2013 Preview: NL West & Playoffs

And, so we’ve come to the last division in our “preview” (albeit after the season has already started) of the 2013 season.  The NL West is another very interesting division.  Over the last 4 seasons, every team in this division has made the playoffs at least once, except the Padres (though, they did win 90 games in 2010, finishing just 2 games behind the eventual World Series champion Giants).  The Giants have won 2 of 3 World Series, the Dodgers have had a major facelift with all the money they’ve spent, the Rockies have some impressive offense, the Diamondbacks have some very good pitching, and the Padres . . . well, they moved the fences in a little.  So, on to this year’s predictions:

  1. San Fransisco Giants (95-67)World Series - San Francisco Giants v Detroit Tigers - Game 3
  2. Arizona Diamondbacks (90-72)
  3. Los Angeles Dodgers (88-74)
  4. Colorado Rockies (82-80)
  5. San Diego Padres (70-92)

Giants:  Pitching . . . wins . . . championships.  That’s our NL West theme.  And, it’s something the Giants have a lot of.  Cain, Bumgarner, Lincecum, Vogelsong and Zito is an impressive 1-5 (5th best ERA in the NL in 2012 – 3.73).  Then comes a nasty bullpen with six guys that finished 2012 with an ERA well under 3.00.  Now let’s talk hitting: for the season, the Giants were 7th in the NL with a .724 OPS.  Nothing to get too excited about, but consider this: after the All-Star break last year, they were 4th in team OPS (.755) and 3rd in runs scored (380).  They have speed at the top with Pagan and Blanco, followed by a bunch of guys that can drive in runs – Posey, Sandoval, Pence and Belt.  Not to mention Scutaro, who was an integral piece of their championship puzzle a year ago.  This is definitely the most complete team in the NL West.

Diamondbacks:  Pitching … wins … championships.  This is why the Diamondbacks have a decided advantage over everyone else in this division (besides SF).  Wade Miley (remember him? LHP, ROY runner-up, won 16 games last year, etc. etc.) is #4 in their rotation.  #4!!  Following Ian Kennedy, Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy.  Now, their bullpen is a little suspect (middle-of-the-pack ERA in 2012), but Putz still managed to save 32 of 37 opportunities a year ago.  I’ll be curious to see how their offense does without Justin Upton in the mix (though, his 17 HR and .785 OPS weren’t exactly striking fear in pitcher’s hearts last year), but they finished 2012 scoring the 4th most runs in the NL (754) with the 5th best team OPS (.746).  They still have plenty of pop with Kubel, Hill and Goldschmidt in the middle.  And, insisting that Martin Prado be a part of the trade that sent Upton to Atlanta was very smart.  I think this is a team that was unlucky in a lot of ways last year (fewest wins in 1-run games in the NL), and will make a big turnaround this year.

Dodgers:  Pitching … wins … championships.  All that money the Dodgers spent, and all the big names they traded for, and what did they do to improve their pitching?  Picked up two back-of-the-rotation guys that appear to be on the downslope of their careers.  Once you get past Clayton Kershaw (who is amazingly good), the Dodgers don’t really have a starter you can sink your teeth into.  They have high hopes for Ryu (the rookie from Korea), but again, it’s a lot of “hopes.”  Yes, they finished 2012 with the 2nd best team ERA (tied with Cincinnati), but I think that was a bit deceptive, as they were middle-of-the-pack in WHIP, and had the 2nd best BABIP in the NL (.283).  Offensively, surely they couldn’t do worse than they did in 2012.  Only the Marlins, Cubs and Astros finished 2012 with a worse team OPS (.690).  But, here’s what concerns me:  Matt Kemp was injured in the first half of the season (not the second), Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Carl Crawford all came over to the Dodgers after the All-Star break, and guess what LA’s post-All-Star-break OPS was . . . .695.  Even in the month of September, when they were trying to make a push for the division, it was a miserable .689.  The Dodgers have some good pitching, but with all the question marks offensively, they need more pitching than they have.

Rockies:  Pitching … wins … championships.  I don’t think it would come as a total shock to anyone that the Rockies finished 2012 with the worst ERA in the NL (5.22).  Pitching in the thin air in Denver wouldn’t be my preference if I were a major league pitcher.  But, what really tells the tale is that they also ranked 12th in the NL in ERA on the road, with a miserable 4.41.  Now, Jorge De La Rosa is completely healed from his Tommy John surgery, and will be able to fill the #2 spot in the rotation for the entire season.  I’m not saying he’s an All-Star, but he is serviceable in the #2 slot, and that makes a big difference when the other guys can slide down a spot.  The reason I think the Rockies could actually put together a winning season is because of their offense.  Tulowitzki is back from his injury, and Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, and Michael Cuddyer make for a nice lineup.  I think they will score a lot of runs.  They don’t have the pitching to be competitive in this division, but they definitely won’t be as bad as last season.

Padres:  Pitching … wins … championships.  And, the Padres simply don’t have any.  Their “ace” finished 2012 with a 4.14 ERA.  Their closer is Huston Street, who actually had a nice year in 2012 – when he had a chance to actually save a game.  And, other than Street & Luke Gregerson, no one in that bullpen stands out as exceptional.  It’s no wonder this team finished with a team ERA over 4.00 last year.  And, all that was before they moved the fences in.  Add to the poor pitching the fact that the offense finished 2012 ranked 11th in OPS (.699) and 10th in runs scored (651), and you have a team that has no chance against a division loaded with talent.

So, now it’s time for my NL postseason predictions.  Here’s how I see it playing out:

Wild Card:  Nationals def. Diamondbacks

NLDS:  Reds def. Nationals (3-2) & Braves def. Giants (3-2)

NLCS:  Braves def. Reds (4-2)

And, that leads us to the World Series.  Tigers vs. Braves.  The Tigers won’t have to sit around and wait a week this time, after taking 7 games to put away the Blue Jays.  The Braves will put up a decent fight in every game – nothing decided by more than 3 runs. But the Tigers prove to be too much, and Detroit brings home the World Series trophy in 5 games.

Coming next week:  my postseason award predictions.

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