NL West Preview Chat

Here's something in case you missed it. I chatted with Blez from Athletic's Nation and Jim from AZ Snake Pit about the upcoming season. Grant from McCovey Chronicles added some comments later. I read through it, and it's interesting, but it's mostly me trying to avoid jinxing the Padres and everybody else gushing over how awesome we are.

Blez: Obviously, the Bonds injury reshapes the outlook for the NL West. Who
do you think becomes the clear favorite?
Blez: Let's start with Jim.
AZSnakePit: I still don't think there's a clear favorite. The key issue is
how long Bonds is out for.
Blez: Dex?
Gaslampballer: I'll agree with Jim in saying there's no clear favorite.
However, if Bonds is out for a good amount of time (say over 2 months), then
I'd have to say the Padres and the Dodgers will be fighting it out for
first.
AZSnakePit: If the Giants can stay in touch till Bonds returns, they can
still win it. Otherwise, it's between LA and SD. Being honest, I think Bonds
is dogging it, and he'll back sooner than we think.

McCoveyChronicles: I'm starting to convince myself the Padres have this
thing.  I don't buy Klesko's fall off the face of the earth, and there is a
bullpen to be excited about.

Blez: I agree and think Bonds will be back earlier than expected, but who
knows if he'll remain healthy.

Blez: Jim, what do you think of what the D'Backs did to reshape their
roster?
AZSnakePit: A lot of movement, but likely to not much effect come the end of
the season - our aim this year should be the .500 mark, if we can reach
that, I'll be deliriously happy. For every credible signing (Glaus,
Vazquez), there was a questionable one (Clayton, Estes) - Rockies castoffs
are always doubtful at best.
Blez: Estes did have a pretty good season considering he was pitching at
Coors though.
AZSnakePit: True, but his ERA was still above 5.00 in 2002 + 2003, when he
wasn't at Coors. I don't think he's got what he takes.

Blez: Dex, is this the year that the Padres rotation puts it all together?
Gaslampballer: I'd like to think so. What's really comforting this season is
having a veteran in Woody who can actually be a good influence on the young
pitchers, who are starting to come of age. Also, our bullpen is so good,
there should be no reason for our starters to feel a lot of pressure in
keeping their pitch counts down.

Blez: Who do you both think has the best starting rotation in the NL West?
AZSnakePit: I like the Padres: Peavy might be a Cy Young dark horse.
Gaslampballer: I do like Peavy to get some Cy Young votes this season, but I
might have to say the Giants have a better rotation.
AZSnakePit: I'm less convinced: there's a big dropoff after Schmidt, that
almost reminds me of the 2004 D'backs. And we know how well THAT worked
out... :-)
Blez: Dex, are you just trying to take the pressure off your guys? I don't
see much behind Schmidt when it comes to the Giants.
Gaslampballer: I'd like to think that the Giants have gotten old, but I have
to believe Rueter slipped just a little last year. Schmidt is always solid,
and Tomko is no slouch. If Eaton does decide to pull it together though... I
just don't want to jinx our boys. :-)

McCoveyChronicles: No one has mentioned Lowry, who I just have the biggest
fan-crush on.  The changeup is something, when it's on.  Tomko's always had
the good fastball, and I think a lot of his success stemmed from throwing
the fastball more. Jerome Williams gets overlooked because he quietly
stepped in as a league-average pitcher for his 21- and 22-year old seasons.

Blez: I'm not sold on Tomko yet. Turning to offense, who do you think has
the best offense in the division?
AZSnakePit: Well, for once it might not be Colorado!
Gaslampballer: With Bonds... the Giants. Without is a good question.
Blez: Let's consider without Bonds for right now. He's off jumping off some
bridge or something...

McCovey Chronicles: Only to get to a phone booth, where he's going to change
clothes and hit .398.  I hope.

Gaslampballer: The Diamondbacks look really good to me on paper.
AZSnakePit: We have health issues with Glaus and Gonzo; if they stay healthy
though... And we have two black holes offensively in Counsell and Clayton.
Blez: I actually think San Diego's offense can mash with anyone in the
division, and I don't just say that because you have our "walk-off bunt
hero." Even considering Petco Park.
AZSnakePit: Yes, the spacious confines of Petco will dampen things - how
much, I'm less sure.
Gaslampballer: I think they have the potential. With park factors taken into
consideration, our guys were right up there a lot of guys. But then again...
We can't exactly ignore our park.
AZSnakePit: I liked Bonds' whine: "I just found out at PETCO stadium that
they tried to make it Bonds-proof, but I think they made it baseball-proof."
And didn't Klesko say something similar?
Gaslampballer: Klesko and Nevin have been pretty vocal about it. It got
frustrating at times, because Sexson hit some monster shots there, as did
Shawn Green.

McCovey Chronicles: How can Klesko not notice he had, what, six or eight
homers on the road?  He lost his power.

Blez: So, Jim likes San Diego's starting pitching, Dex likes the Giants, Dex
likes the D'Backs offense, Jim who has the best offense without Bonds? And
then who has the best pen in the division?
AZSnakePit: I do think we have run-scoring potential, but allowing for
parks, I think San Diego will be the best. And that bullpen is VERY solid
with Hoffman anchoring it. It's hard to see a real weakness in San Diego,
which is why I think they'll win. You can look at all the other teams and
point to flaws.
Gaslampballer: I will be less humble about our bullpen and say they're far
and away the best in the division. Otsuka has closer type stuff and if
Linebrink puts together another year like last year, Towers will have plenty
of teams knocking on the door about turning Linebrink into a closer as well.
Not to mention, like Jim says, Hoffman in the ninth.

AZSnakePit: I notice we've said very little about the Dodgers at all so
far...
Blez: What do you both think of the Dodgers offseason moves? I personally
think DePodesta is getting a bad rap.
Gaslampballer: With DePodesta at the helm, I'm not even sure we've seen
their opening day lineup yet.
AZSnakePit: Their rotation should be its usual reliable self - secnd only to
the Padres, IMHO, and they do have Gagne. It's their offense that's less
impressive.
Gaslampballer: DePodesta's also interesting in that he's a Moneyball type
with no qualms about moving guys around. I wonder how many players on his
team are continually watching their backs.
Blez: I actually like the Dodgers rotation. With the addition of a
sinkerballer in Lowe and IF Penny can get healthy, that looks pretty good to
me. Although they are likely going to have Scott Erickson as part of that
rotation.
AZSnakePit: The signing of Derek Lowe was a bit of a surprise, personally.
Blez: Lowe could win a lot of games at Dodger Stadium. Granted, he's being
overpaid.
AZSnakePit: He's not alone there...paging Russ Ortiz!

McCovey Chronicles:  Those were some goofy, goofy contracts.  DePodesta
invested a ton of capital in J.D. Drew and Derek Lowe, who could turn out to
be Cesar Cedeno and Mike Hampton just as easily as a feel-good story.

Blez: I'd take Lowe over Ortiz any day. But that's just me.
Gaslampballer: It must be nice to have a budget like that.
AZSnakePit: What's the Padres salary bill this year?
Gaslampballer: I think the Padres are right around 60 million this season
AZSnakePit: AZ is about $67m, I think - Dodgers near $83m.
Gaslampballer: What's funny... most of our core guys are close to the league
minimum. That's as of last year. I believe there have been some contracts
done since.

Blez: Is Sean Burroughs ever going to reach his potential?
Gaslampballer: I guess if you think his potential is hitting homeruns, then
it might be doubtful. He's still really young, and the Padres haven't really
got him in a regular spot in the lineup yet.
Blez: He's been injured quite a bit too, right?
Gaslampballer: He's had his bumps. Nobody will mistake him for ironman. Now,
if you think his potential is winning a batting title, then he very well
could do that.

Blez: So, let's here some fearless predictions...division order and win
total. Factor Bonds' injury and when you think he's gonna be back too.
AZSnakePit: 1) Padres (91 wins). 2) Giants (87), 3) Dodgers (85). 4) D'backs
(75). 5) Rockies (70). I don't think Bonds will be gone lone, but it'll be
for long enough to derail the Giants.
Gaslampballer: 1. Padres - 90 wins; 2. Dodgers - 88 wins; 3. Giants - 85 4.
D'backs 75; 5. Rockies - 58. I think it'll be hard fought. Bonds will be
back by late May. Diamondbacks could be a dark horse, but it'll take a year
for the team to mesh.

McCovey Chronicles: 1. Giants - 89 wins, 2. Padres - 88 wins, 3. Dodgers -
85 wins, 4. D'backs - 74 wins, 5. Rockies - 63 wins.

I know I said I was picking the Padres, but I changed my mind.  Check back
in three minutes, and it'll be the Padres again.

AZSnakePit: I think 2006 could see the D'backs up there, but we lost a lot
this off-season too: not least Randy Johnson, of course. Ouch. No love for
the Rockies there, Dex!
Blez: Ouch...poor Rockies. LOL!
Gaslampballer: I just look at the Rockies. It doesn't seem pretty sometimes.
:-)
Blez: But they have Kim now.
AZSnakePit: Kim's great. I hope he has a happy ending somewhere!
Gaslampballer: I've been careful not to jinx myself, but now that I laugh at
Kim, he'll contend for the Cy Young and the Rockies will win 88.
Blez: I pretty much agree with Dex. Although I think the Rockies will
squeeze out a few more than 58 wins. And I think the Dodgers will push the
Padres a little bit.
AZSnakePit: The Dodgers are really the forgotten team of the NL West in many
ways.

Blez: How weird is it to go from Schilling and Johnson to Ortiz, Vazquez and
Estes in just a few short years, Jim?
AZSnakePit: [Nostalgic sigh]
Gaslampballer: I would think that you had to see it coming after 2001.
AZSnakePit: It was inevitable. although I don't like the fact we still owe
Matt Williams $11m! But the rebuild is under way, and I think in a more
sustainable way this time. We have some great prospects coming up (Carlos
Quentin being the best), so I'm optimistic we'll be back in the World Series
before, oh, 86 years have passed. Any Padres prospects you're excited about,
Dex?
Gaslampballer: I think most of our prospects are with us now. I'm rooting
for Tim Stauffer to settle into the number 5 spot.

Blez: Last question and multi-pronged...who from the NL West can be
considered favorites for any of the awards...ROY, Cy Young, MVP?
Gaslampballer: If Bonds comes back, I'm sure he'll prove how valuable he is
to that team, so he's right there.
AZSnakePit: Vazquez and Schmidt might be Cy Young candidates, with Johnson
gone.
Gaslampballer: Jason Schmidt and Eric Gagne will be up there once again...
Peavy will also get some notice this year, but probably not a favorite.
AZSnakePit: Yeah, I'd bet a beer Peavy will win one before the decade is
out.
Gaslampballer: I'd have to take odds on a bet like that. Peavy looks really
good.
AZSnakePit: Do you think SD will be able to hold onto Peavy, or will he end
up in the Evil Empire?
Gaslampballer: Man, that's a tough one. From what I've seen of Peavy, he's a
really good guy, and he seems like he'd be loyal enough to take a San Diego
Discount.
Blez: No MVPs outside of Bonds? Nevin, Gonzo?

McCovey Chronicles: Give me Moises Alou for MVP, Jason Schmidt for Cy Young,
Matt Cain for ROY, and another drag off your funny-smelling cigarette,
mister.

AZSnakePit: Gonzo is past his best. MVP for AZ will likely be Glaus, if he
stays healthy.
Gaslampballer: I was about to say Glaus over Gonzo as well. As for the
rookies, I honestly haven't read enough about who we have in the west.

Blez: I'm thinking Kim. That thin air should do wonders for him. jk, of
course.
Gaslampballer: I heard Kim hardly even spoke to his team before he was
traded because he was so ashamed.
AZSnakePit: Sad. :-( Mind you, the Red Sox describing his contract as "a
mistake" can't have helped.
Gaslampballer: He's gotta work on losing that short term memory. No great
ballplayer ever got by dwelling on failure.
AZSnakePit: He came back fine after the 2001 World Series, but after he went
to Boston, just seemed to fall apart.
AZSnakePit: Do you reckon the NL West champ will go far into the playoffs?
Blez: I don't think any team in the NL West will go very far. The other
divisions have much better teams. The only one that I think could make noise
in the playoffs would be the Giants with a healthy and productive Bonds./
Gaslampballer: The central looks tough as usual.

McCovey Chronicles:  Once you're in the playoffs, you can get three weeks of
1.98 Kirk Rueter.  Getting there is the issue.

AZSnakePit: A pleasure chatting. All the best for the season. Especially
against the Giants. :-)
Gaslampballer: Thanks a lot. I look forward to chatting again. Yes, make
sure to beat the Giants when you head to San Francisco. :-)

McCovey Chronicles: Same to you, and....hey, wait a sec.

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