The regular season has arrived, and that means new things from Know Your Foe. I'll still profile what you need to know in the NL West, but this space will now also be used to look forward at who the Rockies will face in the upcoming week.
The Rockies epic Rocktober run in 2007 was truly reminiscent of a classic sports movie. If a writer was charged with the task of writing a sequel, an ideal start to the 2008 script would have been back-to-back series against the very teams the Rockies shockingly swept out of the playoffs on the way to the World Series.
The schedule-makers failed to provide that sequel last year, but the Rockies do open against Arizona and Philadelphia this season.
Arizona (82-80, no playoffs)
Monday-Wednesday : 3-game series at Arizona
After reaching the NLCS in 2007, the Diamondbacks failed to make the playoffs after fading to a disappointing 82-80 finish in 2008. Arizona is anchored by a strong rotation and hopes of success hinge on the growth of their young line-up.
However, if Spring Training is any indication, "success" won't be a word associated with the Diamondbacks this year. Our desert-dwelling division-rivals stumbled to MLB's worst Spring Training record at 11-23.
The marquee match-up of the series will no doubt be the earthworm genocide that will unfold this afternoon.
|Monday, April 6:||Aaron Cook (2-2, 3.25)||vs.||Brandon Webb (1-2, 5.82)
|Thursday, April 7:||Ubaldo Jimenez (1-0, 7.32)
||vs.||Dan Haren (2-2, 4.40)
|Wednesday, April 8:||Franklin Morales (3-3, 4.50)
||vs.||Doug Davis (0-1, 6.23)
Nothing has changed in the past week. The Diamondbacks' starting lineup is worth about 4.924 runs. It's a solid lineup with some significant upside. The Rockies have had trouble handling Chad Tracy and Justin Upton in the past. Note that Bob Melvin altering the Opening Day lineup, replacing Mark Reynolds and Justin Upton with Eric Byrnes and Tony Clark just because Aaron Cook scares Melvin so much.
|2||Chris B. Young
Chad Tracy (.367/.424/.567), Chris Snyder (.317/.417/.610) and Mark Reynolds (.323/.377/.516) didn't wait until April for their bats to heat up. Chad Qualls was one of the few Diamondbacks hurlers to have a thoroughly impressive spring - Qualls posted a 2.70 ERA through ten spring innings that included eight strikeouts and no walks.
Spring Training couldn't end fast enough for Justin Upton (.197/.333/.328) and Conor Jackson (.200/.280/.246), who had abysmal showings in Spring Training. Brandon Webb had a sub-par spring as well (5.82 ERA, 1.59 WHIP), as did two pivotal bullpen arms, Scott Schoeneweis (11.00, 2.44) and Tony Pena (9.00, 2.44)
Philadelphia (92-70, NL East and World Series champions)
Friday-Sunday : 3-game series at Colorado
Rockies fans don't have to wait long to see the World Series Champs at Coors Field. The Rockies' first home series will be against the Phils...and it will be the last time Philadeplhia will visit in 2009.
It won't be easy for the Phillies to repeat. Since the Yankees repeated in 2000, there have been eight different champions in nine seasons. The Red Sox have won twice but failed to repeat both times. Still, Philly Phans remain morbidly optimistic. Philadelphia returns virtually the same team, although Pat Burrell has been replaced by the underrated Raul Ibanez.
World Series MVP Cole Hamels missed Sunday's Season Opener due to an inflamed elbow. Hamels was pushed back and will be making his season debut at Coors Field for the Rockies home opener. Brett Myers, who got rocked on Opening Day Sunday, will pitch Saturday. Chan Ho Park beat out J.A. Happ for the #5 spot in the rotation and could pitch Sunday, but Charlie Manuel might go with Jamie Moyer, who will have had five days' rest.
|Friday, April 10:||Cole Hamels (0-1, 9.39)
||vs.||Jason Marquis (1-3, 10.08)
|Saturday, April 11:||Brett Myers (2-2, 3.52)
||vs.||Jorge de la Rosa (2-2, 6.86)
|Sunday, April 12:||Chan Ho Park (2-0, 2.53)||vs.||Aaron Cook (2-2, 3.25)
The Phillies return their entire World Series-winning offense except for Pat Burrell. Chase Utley, who seems to have recovered from his offseason hip surgery, remains as the only head of the Rollins/Utley/Howard monster not to earn an MVP. The Philly starting line-up is indeed fierce, as it projects to score 5.202 runs/game.
But don't get too scared. That would only rank third in the "barren" NL West behind Los Angeles and Colorado.
The bench is quite strong as well, and we'll likely see plenty of Chris Coste, Matt Stairs and Greg Dobbs.
In past years, it has been difficult for the big Ryan Howard to gain momentum at the beginning of the season, but in 2009, there's nobody who has had a better spring. The 2006 NL MVP blasted a ridiculous 10 home runs while posting impressive slash stats (.333/.420/.760). Jayson Werth (.333/.368/.696), Jimmy Rollins (.351/.415/.541) and Carlos Ruiz (.326/.380/.558) hope their Spring fever lasts a bit longer also, and Chan Ho Park (2.53 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 10.5 K9) ran away with the #5 SP slot.
The "Flying Hawaiian" has yet to get off the ground. Shane Victorino (.180/.226/.260) posted pitcher-like numbers in Spring Training. Fellow southpaw starters Jamie Moyer (8.27 ERA, 1.94 WHIP) and Cole Hamels (9.39, 1.17) have also had their struggles.
Other things to know: Prospect J.A. Happ lost the race to be the #5 starter but remains on the roster in the bullpen...Two big names are trying to return from injury. Chase Utley had hip surgery and Cole Hamels is recovering from a sore elbow. Both figure to be healthy enough to start Friday....LHP Cedrick Bowers is now on the Philly roster...Ryan Howard lost 25 pounds from last season. Judging by his Spring Training, it has helped him.
NL West Report after the jump.
NL West Report
Ryan Roberts won the race for the 25th spot on the roster over James Skelton, Josh Whitesell, and Josh Wilson. Skelton had been favored due to his status as a Rule 5 draft choice from Detroit. He was waived, but Arizona retained Skelton's services by trading pitcher Brooks Brown to Detroit. Or maybe he's going to be a Colorado State linebacker.
Tim Dierkes at MLBTradeRumors talked with Arizona GM Josh Byrnes, and asked about his K-happy hitters, to which Byrnes responded:
To some extent, strikeouts are like other outs.
Those are some nice sedona red shades you have there Josh. Strikeouts have been and could continue to be the Diamondbacks' undoing, but as he pointed out later in the quote "If enough walks and homers accompany the strikeouts, the tradeoff can work".
This Week: 3 game home series vs. Rockies, 3 game home series vs. Dodgers
Los Angeles (15-22)
Those sneaky Dodgers. The 25-man roster had to be set by noon Sunday, but Los Angeles still hadn't decided its final spots. They submitted a 24-man roster through a loophole and added Claudio Vargas and Delwyn Young to the roster. However, Young and Vargas will be going on the disabled list, so the Dodgers will be adding three more to the 25-man roster before their opening game at 5:05. Will Ohman and Doug Mientkiewicz are expected to be two, and two relievers will be chosen between Ramon Troncoso, Josh Lindblom, Eric Threets, and Ronald Belisario.
The signing of Will Ohman meant Scott Elbert was not needed in the bullpen. Other changes from the forecast of a fortnight past include James McDonald becoming the fifth starter and Jeff Weaver being sent to AAA.
Ned Colletti shaved off 24% of his team's payroll in the offseason by remains the sexy pick to repeat as NL West Champions. Ramona Shelburne at the LA Daily News evaluates Colletti's offseason.
This Week: 4 game road series @ Padres, 3 game road series @ Diamonbacks
San Diego (10-21-3)
The Friars traded for Edward Mujica from the Indians and Eulogio de la Cruz to fill in the bullpen. Luke Gregorson and Edwin Moreno also won bullpen spots while Mark Worrell and Mike Adams were transferred to the 60-day disabled list. The bullpen was a mess a week ago, but a lot has changed in just a week. Shawn Hill will be the fifth starter, and their #3 starter, Walter Silva, is so obscure he does not have a picture or number in our system yet.
I fail to see how this pitching staff can compete with the Rockies', let alone the complete product. Another look at the bullpen plight.
"I prepared myself that I was going to be traded. Everyone in their right mind thought I would be somewhere else"
This Week: 4 game home series vs. Dodgers, 3 game home series vs. Giants
San Francisco (21-19)
The Giants ended up with a different 25-man roster than it appeared two weeks ago as well. Eugenio Velez beat out Kevin Frandsen as a backup middle infielder, and the front office decided Pablo Sandoval would do fine as a back-up catcher, so Steve Holm was optioned in favor of Juan Uribe.
Brandon Medders got the surprise nod over Rule 5 pick Luis Perdomo. Rookie Joe Martinez came out of nowhere to win the long reliever gig. The full-break-down is here.
Jack Taschner was also traded to the Phillies for C Ronny Paulino, who was then flipped to Florida for RHP Hector Correa. The move opened up a spot for Alex Hinshaw to be the primary lefty out of the pen.
This Week: 3 game home series vs. Brewers, 3 game road series @ Padres