Let me start with a fizzle...
Number 3 Starters:
- Jason Schmidt
- Clay Hensley
- Matt Morris
- Rodrigo Lopez
- Doug Davis
Part of the reason Arizona is overrated heading into the season is here, as statistically Davis should be due for a rebound, but if you've seen him pitch lately you know to question that call. He can't find the strike zone without running into a lot of trouble, so he typically stays outside it. To me, this says "steep decline" rather than "off year." Still, Rockies fans can't be too optimistic with Lopez yet to prove he himself is capable of a rebound season.
Okay, that didn't work, let's try finding some warmth, any warmth..,
Bottom of the Rotation
- San Diego - Maddux/Wells
- Los Angeles - Penny/Tomko?
- Colorado - Hirsh/Fogg
- Arizona - Gonzalez/Owings
- San Francisco - Lowry/Ortiz
This is where each team in the division's fans start speculating and thinking their pair will fill out better than the other four contestants. If you don't believe me, then just look at the teams' sites/blogs and see: What if Maddux and Wells are able to pitch solidly for thirty starts apiece in their forties? Awesome! What if Penny regains his pre-All-Star 2006 form and Tomko's new compact delivery restores him to glory? Golden! What if Hirsh looks like he did against the PCL last year and Fogg doesn't suck? Outstanding! What if Owings and Gonzalez pitch like they did this Spring? Fantastic! What if Lowry gets something from his curveball and Ortiz' rebound is real? Sweet!
Truth be told, all five could be terrible this season and chances are that at the most only one or two will live up to their hometown's hopes in this. Right now, I like the hot pair on Arizona better than I have them ranked, but I'm so hesitant to move them based on misleading Spring numbers. Later in the season, this section will evolve into LA and Colorado's favor as Wells and Maddux won't go all year, Lowry and or/Ortiz will disappoint and Tim Lincecum won't be ready in time and Arizona will have Davis and Livan that they'll be desperate to get rid of. Los Angeles will be able to insert Billingsley and Hendrickson, Colorado Jimenez, Kim, Buchholz and/or Lawrence, none of the others have similarly skilled plan B's (or C's and D's in Colorado's case) when things go wrong.
alright, feeling a little better, what about the top, though?
Top of the Rotation:
- San Francisco - Zito/Cain
- Colorado - Cook/Francis
- San Diego - Peavy/Young
- Los Angeles - Lowe/Wolf
- Arizona - Webb/Hernandez
Don't get in a huff, D-back fans, you jump up to number two when RJ gets back. This rank for Colorado will raise eyebrows, I'm sure, but in Chris Young you have one of the luckiest pitchers of 2006 and a drop-off can be expected. Francis was lucky last year too, but Jeff's got more in his arsenal scouting wise than Young and has more chance of sustained success. The Dodgers' Lowe is solid, but he's no more an ace than Cook, with Webb being the only legit number one of the division's three premiere sinkerballers. The fact that Randy Wolf is their number two has to drop the Dodgers in this scale. I don't think they're far behind San Diego or Colorado, I don't think they're ahead though. Livan Hernandez will be the second disaster that brings down the Diamondbacks' lofty ambitions this year.
- San Diego - Hoffman, Meredith, Linebrink and a bunch of other solid guys.
- Los Angeles - Saito, Billingsley, and it will get better once people get back from injury.
- Colorado - Fuentes, Hawkins, solid RHP's, shaky LHP's.
- Arizona - Valverde, Cruz and several pitchers that could make this better than it looks right now, frankly.
- San Francisco - Not as bad as Armando Benitez makes it look, but still pretty bad.
My point for this first part is that thus far, I don't see any reason besides Rodrigo Lopez to eliminate Colorado from contention based on the pitching staffs of our divisional competition. We're definitely in this thing, and that's what leads to the next half:
- Los Angeles - Furcal/Pierre
- Colorado - Taveras/Matsui
- Arizona - ????/????? (likely Drew/Hudson)
- San Diego - Giles/Giles
- San Francisco - Roberts/Vizquel
Two sets of speedsters head the top of the list. Possibly the best all around player in the division, Furcal's not going to be ready for opening day, but he shouldn't be far away. I think this is where pundits disregard Colorado at their peril. On any given day the D-backs could be better or worse depending on who Bob Melvin puts in the role, they lack a traditional leadoff type, but they've got multiple talented options. The brothers Giles are an interesting choice for San Diego, I'm not sure what to expect there. San Fran goes old school with one decent OBP speedster and then the light hitting bat control/bunter to get him over. Vizquel's overall line last season masks a legit decline in his batting abilities made evident in the second half.
- Colorado - Atkins, Helton, Holliday, Hawpe
- Arizona - Jackson, Byrnes, Tracy, Quentin
- Los Angeles - Garciaparra, Kent, Gonzalez, Martin
- San Francisco - Bonds, Durham, Aurilia, Feliz
- San Diego - Gonzalez, Bard, Cameron, Greene
Colorado's so far ahead of the division here that it's made up my mind. Really, there's only one playoff worthy lineup in the NL West, and we have it.
- San Diego - Kouzmanoff/Sledge
- Colorado - Tulowitzki/Iannetta
- Arizona - Young/Snyder
- Los Angeles - Ethier/Betemit
- San Francisco - Molina/Winn
The first three could go in any order depending on the play of the four most promising rookies in the NL (Kouz, Tulo, Iannetta and Young) and the Dodgers could sneak in there if there's a disappointing first season for any of the group. Nobody will be as bad as the Giants down here, though.
- Arizona - Callaspo/Hairston/Montero
- Los Angeles - Kemp/Loney/Lieberthal
- Colorado - Baker/Carroll/Torrealba
- San Diego - Padres bench guys
- San Francisco - Giants bench guys
Colorado could be better than I have them ranked given the AAA lineup that includes Barmes, Sullivan, Stewart, Koshansky and Smith. The Dodgers and D-backs have some serious talent without as much depth, though, so I had them ahead for now. LA's in real trouble if Russ Martin gets injured.
- Colorado 89-73
- San Diego 86-76
- Los Angeles 83-79
- Arizona 80-82
- San Francisco 74-88
I don't believe we actually have the best chance of winning the division. We might not even have the second best chance. It will take some luck and a somewhat spectacular Ubaldo Jimenez to get to that 89 win total. I'm just saying that we've got a chance in this thing, and it's a pretty solid chance given our lineup. So since seemingly no other rational person was giving us the love we deserve, I'm here. Yeah, call me a cheerleader or whatever, but Your 2007 NL West division winners: the Colorado Rockies.