The fact that the Padres finished a mere two games behind San Francisco—the eventual World Series champions—at the end of the regular season says wonders about what a talented and adept starting rotation and bullpen can do.
The fact that San Diego maintained consistency both at home and on the road a season ago (45-36 at home and on the road) affirms that these guys are as seasoned as ever. But can they get over the hump this season?
It will prove to be a formidable test, as both San Francisco and Colorado are likely to contend for the division this season.
San Francisco still maintains the best team ERA (3.36) and starting rotation in the majors with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez, as well as the most concise closer in the majors, Brian Wilson.
What most aren't aware of, however, is the fact that at 35 years of age, Aubrey Huff led San Francisco in HR (26), RBI (86), BA (.290) and H (165) last season. If the Giants want to contend once again, they'll need more diversity in their offensive production.
As for the "streaky" Rockies, both Carlos Gonzalez and Ubaldo Jimenez must be able to produce as much as they did just a season ago. If Troy Tulowitzki can harness the arsenal of offensive production he was able to maintain last season, the Rockies will be just fine.
For the Dodgers, though, a return to greatness under Don Mattingly after one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory will prove to be a much taller task than previously thought. Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and James Loney were inadequate in their offensive and defensive performances in 2010.
Unlike any other division in baseball, the NL West can say it maintained the top two pitching staffs in the league in ERA last season (San Francisco and San Diego), which can only mean that offense may be severely limited in 2011.
However, Brian Wilson is the one thing that separates the two staffs, unlike San Diego, which doesn't maintain the so-called "dominating" closer that the Giants possess. Look for Wilson to play a gigantic role in who wins the NL West in 2011.
1. San Francisco
2. San Diego (Wild Card)
4. Los Angeles