By Andy Sadler, WSOE Sports
Mark it down. Your surprise team of the 2009 season will be the San Francisco Giants. To quote Vicki from the Waterboy: “Guess? That ain’t no guess! That’s what it’s gonna be!”
Lets be honest, there’s not a whole lot of competition out there in the West. The popular preseason champ of their division is the Dodgers. We’ll get back to them.
The Padres will struggle to win 60 games this year. Count them out. The Rockies will score some runs, but without Matt Holliday, it won’t be enough to make up for the runs they’ll give up. The Diamondbacks have a wealth of young talent and will be a force to reckon with for the next ten years. But they have no starters born before 1980, and their biggest veteran presence off the bench (Eric Byrnes) hit .209 last year. Their rotation looks to be solid, but unless Brandon Webb can be the ace he’s expected to be (and not the goat he was in his first start), this team won’t contend.
So back to those Dodgers. They can hit. No doubt about that. I’d give them the best lineup in the National League (yes, better than those Mets and Phils). Here’s a look at their opening day lineup:
Yikes. Matt Kemp hitting 7th? That lineup frightens me. They’ll be good. But the team has no ace. They lost Derek Lowe to the Braves. Hiroki Kuroda is a solid option, and can be exceptional at times. And Clayton Kershaw has all the potential in the world, and may show it this year. But Chad Billingsley, Randy Wolf, and James McDonald are three very underwhelming starting pitchers. Thus, the Giants have an opening.
I think we can agree that the Giants have the best rotation in the division. Tim Lincecum just won his first Cy Young (and I doubt his last). Matt Cain was coveted by several teams this offseason, but the Giants wouldn’t budge. Randy Johnson had a 3.41 ERA after the All-Star break last year, with almost a strikeout per inning. Barry Zito… well never mind. But who knows, the guy clearly had talent. And then Jonathan Sanchez or Noah Lowry to round out the rotation. Those guys would both probably be #3 in L.A.
Remember the name Pablo Sandoval. It will be hard to forget pretty soon. He hit .457 this Spring Training, and has the power to hit up to 20 home runs. He’ll start at third. He’ll be sharing a side of the infield with the mysterious Edgar Renteria, who has always been a National League player (just look at the numbers). Renteria is good for .300 and 10-15 home runs. First baseman Travis Ishikawa showed some pop in Spring Training with seven dingers. Bengie Molina will a top five hitting catcher in the National League. And speed is abundant in a lineup with Fred Lewis, Randy Winn, and Emmanuel Burriss. While the lineup may not scare you like the bats in L.A., it’s very similar to that of the Minnesota Twins (minus a Justin Morneau in the middle). Don’t be surprised when pitching leads the recently woeful Giants back to the playoffs.
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