10 April 2008

NL West Contender Blender: Series Three

The Snakes won the Very Early Season NL West Final Four by convincingly sweeping the Dodgers in the finals matchup. The Snakes have now swept the Rockies and Dodgers, and are the early season favorites to win the NL West.

Snakes --- 7-2
Peavys --- 5-5
Rockies --- 4-5
Dodgers --- 4-5
Giants --- 3-6

The Rockies have reaffirmed their contender status by taking the first three in their four game set with the Braves. The previously shaky starting pitching lead the way. Cook and Jiminez had excellent outings in Coors, and even Redman pitched passably yesterday. Holliday hit a late clutch home run to win the first game for the Rockies, and has two RBIs in each game of the series so far. Helton has been on base 8 times in the series. Among the big four only Brad Hawpe has yet to get things going. It's just a matter of time. The Rockies offense is going to be fine, and their pitching is starting to look good too after a bad first week. Francis will try to turn his early season around in his start this afternoon.

The Padres did not have Peavy starting in their series against the lowly Giants, and it showed: they lost the series. And yet it may not have mattered who the starters were. Maddux, Wolf, and Germano were all excellent against the inept Giants hitters. It was the Padres own slightly less inept lineup and leaky bullpen that let them down in the final two games. It's 2007 all over again for the Padres, when they piled up 25 bullpen losses ( about league average ) in spite of having by far the best bullpen ERA in the NL. I think it's not so much that the 'pen just gags in clutch situations ( though there is some of that, and I'm looking right at you, Trevor Hoffman ) as much as the inept late inning offense of the Padres so consistently leaves the 'pen out on a limb with no room for error. Whatever the cause, the Padres 'pen has all 5 team losses so far this year: 2 by Hoffman, and one each by Bell, Thatcher, and Meredith. With Peavy and Young starting the first two this weekend at Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers better be prepared to score late.

Then there are the Snakes, who just slithered right up to the Dodgers and ate them whole. That Reynolds sure can hit, can't he? Last season was supposed to be a fluke, dammit. He was supposed to strike out a lot, and generally look like Andruw Jones has so far. Hell, if he keeps getting dogmeat pitches over the heart of the plate he may well break Barry's single season 73. Before the season I thought there was a possiblity the Dodgers might have a better offense than the Snakes. It sure doesn't seem much like a possibilty now. The Dodgers scratched a bit against Haren, Davis and Owings, but could knock none of them out, whereas the Snakes managed to knocked out all three of the Dodger pitchers. Maybe Kuroda was a TKO.

Most starters will only be making their third starts this weekend. Vague impressions of the NL West are forming, but it's still way too early for conclusions. Right now the Snakes rule over all with an iron rattle, but it may not last. Last year the Dodgers looked like a team of greatness in April. Three years ago they started 14-2. Maybe this year they can turn a leaden start into gold, after going the other way too often in the past.

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