The Los Angeles Dodgers nearly ran away with the NL West in 2009, backed by a plethora of young and talented players like Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp. But after getting off to an enormous start, the Dodgers fell back to Earth as the Colorado Rockies surged down the stretch, nearly overtaking the Dodgers for the NL West title and securing a Wild Card slot. The Rockies should again be a team to be reckoned with in the division but so should the Arizona Diamondbacks, led by upcoming talents like Justin Upton and dominate starters like Danny Haren.
The San Francisco Giants also have a dominant set of starters that will keep them in the hunt, even with a lackluster offensive squad. Though the San Diego Padres will likely struggle to compete, the NL West should have an exciting four-team race that should be a battle all season long, making MLB tickets as sought-after in the NL West as anywhere else.
The 2009 campaign was certainly an exhilarating one for Dodgers fans. In Manny Ramirez’s supposed first full year in Dodger blue, he was suspended for 50 games in the middle of the season and put up sub-par numbers upon his return. While it was expected that Ramirez would be the catalyst to bring the Dodgers another division title in 2009, it was breakout years by Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier that carried them down the stretch. Backed by a strong closer in Jonathon Broxton and upcoming starters Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers certainly seem to have the pieces in place to take down another division title in 2010, which would be their third consecutive.
In 2010, the Dodgers should finally have Ramirez for a full year and Kemp and Andre Ethier appear to be stars in the making. But it certainly isn’t a guarantee for the Dodgers due to a few key losses in the offseason. During Ramirez’s suspension, it was Juan Pierre who helped carry the team offensively, batting .308 for the season and serving as a catalyst at the top of the lineup. Orlando Hudson was also a nice role player, not to mention a dominant defensive second baseman. With the Giants and Diamondbacks having very strong starters at the top of their rotation, the Dodgers also need Kershaw and Billingsley to continue to develop, especially Billingsley after an inconsistent season in 2009.
Perhaps the most puzzling team in the division still remains the Rockies, who won 92 games a year ago without a dominant starter or slugger. The Rockies’ top pitcher in 2009 in terms of wins, Jorge De La Rosa, won 16 games but had a fairly run-of-the-mill ERA of 4.38. Their top RBI man was Troy Tulowitzki, who had just 92 RBIs. But even without a bevy of big-name players, the Rockies took off down the stretch in 2009, ultimately challenging the Dodgers and winning 92 games – enough to take down the Wild Card. On paper, the Rockies are less than intimidating heading into 2010, but the same could be said of 2009.
The other two teams looking to make a run at the NL West are the San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks – two teams that have strong pitching but several glaring holes. The Giants have a great one-two punch at the top of their rotation in Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, which might just be the best in the game, but they have a very spotty lineup. With Pablo Sandoval, the Giants do have the promise of an up-and-coming slugger, though they have almost no pop in the rest of the lineup; last season, their second-best run producer was catcher Benji Molina. Without adding a big bat or two, the Giants will have to rely just as much on their phenomenal pitching duo as they did last year, which probably will only be good enough for third place in the division. But if Sandoval can take the next step, they may have a shot at competing down the stretch in the division.
The Arizona Diamondbacks also have some stud talents on their roster but a lot of unproven players as well. Mark Reynolds and B.J. Upton both seemed to be primed for superstardom coming off of breakout seasons a year ago. Upton batted .300 and hit 26 homeruns a year ago at only 22 years of age, making his future look incredibly bright. Mark Reynolds already has broken out, mashing 44 homeruns in 2009 and driving in more than 100.
Outside of their two main sluggers, however, the Diamondbacks are short on a great deal of explosive offensive talent. The Diamondbacks have a similar problem with their rotation, as Dan Haren has explosive stuff but Brandon Webb’s health is in doubt for the 2010 season and they don’t have many other options to plug into their rotation. The Diamondbacks certainly should be a fun team to watch, but they seem to be a couple pieces away. Ultimately it looks like the Dodgers, Rockies and Giants will again be the teams to beat in the NL West heading into 2010, with the Diamondbacks a step behind. With the lowest payroll in the entire league, the Padres don’t seem to be serious contenders at this point and will probably look to ship their best player, Adrian Gonzalez, before the trading deadline.
David James wrote this article, which was sponsored by StubHub, one of the finest places in the entire world wide web to get MLB tickets, concert tickets, theatre tickets, special events tickets, or almost any kind of sports ticket out there.
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