Posted 04/03/2009 at 03:30 AM
Todayís previews are on a pair of NL West entries that were pretty bad last season. One of them figures to be a little better this season. The other has almost no chance to be anything other than mediocre once again. Iíll start with the downtrodden San Diego Padres>, who brought up the rear in the NL West last season. Not only were the Padres brutal, they were also boring. Petco Park is built for pitchers, especially righties, as the ball doesnít carry at all in night games, particularly to right field. The Friars had no offense regardless and letís just say that exciting games were few and far between for this team last year. Get set for more of the same in 2009. In fact, they could be even worse as the pitching looks like it could be weak this season. Jake Peavy is a great hurler, and thereís nothing to indicate he wonít be mostly dominant again. But the rest of the rotation is ugly. Chris Youngís velocity is down this spring and I have to wonder about his health. Cha Seung Baek is adequate at best, Kevin Correia should be in the bullpen, and someone named Walter Silva will apparently begin the season as the #5 starter. There might be some intrigue later in the year with Mark Prior schedule to get back on the mound at some point. Shawn Hill and Josh Geer will get looks, and the Padres figure to try Will Inman and Wade LeBlanc as well. The pen will have a different look, as Trevor Hoffman was basically sent packing. Heath Bell is the new closer, and he should be fine. Cla Meredith is a solid setup type. The rest of the bullpen features one nonentity after another, with Duaner Sanchez and Edward Mujica the most recognizable names. The Padres could have a slightly improved attack this year, but thatís only because they have no other direction to move in off last year. Brian Giles no longer has much sock, but he has a very discerning eye and should maintain a decent OBP. Heís the right choice to hit leadoff. David Eckstein makes enough contact to hit second, although his best days are clearly behind him. Eckstein will likely divide time with Edgar Gonzalez at 2B. The 3-6 spots might be okay with Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Jody Gerut and Chase Headley. The bottom of the order is really soft with Luis Rodriguez and Nick Hundley getting most of the starts. The Padres have almost no speed, limited power, poor starting pitching and little depth in the bullpen. I have them dead last in the NL West again, and I believe they will be hard pressed to win more than 65 games. óó- The San Francisco Giants are heading in the right direction, although theyíre probably still a couple years away. But if the all stay healthy, this could be the best staff in baseball by 2011. Tim Lincecum is already a big star. Matt Cain is solid, and will be a consistent winner if he ever gets some decent run support. Two monster prospects are on the way, and both Madison Bumgarner and Tim Alderson are the real deal. Bumgarner has legit CY Young potential. But that duo is down the road. For now, the Giants are at least okay. Lincecum and Cain are a good 1-2, and Randy Johnson might actually still be pretty good this year despite his age. Barry Zito was way over his head as a #1 starter for this team, but he could be fine pitching toward the back of the rotation. Jonathan Sanchez still has command lapses, but if he gets over that problem, he could be a very effective starter. The Giants will be okay in the pen. I know Brian Wilson had the ghastly ERA last season, but heís looked very sharp this spring and I believe he will be a very solid closer. Bob Howry and Jeremy Affeldt should be good enough to work the seventh and eighth innings, and I was very impressed with Sergio Romo down the stretch last season. This is an underrated unit that has a decent chance to be very good this season. The offense still needs lots of work. The Giants are sorely lacking power, and Iím not sold on their defense. Randy Winn enjoyed a stellar 2008 campaign and thereís no reason he canít hit around .300 again. Winn projects to a .350+ OBP and he can steal bases, so heís pretty ideal for the leadoff spot. Edgar Renteria apparently will hit second from what I can tell, and Iím not so sure about liking that move. Heís declining offensively, and I would be hitting Renteria lower in the lineup. Thereís nothing not to like about the bat of Pablo Sandoval, who can simply flat out hit the baseball. Sandoval isnít the prototypical #3 hitter by any stretch, but he needs to be in a spot where he gets the most possible AB, and I think heíll be a good producer. Bengie Molina can still hit, but again weíre talking about a guy who just shouldnít be hitting cleanup. Unfortunately for the Giants, they donít really have anyone else any better suited for that spot. The 5-8 spots will be manned by Fred Lewis, Aaron Rowand, Travis Ishikawa and Emmanuel Burris. Lewis had a bit of a breakout in 2008, but he needs to get better against lefties. Rowand is a tremendous defender and is actually perfectly placed in the #6 hole. Ishikawa has raised eyebrows this spring with his power and he would change the look of this lineup if that continues into the real games. Burriss is a slap hitter with all kinds of speed. Thereís some okay talent on the bench. The Giants have their share of good players, but they just have too many of the same types and therefore arenít likely to have a very strong lineup. The defense may be a problem. I didnít like the Renteria signing at all. The Giants wildly overpaid for Renteria, continuing an unfortunate trend with this franchise. The Barry Zito signing was crushed at the time it took place, and that assessment was on target. This one should be as well, as the shopworn Renteria is no longer a star SS, but GM Brian Sabean certainly paid him as one. Iím calling for the Giants to move past the Rockies into third place in the NL West. I just canít see them challenging Arizona or LA, however, and I donít think the Giants will get to .500, as Iím pegging them for 76 wins. But things are looking up for this team, and itís possible they could be one of this yearís surprise teams.