07 April 2008

NL West Contender Blender: Series Two

The NL West is having its own version of the Final Four this week. The Snakes thumped the Rockies in one semi-final matchup, and the Dodgers edged the Padres in the other semifinal tilt. Now starting today the Snakes and Dodgers play in the finals, with the winner of the series being awarded the title of Very Early ( and not very meaningful ) NL West Favorite.

Given that the Rockies and Snakes came from the back of the pack in the NL West last year to make the playoffs, winning a series early in April maybe isn't that big of a deal. And yet every game does count the same, and there won't be comeback teams every year. As the cliche goes, you don't win the division in April, but you could lose it. The rule of April is don't get buried.

Dodgers --- 4-2
Snakes --- 4-2
Peavys --- 4-3
Rockies --- 1-5
Giants --- 1-5

If this was football the Rockies would already be buried. But it's baseball, and the dirt is only around the Rockies' ankles right now, but still, if they don't start moving at some point they could find themselves in real trouble. The Rockies have looked awful so far. They've been outscored 32 to 10 in their six games. Joe Torre thinks the Dodgers have offensive woes to start the season, and yet they have twice the runs the Rockies do! But the Rockies figure to turn around the offense sooner or later. The real worry for them has to be the starting staff. Francis had his second straight bad start, though technically the first didn't count since it was rained out. Redman was predictably awful. Only Morales turned in a good start in the Snakes series, which is the one good sign the Rockies have had so far this year.

Owings, Gonzales, and Webb each gave the Snakes a great start in Coors field. If either of Owings or Gonzales turns into a solid, slightly above-average pitcher this year the Snakes will be really tough to beat. Owings is probably already a good bet to do so, as he had an ERA+ of 109 last year. For some reason I think of him as a bad pitcher when he really probably isn't. I wonder why? Oh, now I remember. It's because I hate the Snakes --- their uniforms, their hideous stadium, their way too long team name that I usually refuse to use, their old uniforms, their swimming pool, their former managers, the names they taken for their hideous stadium, their career home run leader, and finally that stupid path to the mound at their hideous stadium. I can't believe I picked them to finish in first place.

The Dodgers seem to have the slight edge in the upcoming series with the hated Snakes. The Snakes have a clear advantage in game one, when Haren meets Hendrickson-lite, er, I mean Loaiza. The Dodgers have an almost as clear advantage in game two, when Billingsley faces Davis. And then in the likely rubber match Kuroda faces Owings, a game in which the Dodgers probably don't have as much of an advantage as I think. The series will be in Phoenix, but I still think the Dodgers will edge out the Snakes to win this very early NL West Final Four.

The Rockies are home playing the Braves, while the Padres get the Giants. The Padres also get Cain and Lincecum, while not having either Young or Peavy starting in the series. Do the Giants have a chance of pulling off the series win? With their inept lineup, probably not.

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