2011 NL West Offseason Moves
The five teams in the National League West were not huge players in the free agent market this offseason, but they were able to make some key additions. Out of the five teams in the division the only team that seems to have improved its roster is the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers didn’t lose any key players this winter and were able to plug some holes in the pitching staff and offensively. The signing of starting pitcher Jon Garland helps round out a strong starting rotation for the Dodgers. Garland is a veteran pitcher that has pitched at least 190 innings in each of the last ten seasons. The Dodgers signed Juan Uribe away from the Giants for 3 years and $21 million. Uribe brings some pop to the lineup, but he is a free swinger with a career on base percentage of only .300.
The Giants and Rockies head in to 2011 with rosters similar to what they had last year. The Rockies spent much of the offseason signing their own players to long term contracts. Colorado gave big contracts to their top offensive players, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, assuring that both of them will be in Colorado through 2017. The Rockies did acquire a veteran, backup infielder in Ty Wigginton and a new second baseman in Jose Lopez.
San Francisco will look to defend their World Series title with almost the same roster that won it in the first place. The Giants lost Juan Uribe, but replaced him with Miguel Tejada so not much change there. The Giants could benefit from getting a healthy Mark Derosa back, and I am looking forward to watching what Buster Posey can do when he plays a full season.
The Padres and the Diamondbacks were both busy this offseason, but they both seem to be taking a step back in 2011. The big loss for the Padres was star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez going to the Red Sox. In addition to the loss of Gonzalez, the Padres lost Jon Garland, Miguel Tejada, David Eckstein, Chris Young, Scott Hairston, Jerry Hairston, and Matt Stairs. The Padres should be better defensively this season after bringing in Orlando Hudson and Jason Bartlett to play up the middle.
The Diamondbacks lost their corner infielders, Adam LaRoche and Mark Reynolds, and their combined 57 home runs and 185 RBI. Taking the places of LaRoche and Reynolds will be Juan Miranda and Melvin Mora who combined for 10 home runs last season. The Diamondbacks added Zach Duke and Armando Galarraga to fill out their starting rotation, but their combined 68-96 career record doesn’t inspire much confidence.
2011 NL West Pitching Staffs
The Giants and Padres had the top two pitching staffs in the Major Leagues last season in regards to ERA, and they finished the season in first and second in the division. San Francisco rode their strong pitching all the way to the World Series title in 2010. Here is a ranking of the NL West pitching staffs heading into the 2011 season.
1. San Francisco Giants
In 2010, the Giants pitching staff led the Major Leagues in ERA (3.36), opponents batting average (.236), and strike outs (1331). The Giants enter 2011 with the same starting rotation and bullpen that helped them dominate hitters last year. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain pack a great one-two punch at the front of the rotation and I think 21 year-old Madison Bumgarner is poised to have a big season by the bay. If the Giants are leading after six innings, the bullpen, led by closer Brian Wilson, usually finishes it off in style.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
While the Giants pitching staff is clearly the best in the division the race for second is a close one between the Dodgers and Padres. I give the edge to the Dodgers but only by a slight margin. The Dodgers starting rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda, and Jon Garland is solid. Each member of the Dodger’s 2011 starting rotation is coming off a season in which they pitched at least 190 innings and posted an ERA under 3.63. Clayton Kershaw is a legitimate number one starter after back to back season with an ERA under 3.00. I think Kershaw will be in the running for the NL Cy Young at the end of the season.
3. San Diego Padres
The Padres pitching staff finished second in the Major Leagues in ERA (3.39), opponents batting average (.240), and strikeouts (1295) in 2010 behind the Giants. The Padres should be solid on the mound again in 2011, although, I expect a slight drop off after losing starter Jon Garland and relievers Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb. The San Diego pitching staff will definitely reap the benefits of having a solid defense behind them and playing their home games in spacious Petco Park. If San Diego is going to be successful this year the pitching staff will have to be outstanding to make up for their anemic offense.
4. Colorado Rockies
Colorado’s ace, Ubaldo Jimenez, is coming off an outstanding season in which he went 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA and 212 strike outs. After Jimenez, the Rockies rotation will be rounded out by Jorge De La Rosa, Jason Hammel, Jhoulys Chacin, and Aaron Cook. Colorado added an arm to the bullpen by picking up Matt Lindstrom in the offseason. Lindstrom has been inconsistent throughout his career, but when he is on he has great stuff. Unfortunately for all the Rockies pitchers, they play their home games in Coors Field.
5. Arizona Diamondbacks
In all of Major League Baseball in 2010 only two teams, the Pirates and Royals, gave up more runs than the Diamondbacks. Ian Kennedy is slated to be the ace of the Diamondbacks staff. Of the NL West starting pitchers with enough innings to qualify, Kennedy’s 3.80 ERA finished behind Ubaldo Jimenez of the Rockies, Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez of the Giants, Latos and Richard of the Padres, and the entire starting rotation of the Dodgers. Arizona did make an upgrade at closer by bringing in J.J. Putz to finish off games. The question is, how many save opportunities will his team give him?
2011 NL West – Who has the best lineup?
There are a lot of great pitchers in the NL West, but it has its share of hitters as well. The top lineup in the division was an easy choice, after that it got a little tricky.
1. Colorado Rockies
The Rockies have the two best offensive players in the NL West in outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Last season, Gonzalez hit .336 with 34 home runs and 117 RBI and Tulowitzki hit .315 with 27 homers and 95 RBI. New second baseman, Jose Lopez, should benefit greatly moving from a pitchers park in Seattle to a hitters park in Colorado. The addition of Ty Wigginton give Colorado a solid hitter that can step in for Todd Helton at first and Ian Stewart at third.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
If Matt Kemp can get his batting average back to the level it was at for the previous three seasons the Dodgers offense will be the second best in the NL West. Kemp hit .249 last season, his lowest in his career, but still hit 28 home runs and drove in 89 runs. Rafael Furcal, James Loney, Andre Ethier, and Kemp should be great at the top of the lineup and Casey Blake and Juan Uribe will provide some power in the five and six holes.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks may have lost some power when Mark Reynolds and Adam LaRoche left town, but they still have plenty of pop in the lineup. Chris Young, Kelly Johnson, Justin Upton, and Stephen Drew are the nucleus of the Diamondbacks lineup. All four players hit at least 15 home runs and stole more than 10 bases last year. Melvin Mora replaces Reynolds at third, and although he won’t hit 32 home runs, Mora will be an improvement over the .198 batting average and 211 strikeouts that Reynolds had in 2010.
4. San Francisco Giants
The Giants offense could prove me wrong this year and be better than both the Diamondbacks and Dodgers, but I highly doubt it. I expect that Buster Posey and Aubrey Huff will have good years in the three and four holes in San Francisco’s lineup, outside of that I don’t know what to expect. Pablo Sandoval was an outstanding hitter in 2009 with a .330 average and 25 home runs, and then he followed it up with only 13 homers and a .268 average last year. One issue I have with the Giants lineup is their ability to steal bases and manufacture runs. In 2010, the Giants finished tied for last in stolen bases with only 55 steals in 87 attempts. Leadoff hitter, Andres Torres, lead the Giants with 26 steals followed by Huff with 7.
5. San Diego Padres
The Padres finished last in the NL West in runs, batting average, and on base percentage in 2010 and they should be even worse this season after trading Adrian Gonzalez to Boston. Gonzalez led San Diego in every offensive category last season and was the only home run threat in their lineup. The Padres had five players hit more than 10 home runs in 2010 and three of them, Gonzalez, Jerry Hairston Jr., and Scott Hairston, are playing elsewhere this season. That leaves Will Venable (13 HR) and Chase Headley (11 HR) as the long ball threats in the lineup. With the combination of a strong pitching staff, good defense, horrible offense, and Petco Park, expect a lot of 2-1 ball games in San Diego this year.
2011 NL West Prediction
Three teams have a shot at winning the NL West this year, the Dodgers, Giants, and Rockies. The Dodgers and Giants will ride their strong starting pitching all season while the Rockies will win with offense. Here is my prediction of how the NL West will finish in 2011.
San Francisco Giants 92-70
Los Angeles Dodgers 91-71
Colorado Rockies 88-74
San Diego Padres 73-89
Arizona Diamondbacks 60-102