- Arizona Diamondbacks: 29-19
- Los Angeles Dodgers: 28-21, 1.5 GB
- San Fransisco Giants: 26-23, 3.5 GB
- San Diego Padres: 25-25, 4.5 GB
- Colorado Rockies: 25-24, 4.5 GB
Almost seems hard to believe, especially considering that the Padres won the division last year with an 82-80 record. This year, however, I think everyone has a legitimate shot at the division, even the Rockies. Here's reasons the teams should be optimistic:
- Diamondbacks - Brandon Webb has developed into a legitimate Cy Young candidate with Orlando Hudson playing 2nd. And with the addition of Johnny Estrada and the strong play from Chad Tracy and Shawn Green, they've scored the 3rd most runs in the NL. Another positive is that young stud Stephen Drew is on the fast track to the big leagues.
- Dodgers - They need more consistent pitching efforts from Derek Lowe (like he had on Saturday), because they have a good enough offense to win the division. Jeff Kent is old but can still rake, Nomah is hitting the ball very well, and JD Drew is one of the best hitters in the league. Once again, health is a key issue.
- Giants - They're playing over .500 ball even with Barry Bonds hitting very poorly, which should turn around. Jason Schmidt is his old self again, and if they can get more outings like they got from Matt Cain last week, they'll have a shot.
- Padres - They have the experience after making it to the playoffs last year, although experience is overrated. The good news is that Jake Peavy is excellent, and guys like Khalil Greene are improving all the time. It's tough to hit in that ballpark, but they need to improve that. They have a team ERA of 4.05 which is 4th in the league, so the pitching is solid.
- Rockies - Could their pitching actually be a strength? Well, we can't go quite that far, but their 4.32 team ERA is in the top half of the NL. If the pitching can hold up, they have a young but potentially dangerous lineup, especially since they play half their games in Coors.
How do I think it will end up? Well, I think in this case the pythagorean records are a little telling. According to those, the Dodgers should be about 31-18, which tells me that they have lost some close games that could have gone either way (6-10 in 1-run games). Which is why I think the return of Eric Gagne (threw a rehab inning in AAA) is big. He can solidify the backend of the bullpen which will obviously help the Dodgers in close games, which is why I like them to win the West as long as they can stay somewhat healthy. If they don't, I think the Diamondbacks are the next strongest team from top to bottom as far as offensive and pitching wise.
My predictions for end of the year standings:
- LA Dodgers: 93-69
- Arizona Diamondbacks: 88-74
- San Diego Padres: 83-79
- San Fransisco Giants: 83-79
- Colorado Rockies: 76-86
What are your predictions?