MLB 2009 - NL West betting preview
The NL West typically sees tight divisional races and 2008 was no different as the Los Angeles Dodgers, behind Manny Ramirez, left it late as they edged the Arizona Diamondbacks out of the play-off position.
This year however things may not be as close as Joe Torre's Dodgers look to have the roster to not only win the division but also challenge for a World Series.
It used to be a case of 'there's always next year' but, with Manny Ramirez providing everything that can be expected of a future Hall of Famer, could this be the Dodgers year?
The D-backs, despite struggling to put runs on the board, were narrowly edged out of the divisional title by the Dodgers last season and, unless some of their prospects have progressed since then, it could be another heart-breaking year in Arizona.
The big issue for manager Bob Melvin remains in finding somebody who can drive in 100+ runs a season. Adam Dunn could have been that man but he left for Washington, Eric Byrnes has had problems with injuries and former number one draft pick Justin Upton struggled in 2008. Elsewhere in the line-up Chris Young, Conor Jackson and Stephen Drew will be expected to get on base regularly - although none of them are particularly dependable.
If the D-backs can drive in runs then they will have success. The rotation looks great again with Dan Haren and Jon Garland backing up ace, Brandon Webb, while the pen should more than hold up with the additions of Tom Gordon and Scott Schoeneweis adding some valuable experience.
Key Player: Eric Byrnes Prediction: 2nd Odds to win NL West: 6/4
The 2007 NL Champions were a massive let down in 2008 as they fell to third in the West and rarely threatened to get amongst the division's front runners. This forced the front office into making coaching changes but it was the trading away of star slugger Matt Holiday that made all the headlines in the Mile High City.
Putting runs on the board has never been a problem for the Rockies, and not just because the ball travels so well at Coors Field. However, with a below average pitching roster the likes of Garrett Atkins and Brad Hawpe may struggle to score enough without the protection Holiday's big bat provides.
Aaron Cook had a break out 2008 with a franchise leading 16 wins and he needs a repeat of this in 09. His case is helped by the acquisition of Jason Marquis who adds a bit of depth to the rotation but, with Jeff Francis sidelined for the season due to injury, there are still big holes which need filling. Huston Street does at least give the bullpen a good, solid relief arm.
Key Player: Aaron Cook Prediction: 3rd Odds to win NL West: 15/2
Los Angeles Dodgers
Joe Torre proved he doesn't need to be in New York to manage a winner as he dragged the sleeping Dodgers to their first divisional title since 2004 last year. The former Yankees manager now needs to show that he is capable of winning a pennant and with this Dodgers roster he has every chance.
Dodgers GM Ned Colletti spent the majority of the off-season in talks with Manny Ramirez but he will feel it was all worth it if the enigmatic star can repeat the heroics of last year when he single-handedly carried LA into the play-offs. However, the Dodgers aren't a one man franchise and if Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, James Loney and Russell Martin all produce then it will be bad news for the chasing pack in the West.
A few questions do have to be answered by the Dodgers pitching staff though, in particular by the starting rotation. Chad Billingsley was impressive last year but after him their options are limited so big performances are needed by Randy Wolf and Hiroki Kuroda. The acquisition of Guillermo Mota has added a great arm into the bullpen and Jonathan Broxton will have benefitted from last year's experience.
Key Player: Manny Ramirez Prediction: 1st Odds to win NL West: 11/8
San Diego Padres
The Padres were hopeless last season and it's hard to see how they will improve much this time around when so little has changed in the organisation. Bud Black has little to work with but after having his contract renewed in the off-season there will be a lot of pressure on him to get results.
Adrian Gonzalez is the only real star in a mediocre Padres batting line-up although the acquisition of David Eckstein could be massively beneficial as he will bring intensity and a great attitude to PETCO Park on a daily basis. Kevin Kouzmanoff needs to get his career back on track after suffering weak follow-up to his rookie season in 2008.
It wasn't all doom and gloom in San Diego though as Jake Peavy's projected trade to Atlanta broke down, leaving the 2007 Cy Young and triple crown winner with the Padres for at least a few more months. If Chris Young can back Peavy up then there at least pitching coach, Darren Balsley has something to work with.
Key Player: David Eckstein Prediction: 5th Odds to win NL West: 25/1
San Francisco Giants
You would have thought that after the disastrous acquisitions of Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand the Giants would have come to their senses and not wasted more money on big named, over-the-hill players, however it seems you would have thought wrong.
It looks like Randy Johnson and Edgar Renteria are set to become the newest batch of players chasing one last pay cheque in San Francisco but, given their performances of last season, they won't be chasing very hard (except Johnson who is desperate for his 300th win).
The Giants have few bright sparks but in Tim Lincecum they have an unbelievable talent. The 2008 NL Cy Young winner should be even better this time around and if he gets a bit of support from somewhere (maybe Noah Lowry if he can come back at the same level as he was at in 07) then the Giants should avoid finishing in last.
Key Player: Tim Lincecum Prediction: 4th Odds to win NL West: 9/2