Tuesday, April 01, 2008


2008 NL West Predictions

I was going to toss up my old friend, the Bad Zito pic, up for this post, but Zito actually didn't pitch too terribly. He settled down after one bad inning and kept the Giants in the game, although that's relatively speaking considering their offense. Zito didn't look like the complete mess he was in the spring, but the barrage of 84-mph fastballs portends a loooooong Year 2 of 7.

As for the rest of Opening Day, let's just all agree that the Giants played like hraka and move on with our lives. Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum go in the next two games, providing us with the morphine in what could be an otherwise unbearably painful season.

On with the hilariously inaccurate NL West projections!

1. Arizona Diamondbacks

The Dbacks gave all of us Pythagorean Record nazis the middle finger last year by rolling to the NL West title despite being outscored considerably by their opponents. They won’t be doing it again this year though, because they should be able to put up a positive run differential with all of the talent on hand and win the division without turning the sabermetric world on its head.

When you essentially swap Livan Hernandez for Dan Haren, brother, that’s an upgrade (and not just on the money saved from the post-game buffet…zing!). With the Webb-Haren one-two punch and a lineup full of still-developing young hitters (a couple of whom should break out this season…I’m looking at you Chris Young), they look to be the class of a very tough division for the second straight year.

2. San Diego Padres

I always consider the Padres an ally of sorts to Giants in the NL West, kind of like Great Britain to the Giants’ USA. The Dodgers are the Dodgers, the Dbacks still have that bitter rivalry aftertaste from the Schilling-Johnson years, and the Rockies permanently dropped out of the Giants’ good graces by going 0-15 against the Braves in 1993. The Padres, though, have always seemed kind of innocuous, and their GM, Kevin Towers, always seems to have something good to say about the Giant organization. They have a beautiful park, I had tons of fun rooting for them against the Red Sox at a game I attended in San Diego last year, and they’re one of the best-run organizations in the league. I guess if the Giants can’t win the West, here’s hoping the Padres do.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers

It should be fun for all of us Giants fans watching Ned Colletti completely undermine all the good work Paul DePodesta did as the Dodger GM by squashing the young talent in favor of overpriced and awful veterans. While it sadly looks as though Juan Pierre will be rightly nailed to the bench to start the year, as long as he has his clueless defenders in the media, there’s still hope that he’ll get enough at-bats to crush the Dodgers' title hopes. And of course there’s always Nomar Garciaparra around to keep Andy Laroche from ever turning himself into something.

Truth be told, there’s far too much talent here and even Colletti can’t single-handedly run it all into the ground. The system is rich in pitching (Clayton Kershaw could be amazing) and they have an enviable collection of young, major league-ready position players. The Dodgers are probably the favorites to come out of the West if they just let the young guys play, but I have no confidence whatsoever that they’ll do so.

4. Colorado Rockies

On a strange little web site I created a few years ago (Geocities took down the page...grr) while watching my friend’s dog (yeah, long story), I went on a mini-rant while predicting the Rockies’ finish for the 2004 season. I stated that as long as they played in Colorado they’d never make the World Series. My thinking was that since they had to tailor their team to succeed in such an extreme hitting environment, that team would conversely not be able to compete in normal environments on the road. I was adamant, convinced of my own authority on the subject, and I used a lot of exclamation points.

Four years later, the Rockies are defending a pennant, and I look like an ass. In my defense, Coors Field is no longer the crazy hitters park that it used to be, and do you know why? They cut the grass! No joke. Maybe they hired one of those mystical lawnmower men from the Stephen King universe (er, not the virtual reality simpleton, though).

I’m not particularly impressed by the Rockies’ pitching compared to the rest of the division, but they have a wonderful defensive unit and a stud hitter in Matt Holliday, so who knows? The top four teams in the NL West are all so good that any of these picks could be flip-flopped, and any of these teams could make a serious claim as the best in the division. How’s that for writer ass-covering?

5. San Francisco Giants

You see what I’m doing here? Every time I’ve done predictions for the NL West on this blog, I’ve chosen the Giants to finish first, and each time they’ve finished down in the pack. So by using the Reverse Jinx Protocol, I’m going to ensure that the Giants do, in fact, win the division this season. After all, success in baseball doesn’t really come down to talent on the field. It really depends on the predictions of a tired blogger frantically churning out a season preview in his boxer shorts at 11:00 the night before the season starts.

Yes, the Giants will probably be horrible this year and hanging all hopes on the RJP is likely fruitless in the face of a front office that is woefully ill-suited to righting this nearly-sunken ship. I guess if we can’t have the delusions of competition that worked out so well in 1997, we still have…Bocock!

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