MLB Preview: NL West

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Back for round 2 of the Brian’s Den MLB preview, this time taking a look at the National League West. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Traditional logic would dictate that the second division I break down would be either the AL Central or NL East. Well, I don’t really care about conventional logic. I’m going to talk about the divisions in the order I want. So, sorry AL Central, but I’m going to delay talking about you for as long as humanly possible. Here’s my AL East preview if you need a refresher. All projected win totals taken from Atlantis Casino Resort.

Los Angeles Dodgers

512px-los_angeles_dodgers_logo-svgThe Dodgers have probably been the most consistent team in the league the last few years, winning over 90 games every season since 2013. I don’t really see that changing this year. After staying afloat during an extended absence from the best pitcher in the game, the Dodgers bring back every important member of one of the best pitching staffs in the game. Last season they lead the league in strikeouts per 9, strikeout percentage, strikeout-to-walk percentage, and finished third in fielding independent pitching +. This year they’ll (hopefully) get a full season out of Kershaw, a full season out of midseason acquisition Rich Hill, and a full season from top prospect Julio Urias, who looks to build on a very good second half of the season. They had a top 10 defense last season, as well, another staple of the Dodgers’ recent run of success.

It’s their mediocre offense that’s kept them from becoming a truly great team. They finished in the middle of the pack in pretty every statistic. They don’t do anything particularly well or poorly. They could improve this year, though, if Rookie of the Year and budding superstar Corey Seager takes another step forward. Just 22, he had the 5th highest WAR in the National League last season and finished 3rd in MVP voting. He has the ability to cover up the limitations in the rest of the lineup, and if one of my favorite players Joc Pederson can continue to add consistency and power, the Dodgers should rack up the wins again this year.

Over/Under 91.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Resigning Rich Hill and Justin Turner

Burning Question: Now that famed baseball mind Magic Johnson is making all the key decisions for both the Dodgers and Lakers, how long until Kobe takes over as Dodgers manager?

Bold Prediction: This year, Clayton Kershaw’s postseason ERA will only be 4.50

San Francisco Giants

300px-san_francisco_giants_logo-svgLast year’s Giants team was just so…Giants. A bunch of no names who aren’t great at anything, but there they were in the playoffs. Like the Dodgers, they rode their excellent starting pitching and defense (which was second only to the Cubs in ultimate zone rating). Unlike the Dodgers, they had a nearly disastrous second-half collapse spearheaded by their abomination of a bullpen that lead the league in blown saves. Signing free agent closer Mark Melancon was one of the better offseason moves, and he should add much needed stability to last season’s comically unstable late game pitching.

The rest of the roster is all typical Giants. The stars (Bumgarner, Cueto, Posey, Pence, Crawford, Belt) will do what they do every year. There’s almost no point talking about the rest of the lineup, since whoever they put out there on Opening Day is probably gonna be completely different come September, with random bench guys and unheralded rookies becoming key contributors. They’ll win between 86-90 games, finish in the bottom half in runs scored, and finish near the top of the league in fewest runs allowed. I’ve figured out the football and baseball Giants, and they’ll have the exact same season every year until Bruce Boche retires.

Over/Under 87.5: Under (barely)

Key Offseason Move: Signing Mark Melancon

Burning Question: If the Giants win another championship will anyone really care?

Bold Prediction: They’ll make the playoffs and everyone will get scared of them then they’ll lose in the NLDS.

Colorado Rockies

201px-colorado_rockies_logo-svgI don’t know why, but I’ve always been in love with the Rockies. Maybe it’s their beautiful stadium (Stadium power ranking: 1. Wrigley Field 2. Fenway Park 3. Camden Yards 4. Coors Field 5. PNC Park) that I’ve dreamed of going to since the first time I heard the name. Maybe it’s the fact that they always have high-octane, powerful offenses that mash home runs and rip doubles all day long. Maybe it’s the fact that they always give up just as many homers and doubles as they hit, keeping every game high scoring and exciting. Maybe it’s because my favorite color is purple and I love their jerseys. Maybe it’s because the best Little League team in my district was the Rockies, and it drove me crazy that I was never on the roster, despite the fact that I lived in the same town and was always the best player on my team (I peaked athletically earlier than most) and it became my obsession (No, I’m not bitter, why do you ask?). No matter the reason, the Rockies have long been my favorite non-Red Sox team, and I try and watch them as often as possible. I almost always try to wind up on the Rockies in my MLB The Show careers, too. But does any of that make them a good team? Maybe?

As you would expect, this was the most prolific offense in the National League last season, leading the Senior Circuit in runs scored. They even added Ian Desmond and will get rookie sensation Trevor Story back from injury. Here’s where you say “but they’re just a product of Coors Field.” That may be true. After all, they scored about 150 more runs at home than on the road. But last time I checked, they still get to play 81 games at home, so what does it really matter? They’re going to score a million runs at home again this year, and new manager Bud Black getting them playing better on the road might lead to some true Rocky Mountain Highs, especially since their pitching isn’t as bad as you think.

They finished with the third worst team ERA in the league, but, just like the offense, that’s largely a product of the stadium they play in. They had the 15th best road ERA in the majors, and had a league average overall ERA+, which takes the Coors Effect into account. The bullpen was bad, but if new addition Greg Holland can get back to his 2014 form, or close to it, it should improve. If their crappy defense gets a little better and they can take the Coors fireworks on the road, the Banquet Beer could flow in celebration.

Over/Under 79.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Signing Ian Desmond

Burning Question: With Coors Field so close to noted secret society hotspot Denver International Airport, why haven’t steps been taken to ensure the Rockies success?

Bold Prediction: They’ll win the Wild Card game, then…who knows?

Arizona Diamondbacks

156px-arizona_diamondbacks_logo-svgDbacks were complete trash last year. Much like the Padres from two years ago and the Marlins from a few years before that, their get-rich-quick scheme didn’t work. At all. But is there any hope for this year? There’s a glimmer. Bringing in a new manager in Torey Lovullo can always raise a team’s spirits. Getting AJ Pollock back from injury is huge, especially if he can perform like he did in 2015 when he was a legitimate MVP candidate. They traded for pitcher Taijuan Walker, who has shown flashes of his true ability but hasn’t been able to put it all together. Still, he’s only 24. They also can’t possibly be as bad as they were last year. Judging by ERA+, this was the worst pitching staff in the league. Judging by ultimate zone rating this was the second worst defense in the National League. They did score the 10th most runs in the league, though. This lineup has some talent. Paul Goldschmidt is still a stud. Yasmany Tomas and Jake Lamb have 30 home run power. Zack Greinke probably won’t have his worst career season again. Shelby Miller can’t really be that bad, can he? They signed Fernando Rodney, which reeks of desperation. They tweaked their jerseys after last year, but I was in the minority that liked the bold new design. Might be some bad karma. Still, I think they’ll be better this year. Not too much better, though.

Over/Under 78.5 Wins: Under

Key Offseason Move: Trading for Taijuan Walker

Burning Question: Why hasn’t Luis Gonzalez introduced the team to his steroid guy yet?

Bold Prediction: Fernando Rodney brings a live snake into the bullpen as a prank and it winds up biting someone

San Diego Padres

278px-sdpadres_logo-svgPadres suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. They’re so boring and irrelevant. They’re almost not even worth talking about. I mean, go look at their roster. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Recognize more than five names? I didn’t. Jhoulys Chacin is their number one starter, for crying out loud! Their projected starting outfield is Travis Jankowski, Manuel Margot, and Hunter Renfroe (not the football player). None of those names are made up. Their manager is Andy Green, the most boring name of all time. And, to complete their total dedication to being the most boring team in all of pro sports, they went back to their strictly navy and white jerseys and ditched the navy and yellow jerseys that looked awfully sharp. I don’t even think bringing back the brown and yellow jerseys would get me to care about this team. Every night I weep for Don Orsillo.

Over/Under 64.5 Wins: Over

Key Offseason Move: Not moving to Los Angeles

Burning Question: How can the Padres’ front office live with themselves knowing what they’re forcing Don Orsillo to watch? And how can Red Sox ownership live with themselves knowing what they did to him? Why am I not listening to Don and Jerry every night anymore?

Bold Prediction: They will play in 162 baseball games in 2017

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