Who Wants to Win the NL West?!

It seems as if no one in the NL West wants first place. It is truly sad when the Rangers would be in 1st place if after the All Star break if they were in the NL and they’re only 4 games over .500. No NL West team is above .500 as of July 21, 2008.

So what seems to be the problem? Could it be that most teams in both leagues are having difficulty winning on the road, a 2008 phenomenon? It’s not that these teams lack talent, they’re just not performing.

The San Diego Padres have good pitching with Jake Peavy, Chris Young (before the injury), Greg Maddux and Randy Wolfe, but 40 year old Trevor Hoffman might just be showing his age despite having only 3 blown saves thus far. Their infield is OK with Adrian Gonzalez (1B) having another great year in a non-hitter friendly park, Khalil Greene at SS and Kevin Kouzmanoff is solid at 3B. Where they need help is at catcher (due to injury) and the OF. They’re not even playing .500 baseball at home, let alone only having 15 road wins so far and their runs scored/against difference is a – 99. Geoff Young, author of the Padres blog “Ducksnorts”, if you’re reading this, what is your take on the situation that has plagued them so far this year?

The San Francisco Giants started out well, but now find themselves close to the bottom of the division which is where most people expected them to be this year. Sorry Giant fans, but it’s true. Now don’t get too depressed, look on the bright side. You have two great young pitchers in Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum and if Barry Zito can learn to breathe out of his eyelids once again, he might round out one of the best starting three rotation in the major leagues. Your outfield is also in decent shape with Aaron Rowand in center, Randy Winn in right and the young speedster Fred Lewis in left. But your infield is a mess especially after Ray Durham was traded. Now you only have Rich Aurilia (1B/SS/3B) when he’s healthy, but he’s not the player he once was. As for your catcher, Benjie Molina, his better days are behind him although he is having a decent year. He still shouldn’t be a cleanup hitter. That right there should tell you something! J It has recently been mentioned that manager Bruce Bochy has informed SS Omar Vizquel that his playing time will be reduced in the second half so that they can see what they have for young talent at the position. His glove work is still one of the best in the game, even in his 40’s, but he’s below the Mendoza line offensively. Can someone over at Bay City Ball or The Giants Baseball Blog shed some light on the direction their team is going towards.

The Colorado Rockies have a potent line up when healthy, especially at Coors Field, but find themselves 7 games out of first place and smack dab in the middle of this division. What I see as a number one problem is the last of good solid pitching. They lost a few arms from the starting rotation and the bullpen  from their trip to the World Series last year. They do still have their ace in Aaron Cook and their young gunslinger in Ubaldo Jimenez, but he is too inconsistent to be a number two starter in nasty Coors Field. In Coors park, you need a good pitching staff to survive, even with the Humidor. Young SS Troy Tulowitzki has been either slumping or hurt for most of the year so far (2 stints on the DL) and things have gotten so bad that there are rumors of trading set up man/closer Brian Fuentes and/or LF Matt Holliday who was once again an All Star and is even signed through 2009. They still have the speedy Willy Taveras in CF and Brad Hawpe, but even he is struggling as he always does against lefties. Then there’s 3B Garrett Adtkins who is currently playing 1B for the injured Todd Helton (back woes). Their runs scored, by no surprise is the best in the division, but it is dwarfed by their division high runs allowed which leaves them with a negative split (-75) that is worse than the SF Giants. This might be a stretch, but I think this stat tells a lot. Maybe someone over at Purple Row can elaborate more on the state of the Rockies for us. We’re all eyes and ears!

The Los Angeles Dodgers have a new manager this year and with him comes a wealth of knowledge about how to win at this game. As you all know, it’s the well respected Joe Torre, formally the manager of the NY Yankees for the previous 12 seasons. They host the lowest runs against total in the division at 405 and that’s with # 1 starter Brad Penny, RP Scott Proctor, SP Jason Schmidt and closer Takashi Saito on the DL for the better parts of this year. Starters Derek Lowe, Chad Billingsley and especially their rookie from Japan, Hiroki Kuroda have held the fort so far this year. They have gone to the youth movement for most of the year, a smart move if you ask me, with James Loney at 1B, Blake DeWitt at 3B with Matt Kemp and Andre Either in the OF to go along with fellow outfielders Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones, who currently just came off the DL and has been disappointing when healthy. SS Rafael Furcal started off hot as a firecracker, but landed on the DL not too long into the season and is now out for the year with a back injury. Nomar Garciaparra is now back at SS at least until they find a replacement. Nomar just isn’t the same player he was in Boston. His fielding and power have both gone south due to various injuries. Both Jeff Kent (2B) and Russell Martin (C) are having typical years for the Dodgers. In Martin’s case, that means an All Star performance yet again while also filling in at 3B (the position he was drafted in) for a few games due to injuries to DeWitt and Nomar. Typical set up man Jonathan Broxton has also been his typical good self even when called upon to close when Saito’s been hurt or on the DL. What insight can Dodger Thoughts, from the baseball toaster add to this discussion?

The Arizona Diamondbacks are also going young and were lights out to start the year, but soon fizzled out come May and have continued to do so thus far into July, too. As an example, the injury to Eric Brynes not only slowed him down and kept him from stealing bases, but he is now lost for most, if not all of the season. This has forced them to switch 1B Conor Jackson to LF duties and now rookie RF Justin Upton is also on the DL (oblique) as of the 19th. Upton’s injury has placed utility man Chris Burke into a starting role in RF. The pitching has been very good most of the time with starters Brandon Webb, newly acquired during the off season Dan Haren, Doug Davis (even after his short cancer scare), Micah Owings and 45 year old Randy Johnson. Owings started off  red hot, but has recently cooled off considerably in the past month or so due to control issues and the like. Their relief pitchers are highlighted by Set up man Tony Pena (who might close some day), Chad Qualls, Doug Slaten and current closer Brandon Lyon. The remaining infielders aren’t too shabby either with Orlando Hudson at 2B, Stephen Drew (J.D.’s little brother) at SS and Mark Reynolds at 3B with Chad Tracy back from injury playing 1B, but will now be platooning with recently re-aquired 1B Tony Clark and Chris Snyder behind the plate. Anything to add from the desert on behalf of their team from either AZ Snakepit or MVN’s Out in the Desert?

This is really a two team race right now unless something drastic happens between the two teams who are currently tied for first, but are both still under .500; the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks. Joe Torre is an advantage for the Dodgers, but I still like the talent on the Diamondbacks to take this division.

Arizona 49 50 .495 - 29-21 .580 20-29 .408 437 432 5
LA Dodgers 49 50 .495 - 25-24 .510 24-26 .480 422 405 17
Colorado 43 58 .426 7 29-22 .569 14-36 .280 457 532 -75
San Francisco 40 58 .408 8.5 17-31 .354 23-27 .460 392 464 -72
San Diego 38 62 .380 11.5 23-30 .434 15-32 .319 376 475 -99

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