After a very exciting end to the 2007 season, the West is looking to bring much of the same this season. Arizona and Colorado are looking to duplicate the results of last season, while San Diego is vying to get a playoff spot in which they were robbed of when Colorado beat them in thirteen innings in a one-game playoff to the NL Wild Card.
The Dodgers are now a contender after signing Andruw Jones and making Joe Torre their new Commander in Chief. One shouldn't have to worry too much about the Giants this year. They will most likely finish at the bottom of the division unless they can pick up some key players before the trade deadline.
The West is going to be very exciting once again. It is going to be battles of attrition and preserverance that is going to win the West. What team has the heart to accomplish this?
Arizona is still a very young team. However, they have a key loss in Jose Valverde. Valverde was arguably one of the best, if not the best, closer in the National League last year. Arizona also lost Tony Clark who played a pivotal role in helping the Diamondbacks into the playoffs and sweep the Cubs in the Division Series. The key for Arizona is going to be pitching. Last season Arizona had an above average rotation and a rock solid bullpen. If Randy Johnson can stay healthy this year, he will add intimidation and a smoking fast ball to the arsenal of the rotation. Once the young talent that Arizona has develops, they will be a threat once again to lead the division and fight Colorado for the division title.
Just like last year, San Diego is going to put up a fight in the division but is going to come up just a bit short of the division. However, don't rule out San Diego for the playoffs. They are going to make a strong campaign for the Wild Card spot under the leadership of ace Jake Peavey. Peavey will win twenty games this. San Diego's bullpen is going to need to rebound from last year. Hoffman blew a huge save against Colorado to keep the Padres from going to the playoffs. Hoffman, who is arguably the best closer of the modern era, will once again lead the west, and possibly the National League, in saves. Don't rule out San Diego. They may be a sleeper team and do what Colorado did last year.
The team to watch in the West is going to be Los Angeles. It will be interesting to see how Joe Torre approaches his new team and his new league. Managing in the National League is quite a bit different from the American League. He will not have a DH to depend on. Torre has worked his magic in New York. It would not be unheard of to see him turn the Dodgers into a tremendous threat in the West and possibly the National League. The Dodgers will need to be more solid on defense and out of the bullpen. Their bullpen really struggled down the stretch and for most of the season. The Dodgers may start off the season slow, but as they get used to the Joe Torre way of baseball, they will turn into a well-oiled machine.
San Francisco residents may not want to place any money on the Giants making it to the playoffs this year. They have many kinks they need to work out still. They won't be a playoff team. With Bonds not on the team, they will have much less media attention and less stress. The combination of these two will allow the Giants to relax and play better baseball. For the sake of baseball, the Giants need to do better than they did last year. Unfortunately, the likely hood of this happening is not very good.
The Colorado Rockies are going to be back in the playoffs this year. After being hosed by baseball writers for awards that, in the opinion of the entire baseball world minus the people that matter, should have been awarded to Holliday and Tulowitzki, the Rockies are going to have a very hot fire under their butt. Holliday is going to explode again for another 130+ RBI season and Tulowitzki looks even better this spring. Tulowitzki lead all National League shortstops in all major categories last season getting beaten out by Braun for Rookie of the Year and outplaying NL MVP Jimmy Rollins on defense. Tulo has lost ten pounds bringing Clint Hurdle more speed to the top of the lineup along with Willy Taveras. Todd Helton will look to improve his numbers from last year as well.
The key to the Rockies this year will be defense. The unanswered question in Colorado is who his going to play second base. Home-grown player Jason Nix appears to be the choice. However, don't rule out Clint Barmes, the former starting shortstop two years ago before breaking his collar bone carrying deer meat to his apartment. The Rockies set a MLB record for fielding percentage last year. They are the only team in the MLB that believe defense can win games. Colorado proved last year that they have the heart to keep fighting even when there seems to be no end in sight. Colorado's weakness is going to be Clint Hurdle. The baseball writers did the only thing right by not giving Hurdle Manager of the Year. Hopefully Colorado can overcome most of Hurdle's many managing errors and use grunt work to be a contender.
The West will be exciting to watch again this year. Expect Colorado, Arizona, and San Diego to be in the top three. However, once again, it should not shock anyone to see the Dodgers give those teams a run for their money. Division Champions: Colorado Rockies. Wild Card: San Diego Padres
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