Monday, March 12, 2007

My MLB 2007 Season Predictions: The NL West

This is a rebuttal to my partner Eric Gouldsberry's picks for the NL West. Actually, he picked the Dodgers to win the division as well, so it's not really a rebuttal.


Coming from an avid San Francisco Giant fan, it had to be tough for my cohort Eric to pick the Dodgers he despises so vehemently. With the talent that General Manager Ned Colletti has assembled for 2007, there’s really no reason to believe that this team won’t be able to win the West. Although the addition of Juan Pierre may be questioned down the line, no one can argue that adding Schmidt and Wolf to an already strong starting rotation was a shrewd move. Combine old-schoolers like Kent, Gonzalez and Garciaparra with new names like Loney, Kemp, Billingsley and LaRoche, and you have a mixture that will be volatile for the rest of the West. Whenever the Blue Crew has won throughout the years (and it’s been a long time) it’s pitching that has gotten them there. Dem Bums will return to the playoffs in 2007 and who knows what happens then.

The rest of the NL West is a real enigmatic bunch. San Diego, Arizona and San Francisco are all capable of capturing team chemistry in a bottle and making a run at the title. The Padres are young and deep, with veterans in some of the right places. The Diamondbacks are inexperienced but game. And the Giants are old, creaky and controversial, but may still have enough gas in the tank to excel.

San Diego has won the NL West the last two years, but now the landscape has changed considerably. Management realized a couple of seasons ago that they can’t field a power-hitting team for the simple reason that they play in a cavernous ballpark more suited for singles and doubles. With the hustling Giles brothers, Marcus and Brian, reunited on the roster, and the promise of youngsters like new 3B Kevin Kouzamanoff, the Pads look like a team that could be formidable if jelled. They lost some key veterans, but by acquiring the master himself, Greg Maddux, they could be a contender once again.

The D-backs are one of the more interesting squads in the majors this year and will either be really bad or surprise everybody but Peter Gammons. They’ll have the pitching with Cy Younger Webb and reunited prodigal son and HOFer Randy Johnson. Their young studs – guys like Quentin, Drew, Jackson and Chris Young -- all have the potential to really make an impact and a huge difference in Arizona’s future and beyond. 2B Orlando Hudson has a great glove and a refreshingly wonderful attitude that can’t help but rub off on this team. Mark my words – the D-Bax could be the Detroit Tigers of 2007.

The San Francisco Giants are older than any team in baseball and their minor league system is producing about as much as Ford Motors, but getting Barry Zito could make all the difference in the world for the Boys by the Bay. The big questions are who will save the games Zito, Lowry and Cain can’t finish, and whether or not Barry Bonds can contribute at least two-thirds of the time. That’s how often they’ll need him if they hope to compete.

The Colorado Rockies will bring up the rear with few stars and little chance of improving enough to make any significant impact in 2007. The other teams in the NL West will be happy to see the Rockies in the opposing dugout, because they are untested, inexperienced and ready for the slaughter. Sure there will be a few bright spots – Holliday is a genuine star and so is Garrett Atkins. And the team has some guys who are a few years away from being all-stars too -- kids like 3B phenom Ian Stewart, SS Troy Tulowitzki and 3B/1B Jeff Baker – but they need more time and the opportunity to fail without consequences. Lucky for them, failure should be the theme this year for the Rockies. The end result will be a sub-.500 year for the Mountain Boys. There will be a ton of high scoring in Colorado this year, but mostly by the other team.

That’s the way I see it. The Dodgers will win it, although it could be close. San Diego and Arizona have a legitimate shot at the Wild Card, while the Giants will need a series of miracles. The Rockies will be done by June.

No comments: