NL West Report: Division closes strong season, Kevin Towers axed

The season officially concluded yesterday, at least for everyone outside the AL Central, and the National League West had a very formidable showing this year.

Two divisions are sending two teams to the postseason. Two divisions can boast each of their teams reached at least 70 wins. Only one division fits in both categories.  Care to guess?

NL West Standings

W L PCT GB STRK
Los Angeles 95 67 .586 0 Won 2
Colorado 92 70 .567 3 Lost 2
San Francisco 88 74 .543 7 Won 1
San Diego 75 87 .462 20 Lost 1
Arizona 70 92 .432 25 Won 1

(updated 10.4.2009 at 6:19 PM MDT)

The NL West checked into the W column 420 times, just two times less than the AL East.  The AL West did have a slightly higher win percentage, but come on...they only have four teams. 

The final seasonal team capsules are included after the jump.

NL West Report

Arizona (70-92, 5th, W1, 24.5 GB)

Last Week: 3-3. 0-3 @ Giants. 2-1 @ Cubs.  Arizona's win yesterday helped the club avoid finishing with under 70 losses.

Divisional Change: Gained 0.5 games on LAD.

News:  Try to remember a year ago, when several baseball pundits pointed to Stephen Drew's strong second half, suggesting he was better than Troy Tulowitzki.  Can't remember?  I don't blame you.  But Drew's disappointint 2009 campaign has led some, like Bob Nightengale, to suggest the D-Backs trade Drew.  Nightengale actually goes as far as to say Arizona is planning to shop him.

Stephen Drew

#6 / Short Stop / Arizona Diamondbacks

6-0

185

L

R

Mar 16, 1983

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2009 - Stephen Drew 135 533 71 139 29 12 12 65 49 87 5 1 .261 .320 .428

The trusted source Nick Piecoro claims that is false currently, though, and that sticking with Drew makes sense.  He raises good points, that his defense has improved, that he's still an above average offensive shortstop in spite of not reaching projections, and that he'll be as cheap as Cesar Izturis.

MLBTradeRumors hosted a chat about Drew and his future.

Fire Brand, a blog covering the Red Sox, suggest Drew would look great turning double plays with Dustin Pedroia.  The writer suggests Clay Buchholz would get the deal done, but Rob Neyer states obviously that such a deal makes no sense for Boston.

Transactions: None.

Injuries:  None.

Arizona Diamondbacks Injuries

15-Day

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Chris Snyder lower-back 08/23/2009

60 Day DL / Out for the season

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Chad Qualls knee 08/31/2009
Conor Jackson pneumonia 05/12/2009
Brandon Webb shoulder 04/07/2009

Star-divide

Los Angeles (95-67, 1st, W2)

Last Week: 2-4. 0-1 @ Pirates, 0-2 @ Padres, 2-1 vs. Rockies.  It took six games to do it, but the Dodgers finally clinched the NL West Saturday.  By taking that meaningless game from Colorado yesterday, Los Angeles officially won all six series against the Rockies.

Divisional Change: Lost 2.0 games to Colorado.

This Week:  Game 1 of the Dodgers NLDS series will start Wednesday at 8:37 MDT at Dodger Stadium against the St. Louis Cardinals.  Game 2 will take place Thursday, and Games 3 and 4 are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at Busch Stadium.

News:  The LA Times report that they are in talks with GM Ned Colletti on a contract extension.  Jon Heyman from SI claims negotiations point to a 3-year extension.  Heyman's article also highlights areas of concern from all eight playoff teams, including the Rockies, who got a "worry meter rating" of a four, lower than any playoff team sans the Yankees.  Of course, his reasoning - that the Rockies struggle on the road - is fairly ill-informed.  The Rockies were over .500 away from Coors Field.  Oh yeah, this is about the Dodgers.  Woops.  Even though the Dodgers' rotation is in flux, they got a four as well.

Back to Colletti.   MLBTradeRumors.com has a solid breakdown of Colletti's key moves, positive and negative.

Clayton Kershaw

#22 / Pitcher / Los Angeles Dodgers

6-3

220

L

L

Mar 19, 1988

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2009 - Clayton Kershaw 8-8 31 30 0 0 0 0 171.0 119 55 53 7 91 185 2.79 1.23

Randy Wolf and Clayton Kershaw will start the NLDS for Games 1 and 2.  The lefties are a bit of a surprise at the front of Joe Torre's playoff rotation, at least relative to March.  At that point, Wolf was an above average journeyman pitcher and Kershaw was an unknown at 20 years old.

The perceived ace coming was Chad Billingsley, whose struggles relegate him to an unknown role.

An 18-year-old left-handed pitcher named Yusei Kikuchi is a lock for the No. 1 overall pick in Japan's amateur draft this month. However, reports are he is considering being the first Japanese high school ever to bypass the draft and sign with an MLB club. If he does the Dodgers are one of his suitors, as are the Giants.

Transactions: None.

Injuries:  Hiroki Kuroda will miss the NLDS with a bulging desc in his neck.  Will Ohman underwent surgery on his left throwing shoulder, ending his bid to rejoin LA in the playoffs.  He will be ready by 2010.

Los Angeles Dodgers Injuries

Questionable

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Ronnie Belliard groin 10/04/2009
Charlie Haeger knee 10/04/2009

15-Day

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Will Ohman shoulder 05/28/2009

60 Day DL / Out for the season

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Xavier Paul ankle 05/21/2009
Jason Schmidt shoulder 08/06/2009
Eric Milton lower-back 06/28/2009

Star-divide

San Diego (75-87, 4th, L1, 21.5 GB)

Last Week: 3-2.  2-0 vs. Dodgers.  1-2 vs. Giants.  In spite of losing the final series of the season, San Diego finished the season 23-13.

Divisonal change: Gained 1.5 game on LAD.

News:  The biggest story in the division this week outside of LA and Denver absolutely was the firing of San Diego GM Kevin Towers, who had spent 27 years in the Padres organization since being drafted by San Diego in 1982. Looking at Towers' 14-year GM career, this is a very strange time to be given a pink slip.  He scoured the scrap heap - from Mexican Leagues, to the Rule 5 draft, to divisional rivals' bullpens, to minor league free agents - to fill a roster with players no one respected, yet San Diego was one of the hottest teams in the majors by year's end.  

The team clearly has rushed through the infancy of their rebuilding plan and is firmly pushing towards middle school.  Towers has led them in the right direction in arguably his best year on the job.  Ken Rosenthal agrees, saying Towers is better off without the Padres and their internal drama anyway.

Mlb_g_ktowers1_200_mediumKevin Towers 

#0 / General Manager / San Diego Padres

6-1

190

R

R

Nov 11, 1961

Photo of Kevin Towers courtesy of espn.com/mlb

GasLamp Ball has the Padres' press conference on the firing, if you're interested.   Tim Sullivan at the San Diego Union Tribune remembers how Towers could command an entire room.

Towers absolutely did not deserve to be fired, but the wild card in everything is new ownership.  Jeff Moorad swooped in and decided quickly he wanted his own guy.  So, who's next?  Jerry DiPoto, the former Rockies closer who currently works in Arizona's front office, was initially reported to be a candidate, though we learned Saturday that there are no internal or Arizona candidates for the job.

Moorad said he has already interviewed three candidates, though their names are undisclosed at this point.  At least we can be sure Dan O'Dowd isn't one of them.  As for Towers, his prematurely ended career obviously leaves a competitive fire.  He wants to and likely will GM again.  Mets GM Omar Minaya apparently contacted Towers and is interested in giving him a "job  in the organization."  That would be interesting.  Towers: "How'd Ben Johnson and Jon Adkins treat you?  Thanks for Heath Bell."

As for other news, Jeff Moorad hints the Padres' payroll will likely begin with a 4, which would seem to indicate they plan on holding onto Heath Bell and Adrian Gonzalez.

Most rebuilding teams point to the future with optimism as they see divisional foes head to the post-season.  Surprisingly though, the Padres have a right to be optimistic after their finishing kick.

Transactions: None.

Injuries:  Kyle Blanks and Brian Giles failed to return to the lineup by season's end, though Edgar Gonzalez returned in a pinch-hit role over the weekend. 

San Diego Padres Injuries

15-Day

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Brian Giles knee 06/19/2009
Kyle Blanks foot 08/29/2009

60 Day DL / Out for the season

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Chris Young shoulder 06/15/2009
Shawn Hill elbow 04/26/2009
Cliff Floyd shoulder 06/18/2009
Cha Seung Baek forearm 03/30/2009
Mark Worrell elbow 03/27/2009

Star-divide

San Francisco (88-74, 3rd, W1, 7.0 GB in Div, 4.0 GB in WC)

Last Week: 5-1.  3-0 vs Diamondbacks. 2-1 @ Padres.  The Giants finished the season with their best week of the year, helping them to end with 88 wins, 12 more than their season high of the past five seasons.

Divisional Change:  Gained 3.0 games in NL West (LAD), Gained 1.0 games in WC (COL) but was eliminated Wednesday.

News:  It is no secret that San Francisco is still lacking in the offensive department, and on the shopping list this offseason ought to be an impact bat.  No, not like Ryan Garko.  WEEI.com's Alex Speier points out that Boston free agent Jason Bay could be a fit for the Giants given their potential salary relief from free agents, sore need for a bat and current contending status int he NL West.

Second most important for GM Brian Sabean is deciding how to handle the catcher situation.  As Andrew Baggarly writes, it will be a tricky offseason for Molina and the Giants.  Molina finished the year as one of the worst cleanup hitters in the past half-century yet will enter free agency as a Type A free agent. The opinions are quite mixed on bringing back Bengie:

Bengie Molina

#1 / Catcher / Free Agent

5-11

225

R

R

Jul 20, 1974

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2009 - Bengie Molina 132 491 52 130 25 1 20 80 13 68 0 0 .265 .285 .442

Keith Law says pass, given that Buster Posey is ready to take over the reins offensively - he just needs help with game-calling, which would only come with experience.  Not only that, the $6million coming off the books could help in bringing offensive help.

Ray Ratto at the San Francisco Chronicle insists that Molina and the Giants need each other, and John Shea at the Chronicle goes so far as to call Molina the best catcher in San Francisco history.

Baggarly also wonders if Brian Sabean be retained next season.  Sabean swung and missed completely this trade deadline and signed lucrative deals (Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand) that were questioned even at the time of signing.  Despite that, the team is absolutely on a clear upswing, and Peter Gammons doesn't understand why bringing Sabean back is even in question.

He was there for only four starts, but Brad Penny enjoyed short stint with Giants.  San Francisco figures to be a fit for next season, as he seemingly wants to stay on the West Coast for an NL team.

Without a doubt, the Giants exceeded expectations in 2009.  Personally, I never bought them as a playoff team at any point in the season, but they gave me doubts as late as September.  That's an incredible accomplishment, and congratulations to San Francisco.

Transactions:   None.  

Injuries:  Sergio Romo's knee locked up Saturday during his follow through.  Justin Miller played catch last week.  Both will be fine for 2010.

San Francisco Giants Injuries

60 Day DL / Out for the season

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Justin Miller elbow 09/13/2009
Noah Lowry ribs 03/27/2009
Kelvin Pichardo shoulder 06/28/2009
Emmanuel Burriss foot 09/01/2009
Henry Sosa shoulder 08/05/2009
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