NL WEST TEAMS W L
San Francisco Giants*87 75
Colorado Rockies 84 78
Los Angeles Dodgers 83 79
Arizona Diamondbacks 80 82
San Diego Padres 64 98
San Francisco is one of my most risky picks. Actually, the whole NL West is a risky pick this year.
I have seen four different teams predicted to win this division this year—yes, I saw a Diamondbacks prediction—but yet again, I will go with pitching.
It is hard to argue with NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum. When you add Matt Cain, who comes off his best season to date, with a fresh contract and Barry Zito, who looks to fit right into this rotation as a healthy starter, you have success.
Not to mention, Brian Wilson is now a trustworthy closer. This pitching squad is very impressive in a weak hitting division.
That weak hitting includes their own team though. Although, the plump Pablo Sandoval has shown he should be respected after hitting .330 last year with 25 home runs.
Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa were added in the heart of this order to give some power while working on getting on base.
Both of those players had an OBP below .320, which shows they have plenty of room to work the count.
Bengie Molina also has a devastatingly low OBP, though his slugging percentage is slightly above normal.
The Giants, as an organization, need to spend more time looking at baseball statistics like OBP and slugging, instead of home runs and RBIs.
My other risk in this division?
The Arizona Diamondbacks have a pitching rotation that I like quite a bit. Dan Haren already led the league with his 1.00 WHIP, plus his 3.14 ERA was very good. If you add Brandon Webb, who missed pretty much all of last season, you get a nice one-two punch if they stay healthy.
Not to mention Edwin Jackson, the young pitcher from the Tigers who had a 3.62 ERA last year.
The bullpen has also stayed strong, rounding this pitching staff to do quite well as a team.
Their lineup isn't my favorite though. I hate Mark Reynolds; he struck out the most ever by a single hitter last year.
Reynolds needs to become more patient, and with smart hitters like Justin Upton (.300) and Adam LaRoche (.277) now in front of him, he has a chance to shine.
The Rockies have improved greatly, yet have not changed much over the last year.
Dexter Fowler continues to impress after becoming a speed animal last year. He had an on-base percentage (.363) he can be proud of. It will be important for him to get on base right in front of three hitters who also do well getting on base.
Helton (.416), Tulowitzki (.377), and Hawpe (.384) all sit in the middle of this batting order with great OBP marks.
The bottom of this order has hitters like Ian Stewart and Clint Barmes, who have struggled to get on base though, making the top of this order all the more important.
Meanwhile, Ubaldo Jimenez leads a rotation that looks much better than last year. Jimenez was the only one with an ERA under 4.00 who is still left, leaving Aaron Cook and Jorge De La Rosa room to improve.
Jeff Francis comes back after missing the 2008 season and hopes to get back to his 2007 form.
No matter what happens, this team has a good chance of winning games and keeping late leads with Huston Street in the pen.
I see a drop with the Dodgers squad, which some might call questionable.
The pitching is still fine, with Clayton Kershaw improving as a young pitcher, and Billingsley and Padilla both looking to lower their 2009 ERAs.
The team essentially now has two closers, with Jonathan Broxton joining the elite, and George Sherill (2009 ERA of 1.12) getting the job as a setup man.
The offense isn't as good though. Manny will slowly fall apart if he stays in the cleanup role. Many are saying this will be his last year with the Dodgers.
Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are both expected to continue their great 2009 seasons, but no player in this lineup bats over .290. Only two players had more than 20 home runs last year.
The Dodgers are in a much better NL West this year. Don't expect them to make it into the playoffs easily. If they do, don't expect a great record or an amazing team to show up in October.
There isn't much to be excited about on the Padres' lineup.
No batter hit better than .280 in 2009, and only one starting hitter hit more than 12 home runs. That is pretty ugly on the offense. Not to mention that with Jake Peavy gone, Jon Garland is the closest the team has to an ace (4.01 ERA).
By the end of the season or beginning of next, Heath Bell and Adrian Gonzalez will probably both be gone, as the Padres try to build for a future.
The Giants, surprisingly, take the AL West from the reigning Dodgers and fighting Rockies.