NL West Preview/Win Total Predictions

Reno

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BEST BET –
Arizona Diamondbacks Over 74 Regular Season Wins – Another team team that should surprise, the Diamondbacks won 77 games last season. They did make some moves and the loss of Troy Glaus and Javier Vazquez was not well received by many people. This is a team that needs to improve on taking more pitches and making opposing hurlers work more. The D-Backs lineup was remade during the offseason with that in mind. This year's group should be able to manufacture runs in a number of different ways and will be stronger throughout the lineup. Connor Jackson takes over at first and he can hit as well as field. He should be in the rookie of the year race. He is that good. Chad Tracy will be holding down third and he was so good last year (27 homers, 72 rbis, .308 avg) that he enabled this team to send Glaus packing. Orlando Hudson a defensive wizard came over in that trade as did Miguel Batista. Both figure to be solid and help this team for now and the future. The outfield features Luis Gonzalez and Shawn Green and Eric Byrnes will try and hold down the centerfield job. Craig Counsell was solid as short and Johnny Estrada will round out the lineup at catcher. Both players can hit. The starters feature Brandon Webb and the newly acquired El Duque Hernandez and Batista who should all be solid along with #4 man Russ Ortiz. Claudio Vargas needs to turn it up a notch in the five hole to keep his spot. Reliever Jose Valverde throws darts and he moves into the full time closer role. This team will surprise some people and they will be near .500 with 77-81 wins.


Colorado Rockies Over 69½ Regular Season Wins – The Rockies felt that their young players could carry the team in 2006 and they only made some minor adjustments. The Rockies decided to start this season with experience in relief. Well traveled 40 year old closer Jose Mesa, fellow right-hander Mike DeJean, 35, and left-hander Ray King, 32, all join the pen to give some experience and help set up Brian Fuentes. Their pitching was near the bottom of the league in every category as expected in Coors field. The Rockies offense was more disappointing as they were 10th in home runs, 13th in steals and were also 9th in total bases and slugging. This is a recipe for disaster and true to form they posted a horrendous 15-35 record over the final two months. Matt Holiday is a genuine power threat who should get 30 plus dingers and Todd Helton will need to start banging again. While he did hit .320 the Rockies need him to get more than the 79 rbis he collected last year. Garrett Atkins and Clint Barmes (returning from a 2005 collarbone fracture) are two more youngsters who will anchor the left side of the infield and should help this team get well in a hurry. Luis Gonzalez has hit .292 the last two years and the Rockies will be happy if he can be just as consistent this year. Centerfielder Cory Sullivan earned his job by batting .387 in September as a rookie. The starting staff has a nice first three in Jason Jennings, Aaron Cook and Jeff Francis. All three have shown some flashes of brilliance in the past and could get this team 45 wins themselves. The #4 starter Josh Fogg is a human batting practice machine who is scheduled to be in the rotation, he won’t last long. Zach Day is a nive number five. This team does have issues but with a lot of youngsters with a year older and wiser, I expect this team to finish in the 71-75 win area.




Los Angeles Dodgers Under 85 Regular Season Wins – The Dodgers were very busy this offseason. After a horrible 71 win season in 2005, the GM was fired, Jim Tracy resigned as manager and Ned Colletti and Grady Little were brought on board by owner Frank McCourt. The Dodgers then proceded to sign Rafael Furcal to take over at Shortstop, Nomar Garciaparra to handle first base, Sandy Alomar to split catching duties with Dioner Navarro, Bill Mueller to play third and Kenny Lofton to start in centerfield. Add these players to holdovers JD Drew (15 homers in 252 Abs), Jeff Kent (29 homers, 105 rbis) and Jose Cruz Jr (.301 in 47 games with LA) and you have a much brighter 2006. The Dodgers were not just busy on offense, they also added starters Brett Tomko and Jae Seo who step right into a rotation already featuring Odalis Perez, Derek Lowe and Brad Penny. If these pitchers, as well as rightfielder JD Drew, can all stay healthy, the Dodgers could possibly challenge for the division. Last year their pitching was bad, ranking 12th in ERA, 14th in Wins, and finishing in the bottom half of saves and opposing batting average. Considering that Chavez Ravine has been one of the more pitcher friendly parks, this trend is alarming. I fully expect the Dodgers to improve over last year, but not enough top get over the total. Little will pilot this team to an 81-85 win season.




San Diego Padres Under 78 Regular Season Wins – This team is starting the season with a four man rotation consisting of ace Jake Peavy, Sean Estes, Chris Young and Dewon Brazelton. All, save for Peavy, are newcomers. Peavy is the only real quality starter of the group, though Estes did look good at times in the spring. Offensively, this team added righthanded hitters Mike Cameron, who starts the season on the DL, Mike Piazza and Vinny Castilla. All three older veterans are expected to start for most of this season. They join left-handed hitters such as Brian Giles, Dave Roberts and Ryan Klesko (also starts on the DL) to form the main offensive threat for this team. Shortstop Khalil Greene and rookie 2nd baseman Josh Barfield will hold down the middle and are capable of driving the ball to the gaps with good power. The bullpen The Padres won 82 games last year but will be hard press to get to .500. The number here features Trevor Hoffman, 43 saves away from the 479 needed to become baseball's all-time save leader, still has his incomparable changeup and remains a commanding ninth-inning presence. Scott Linebrink is the primary setup man with few equals in the majors. Clay Hensley, who excelled in the second half with a team-best 1.70 ERA, will take over for departed Akinori Otsuka as the other main setup man. The number is pretty close to right on but I will call for a 75-78 win season and stay under the posted total.

BEST BET-

San Francisco Giants Under 83½ Regular Season Wins – 75 wins in 2005 were a big disappointment. No doubt the Giants missed steroid king and Home Run king, Barry Bonds. He should be back for all of 2006 unless he retires over steroid talk, fake injuries or maybe gets suspended by the commissioner. This team lost some veterans in the offseason but none that really hurt them in my opinion. Lance Niekro takes over for the departed JT Snow and while his glove is not as good, his bat will be a big improvement. The rest if the infield returns Ray Durham, Omar Vizquel and Pedro Feliz. All three just very average major leaguers. The outfield will have the aforementioned Bonds as well as ageless Moises Alou and Randy Winn for a full season. Winn sparkled after his trade to the Giants last season and he will need to duplicate that success for the Giants to do anything this summer. The pitching staff will be bolstered by the addition of Matt Morris. The Boys by the Bay need Jason Schimidt to return to form and Noah Lowry to continue his early career success. The best arm on the staff may be rookie Matt Cain who is slotted in the fourth position to open the season. He may win rookie of the year, he is that good. The Giants have said they will use both Armando Benitez and Tim Worrell to close. Neither one is a great option. This team has a lot of problems and a lot of questions, I don’t see them getting to .500 and my prediction is a 75-79 win season.


 

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