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The National League West is shaping up to be one of the most competitive divisions in baseball.
Each team in the division has formidable pitching staffs that can compete. Even the Arizona Diamondbacks, who were pitching starved for the last few years, have good, young starting pitching developing—Daniel Hudson and Barry Enright, to name a couple.
The Dodgers have their talented core of Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw, while the Padres still have their great bullpen in tact.
The Rockies still have Ubaldo Jimenez and perhaps the best offense in the division, with the likes of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.
Then there are the San Francisco Giants, the band of rag-tag misfits who stole the hearts of Giants fans and marched on to baseball immortality. They still have their World Series-winning pitching staff in tact, but can their offense get the job done again in 2011?
Here are the projected win totals for each team in the National League West.
According to Baseball Prospectus, the Giants are projected to finish 90-72. This is two fewer wins than last year.
Baseball Prospectus seems on par with this prediction. Although the Giants will retain their championship pitching staff, the Giants will lose a step offensively with the loss of Juan Uribe.
Uribe was a clutch hitter for the Giants in 2010. Most of his 24 home runs either tied or gave the Giants the lead. Although the Giants signed Miguel Tejada to fill the void, he does not have as much pop as Uribe does at his current stage in his career.
With Andres Torres, Cody Ross, Freddy Sanchez, Buster Posey and a healthier Pablo Sandoval playing for a full year, the loss of Uribe may be taken care of with the contribution from these players, but anything can happen over the course of 162 games.
Will Cody Ross continue his amazing postseason offensive run in 2011? Will Andres Torres follow up his career year with another?
Because of the offensive question marks for the Giants, I will agree with Baseball Prospectus and predict conservatively that the Giants will finish 90-72 in 2011 and take first place in the National League West.
Los Angeles Dodgers
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Baseball Prospectus picks the Dodgers to come in second place in 2011 at 87-75.
This might be a bit of an underestimation for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Now that they have shored up their pitching staff with the additions of Matt Guerrier and Jon Garland, the Dodgers can compete with any staff in the division.
Furthermore, the Dodgers improved offensively at second base with the addition of Juan Uribe. Combined with a healthy Andre Ethier (that thumb injury affected him more than you think), the Dodgers may be a force to reckon with in the division.
The major question mark is Jonathan Broxton. If he can return to his greatness, I believe that the Dodgers can give the Giants some problems and win 89 games—or maybe win the division. If not, don't expect the Dodgers to do any better than their 2010 record of 80-82.
The Colorado Rockies
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In 2010, the Rockies stayed competitive, but fell to the Giants in the end.
Interestingly, Baseball Prospectus picks the Rockies to go 83-79, which was their same record in 2010. The web site also projects the team batting average to be .279, with a .452 slugging percentage, by far the best of any of the teams' projections (which is no surprise considering the venue the Rockies play in).
Baseball Prospectus seems to underrate the Rockies just a bit, although the team is not that much different from last year, their core players—Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Ubaldo Jimenez—remain in tact.
The Rockies are the most balanced team in the division, but I still do not see them being as good as the Giants or Dodgers. Their pitching staffs as a whole are just a notch better and the Rockies' offense is skewed because of Coors Field.
For this reason, I predict the Rockies to finish 88-74.
The San Diego Padres
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Baseball Prospectus has the Padres finishing at 80-82, which is 10 wins below from how they finished in 2010.
Most of the drop is undoubtedly due to the loss of Adrian Gonzalez. He was the only offensive force in that lineup, and now that he is gone, it is going to be awfully tough to make that up.
The additions of Jorge Cantu, Jason Bartlett and Brad Hawpe will help, but it probably will not be enough. Gonzalez was the heart and soul of the Padres, but now, he has migrated eastward.
The Padres retained their stellar bullpen for 2011, led by Heath Bell and Mike Adams. Still, the loss of Gonzalez will have a drastic impact not just offensively, but also on team morale.
Because of the loss of Gonzalez, I predict that the Padres will finish 81-81.
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The Arizona Diamondbacks are a very underrated team and should not be taken lightly.
Baseball Prospectus has them finishing 2011 at 74-88, but they have some nice pieces up and coming.
A major problem in 2010 for the Diamondbacks was their atrocious pitching staff. The Diamondbacks attempted to mend their bullpen with the addition of J.J. Putz, but it still needs a bit more work to be as good as the other teams.
A surprising bright spot might be the Diamondbacks starting pitching. Barry Enright and Daniel Hudson looked strong at the tail end of 2010.
Hudson posted an 8-2 record with a 2.45 ERA, while Enright went 6-7 with a 3.91 ERA, but showed flashes of brilliance.
The offense took a blow with the loss of Adam LaRoche, but it is still decent with Justin Upton in the heart of the order. Still, the Diamondbacks do not seem to excel at any facet of the game.
The Diamondbacks are up and coming and will surpass their 2010 mark of 65-97. If Enright and Hudson pitch well consistently, I do not see why the Diamondbacks cannot win at least 76 games.
This article was featured on the Bleacher Report.
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