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NL West: Rockies in the Discussion
Flying around the bend like Franz Klammer at Innsbruck '76, the Colorado Rockies, with an eight-game winning streak capped by a three-game sweep at San Diego this past weekend, are still vying for a medal with one week remaining in the regular season. If the Rockies can get over the hump, do they become the worst nightmare for their potential NL Central and NL East playoff opponents? Or do Arizona and San Diego still offer the biggest challenge? Sunday, I asked several online baseball writers for their thoughts:
Rich Lederer, Baseball Analysts: Arizona has the best record in the National League since the All-Star break, yet it has been well-documented that the Diamondbacks sport a negative run differential. San Diego has allowed the fewest runs in the majors, although skeptics say that is in large part due to the fact that the Padres play their home games at spacious Petco Park. Colorado has the longest current winning streak in baseball, but is still four games back in the West. Hey, it's the playoffs. Throw out the analysis and logic, and bring on the Ouija board. Anything can happen come October. My hunch is that Colorado would do the best in the postseason, but the Rockies have to get there first.
David Pinto, Baseball Musings: Which would I least like to face? The Arizona and Padres offenses just don't produce. They're both around 4.45 runs per game, near the bottom of the league. Adjusting for parks, however, gives San Diego an edge. San Diego's lineup sends good hitters to the plate, where that's not true for the Diamondbacks. [Jake] Peavy and [Chris] Young make a terrific 1-2 punch in the rotation, but Young hasn't pitched well since returning from his injury. All three teams own strong bullpens, at least among the pitchers they will use in the playoffs. The Rockies, at this point, are better than the other two clubs. With an 84-run difference, they lead the National League. As they showed in San Diego this weekend, they can score away from Coors. The starting pitching is good enough for the offense, and the bullpen does a good job of holding leads. If Young were healthy, I'd go with San Diego, but right now, the Rockies are the NL team to beat if they make the playoffs.
Joe Sheehan, Baseball Prospectus: San Diego by just a little bit, mainly for the edge Jake Peavy has on Brandon Webb, and their having the best offense of the three teams.
D.J. Short, MetsBlog.com: I feel that the Diamondbacks are the biggest threat, simply because of Brandon Webb, who had a 42-inning scoreless streak earlier this year. Something tells me that he could be Orel Hershiser of 1988 revisited. Led by a scrappy Eric Byrnes, the D'backs show a lot of fight and are more of an offensive force than the Padres. The Mets have dominated the D'backs at Bank One Ballpark in recent seasons, including taking three of four there in May, but all the stats in the world mean nothing once the playoffs begin.
Dave Studeman, The Hardball Times: I'd pick San Diego and Arizona over Colorado, because their pitching staffs are built for the postseason: ace starter, good No. 2 and 3 starters, deep bullpen. Of the two, I'd give a slight edge to the Padres because their offense seems just a bit better, and I think a visiting team might have a hard time adjusting to their ballpark.
Bob Timmermann, The Griddle: A question as puzzling as this requires a nap. And after thinking about the topic, I started napping. But once awake, the answer became no clearer. Each team, if viewed objectively, looks like it should not be able to make the playoffs. I would have originally tabbed the Padres because of their pitching, but I'm just not sold on it. I would have to go with Arizona because they actually have a manager (Bob Melvin) who seems to best be able to wring out the most from the talent he has available. The Padres are reminding me a lot of the 2004 Dodgers -- in a bad way. And I think the Rockies are not as formidable once Matt Holliday (who missed games Saturday and Sunday with a strained left oblique muscle, but will try to return Tuesday in Los Angeles) is subtracted from the lineup.
Ken Tremendous, Fire Joe Morgan: I think it's unquestionably the Padres. Although Young hasn't been quite as good since the injury, he still has a WHIP of 1.06 for the season, and he and Peavy are easily the best 1-2 combo in the division. No one on the entire team can hit, but no one on the Diamondbacks can hit either, and they only have one good pitcher. Assuming the Pads make the playoffs, I wouldn't be shocked if they went to the World Series.
A potential run to the World Series by San Diego threatens to be overshadowed, if not derailed, by what happened to the Padres on Sunday. In a sequence that appeared to be tailor-made for his detractors, San Diego outfielder Milton Bradley was injured while arguing with umpire Mike Winters. This came an inning after Bradley stepped on teammate Mike Cameron's hand while trying to avoid a collision with him on what turned out to be Garret Atkins' inside-the-park home run for broom-wielding Colorado.
Though Bradley has been a lightning rod for injuries and criticism of his emotional outbursts, his coach and front office said he was baited.
"In 26 years of baseball, I can honestly say that's the most disconcerting conversation I have ever heard from an umpire to a player," first-base coach Bobby Meacham told The Associated Press. "It was almost like he wanted to agitate the whole thing. He wanted to get Milton boiling for some reason. Milton, he held his cool. I was just appalled."
Added The AP<:
Padres CEO Sandy Alderson ... used to work in the commissioner's office, where one of his duties was overseeing umpires. "We're not going to sit by and see an umpire bait a player," Alderson said. He added that if the commissioner's office concludes the situation was handled appropriately, "I'll be shocked."
With or without Bradley (who feared he might be out for the season as he was on his way to an MRI for his right knee), and Cameron (who might return Monday night), the Padres will enter their final seven regular-season games with a lead in the NL wild card race that has been reduced to half a game over Philadelphia and 1½ games over the Rockies. The Padres do get their next three games at last-place San Francisco to try to turn things around.
Colorado hasn't tasted postseason play since 1995. Tracy Ringolsby of the Rocky Mountain News compares that year with this one: "What 1995 did was create unfounded expectations that the Rockies could be an annual factor in the West," Ringolsby said. "The Rockies spent the next six years trying to bandage their roster to make a run at a championship, failing to put the proper resources and effort into developing the homegrown foundation. ... This year is different.
"Unlike that 1995 team -- a hodgepodge of expansion draft picks, high-priced free agents and minor-league free agents, with a couple of products of the draft sprinkled in -- this year’s version of the Rockies has a solid homegrown base with its best years ahead."
The Dodgers completed their meltdown this past week with a seven-game losing streak and the rending of garments within the clubhouse over what the reasons for the collapse were. At Dodger Thoughts, I made my own attempt to counter those who think the Dodgers' focus on youth did them in, but the line of the week might belong to Tony Jackson of the Los Angeles Daily News: "This clubhouse has become what MTV only wishes The Real World could be."
Nick Cannata-Bowman of Giants Cove notes, in case you missed it, that San Francisco shut down rookie Tim Lincecum for the season.
Oh, and Barry Bonds said he isn't welcome back to San Francisco next year. That, you probably didn't miss. Here was Sheehan's reaction at Baseball Prospectus:
"Well, bad guys can rake, too," Sheehan wrote, "and whatever you think of Bonds as a person, Bonds as a baseball player has been a force of nature. Even at 43, he's the best hitter in the NL on a per-AB basis, and second only to Alex Rodriguez in the majors. His defense, despite appearances, is just a bit below average, and his baserunning costs his team a few runs a season and isn't among the worst in the game. That player -- best hitter, so-so-defense, essentially neutral baserunning, moderately durable -- is an asset to 30 out of 30 teams, a championship-caliber baseball player who will be the best player on the market this winter, and almost certainly the lowest-risk one. Torii Hunter for five years and $75 million? Andruw Jones for five years and $70 million? Kyle Freaking Lohse for Gil Meche's deal? Or Barry Bonds for one year at $18 million plus an option? Which of those sounds like the most sensible deal to you?"
Finally, Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star looks at the future of Diamondbacks third baseman Chad Tracy, who had microfracture surgery on his right knee last Thursday. As hard as it has been for basketball players like the neighboring Phoenix Suns' Amare Stoudemire to recover from it, Arizona is remaning optimistic about Tracy.
Labels: NL West
posted by SI.com | View comments |
I do like the "Real World" line.
The #1 pick in the most recent NBA draft, like Tracy, requires microfracture treatment. Is that going to be the torn rotator cuff of the 00s?
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