Reason for Optimism No. 3: The Giants play in the NL West
The Giants don’t hit much. But playing in the National League West, they may not have to.
The NL West may be the most winnable division in baseball. And even with all of their offensive deficiencies, the Giants are still the team to beat in the NL West.
And think about it. The Giants don’t have to contend with the Phillies or Braves. They don’t have to deal with Brewers, Cardinals or Reds. Compared to those teams, the likes of Diamondbacks and the Rockies don’t seem so imposing.
That’s because all of the other teams in the NL West also have their deficiencies.
The San Diego Padres had a less-than-potent offense last season when they contended for the NL West title. Then they traded away their best offensive weapon — BY FAR. So you knew they weren’t going to be any better offensively. And early in the season, their pitching wasn’t as good as last year. And that’s why they’re eight games under .500, even after winning four in a row.
The Dodgers have Matt Kemp, but not a whole lot else on offense. The Dodgers’ lineup has lacked consistency, and so has their rotation. Clayton Kershaw in an all-star, but Chad Billingsley has been hit-and-miss. So has Hiroki Kuroda, and Ted Lilly has not pitched like the Dodgers hoped when they signed him to a contract extension late last season. Then, the back end of their bullpen has spent more time on the DL and on the field.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are this year’s San Diego Padres — the surprise team. And like the Padres last year, you have wonder “How long can they keep this up?” Well, last year, the Padres did it with pitching and stayed in it right to the end, aided by some midseason deals to bring in more offense.
The Diamondbacks have the offense. Their lineup is loaded with talented, young hitters. But the tendency to strike out — Arizona ranks third in the NL in whiffs — can lead to prolonged slumps. The top of their rotation is very good (Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson), but also young. The rest of the rotation is suspect.
But the team to really be concerned about is the Rockies. Six games out of first place and one game under .500, Colorado is capable of going on long stretches of success. We’ve seen it before. Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki are just starting to get heated up. And if enough of the supporting players do their part, the Rockies can be dangerous. Although the hitting has struggled, warmer weather and playing in Denver can cure that. The real concern for Colorado is the health of their pitching staff. Jorge De La Rosa is done for the year. Jhoulys Chacin is nursing a sore forearm. Ubaldo Jimenez is trying to find his form from the first half of 2010. The rest of the rotation does not excite. But if things start to click, watch out for the Rox.