is the big wild card here as we will see how he responds to getting hit in the face with a line drive. Always a difficult comeback. Either way, I wouldn't expect much from San Diago.
The Rockies are an interesting team. They have certainly changed their identity from their 2007 World Series team and could make some noise this year or fall flat. I have them as high as second or as low as last in the NL West this year. They have a good lineup with Chris Ianetta and Troy Tulowitzki looking to break out this year. If Todd Helton can come back from a down year, the Rockies could be pretty formidable, but there are a lot of ifs in this lineup. The same can be said of the pitching. What kind of year will Aaron Cook have? Will Ubaldo Jimenez finally harness all of his ability? Can Jason Marquis be a reliable 3rd starter? Who will step up for the injured Jeff Francis? In Colorado it is always hard to tell how the pitching will do. Though the bullpen is pretty strong with Corpas, Huston Street and Taylor Bucholz, I think it will be the starting pitching that keeps the Rockies out of the playoffs this year.
With all that said, I like the Diamondbacks to make the playoffs this year. With Dan Haren, Brandon Webb and new addition John Garland they have 3 pitchers capable of winning 16-18 games, and unlike the Dodgers, can afford to take a chance with upstart fireballer Max Scherzer in the 5th spot. Their bullpen is vastly improved with the addition of Jon Rauch and Scott Schoeneweis, leaving their lineup as the only question mark. The D'Backs are pretty young lineup wise, but have been showing improvement through the last two years. Conor Jackson aka "Co Jack" is ready for a breakout year, as is Justin Upton, and the rest of the lineup has some decent pop with Stephen Drew, Mark Reynolds and Chris Young all hitting over 20 home runs last year. This lineup has no stars, but no bums either. Anyone can step up and get the job done, and I think that will be the case this year. With the best combination of starting pitching, bullpen and hitting, I think the Diamondbacks overtake the Dodgers this year and make the playoffs. Once in the playoffs, who knows? They could get shut down in the first round, or ride Haren and Webb deep into October. But now I am getting ahead of myself.