Why No One in the NL West Can Hang with L.A. Dodgers and San Francisco Giants

Sam StrykerContributor IIIMarch 11, 2013

Giants catcher Buster Posey won the 2012 NL MVP.
Giants catcher Buster Posey won the 2012 NL MVP.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

One is the defending World Series champion, and the other just spent a gargantuan sum of cash this offseason. Unfortunately for the National League West, no one will be able to compete with the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Giants are bringing the core of their lineup back and the Dodgers made significant additions to their roster in the offseason. 

There was some action on the parts of the Colorado Rockies, San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks, but nothing that will allow any of those three teams to challenge for the NL West title—or even second place in the division. 

The Giants are coming off of a 94-win season. The team won the NL West in 2012 and more importantly, its second World Series title in three years. 

There is no reason to believe San Francisco will suffer from a championship hangover in 2013. In fact, the team could be even better this year than it was last—which should scare other teams in the division. 

To start things off, the Giants’ lineup boasts defending NL MVP Buster Posey. The San Francisco catcher led the major leagues with a .336 batting average and hit 24 home runs and 103 RBI for good measure. 

Perhaps most impressive was the fact Posey was coming off a major ankle and leg injury that ended his 2011 season in May of that year. Expect the San Francisco superstar to continue to terrify National League pitchers in 2013. 

The rest of the Giants’ lineup doesn’t look too shabby either. While the team lost outfielder Melky Cabrera to the Toronto Blue Jays in the offseason, there are some solid bats to support Posey’s production. 

Center fielder Angel Pagan adds some speed to the lineup, having stolen 29 bases last season. Pagan also hit .288 with 56 RBI.

Outfielder Hunter Pence was one of the key midseason acquisitions that eventually paid major dividends in the postseason for the Giants. San Francisco re-signed the former Philadelphia Phillies star to a one-year, $13.8 million deal in the offseason.

Between the Giants and Phillies, Pence hit 24 home runs and 104 RBI. Expect San Francisco to enjoy a full season of production from Pence in 2013.

But the backbone of the Giants is their pitching. The San Francisco pitching staff had a 3.68 earned run average last year and features a big name at the top of the rotation.

Right-hander Matt Cain pitched to a 16-5 record with 193 strikeouts and a 2.79 ERA, good for fourth in the NL. He also pitched a perfect game in June.

Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner add some depth to the Giants’ rotation. Both started more than 30 games last season and had matching ERAs of 3.37. 

If two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum can bounce back from an off year—he had a 5.18 ERA and 10-15 record in 33 starts—the Giants will have one of the deepest rotations in all of baseball. 

But winning the division again won’t be so easy for San Francisco because their arch-rivals in Southern California opened their pocketbooks wide this offseason. 

The Dodgers have spent more than $600 million acquiring players in the past year and will have a record-setting payroll in 2013. If it ends up being money well spent, the NL West will be a two-team race between the Dodgers and Giants.

Los Angeles’ headline free-agent signing this offseason was adding ace right-hander Zack Greinke, stealing him from rival Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. 

Greinke is a former AL Cy Young winner with the Kansas City Royals. He had a 15-5 record in 34 games with a 3.48 ERA and 200 strikeouts with the Angels and Milwaukee Brewers.

But Greinke may not even be the best pitcher on the Dodgers. That honor goes to Clayton Kershaw, who won the 2011 NL Cy Young award.

Last season, Kershaw lead the major leagues with a 2.53 ERA. The southpaw also had 229 strikeouts and a 14-9 record in 33 games. Kershaw is also young—he is 24 years old—so the best may still be coming for the Dodgers’ ace. 

The Los Angeles offense doesn’t look too shabby either.

The Dodgers ranked just 26th in the major leagues last year in runs scored but should enjoy full seasons from not one but two superstar players—outfielder Matt Kemp and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

Kemp played in just 106 games in 2012 due to injuries, but nevertheless led the Dodgers with 23 home runs, while adding 69 RBI and a .303 batting average.

If Kemp can return to his 2011 level of production, when he led the National League with 39 home runs while also hitting .324 with 40 stolen bases and 126 RBI, the Dodgers offense will make up a lot of that lost ground.

Gonzalez should also add some pop to the Los Angeles lineup in his first season in Dodger Blue.

The first baseman split the season between the Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox, hitting .299 with 18 home runs and 108 RBI. Along with outfielder Andre Ethier, Gonzalez should provide some crucial lineup protection for Kemp.

While it remains to be seen if the Dodgers’ staggering spending spree is enough to overcome the Giants, it’s unlikely any of the other three teams in the division stands a chance of competing with San Francisco and Los Angeles.

All statistics via ESPN.