In spite of the best efforts of ownership baseball will go, albeit with a delay!
With that it’s once again time to break down each division and give bold predictions for a sport that is as close to chaos as any American piece of entertainment. Let’s look at a division had two of the top teams in baseball last year.
Los Angeles Dodgers
2021 Summary: Last year was nothing short of disappointing for the 2020 World Series champions. The Dodgers expectations were another appearance in the Fall Classic; unfortunately, LA ran into a buzzsaw in Atlanta and ultimately could not keep up with its red-hot opponent.
Batting: Los Angeles got a small piece of vengeance by enticing Atlanta fan-favorite Freddie Freeman to the City of Angels with a six-year, $162 million deal. The Dodgers needed to beef-up their lineup after losing All Star shortstop Corey Seager to the Texas Rangers. Freeman joins a lineup that includes Mookie Betts, Will Smith, Trea Turner, and Cody Bellinger. He, and the rest of the Dodgers squad, will benefit from the new universal DH rule being implemented this season.
Pitching: On the pitching side of things, the Dodgers have prided themselves on building a formidable rotation and this year looks to be no different. They locked up former MVP Clayton Kershaw for one more year, and Walker Buehler has seamlessly made the transition to the undisputed ace of the rotation. One dark cloud that lingers over this team is the fate of Trevor Bauer; he is expected to be suspended by the league for the abuse allegations made against him last year.
Los Angeles, just cut him.
Bullpen: As for the bullpen, LA will not have Kenley Jansen closing games for them for the first time since 2009. Instead, Craig Kimbrel will get the chance to step into the role after a trade with the White Sox that sent outfielder AJ Pollack out of town. The Dodgers also signed Daniel Hudson through free agency and with the likes of David Price, Blake Treinen, and Alex Vesia in the bullpen, this squad — that had the second-best ERA in baseball last year — is expected to keep that level of excellence intact.
The Dodgers have a clear goal this season: World Series or bust.
San Francisco Giants
2021 Summary: The Giants were ignored in the preseason last year as the Dodgers and Padres were favored to win the division. But San Francisco obliterated expectations and won a franchise record 107-games and the division with excellent pitching and fielding. They fell short in the playoffs largely a their bats were not able to catch up, but the Giants are looking to stay in the playoff hunt and made moves this offseason to reflect that.
Batting: A huge change to the offense is the sudden retirement of fan favorite and former MVP Buster Posey; Posey retired after he had reestablished himself as one of the games top hitters last season. Prospect Joey Bart is the heir apparent, but expect the Giants to use Curt Casali a fair amount as well. San Francisco were 42-13 in games that Casali started last season.
The Giants also added former rival Joc Pederson to beef up the lineup and add that ‘pop’ the squad needed last year. He’ll join a lineup that includes Brandon Crawford and Evan Longoria, but watch the Giants find another asset similar to how they acquired Kris Bryant last season.
Pitching: Their pitching was the main factor to their success last season and this year should be no different. Logan Webb and newly acquired left hander Carlos Rodon are looking to lead this elite rotation with veterans Alex Wood and Johnny Cueto complementing the young arms.
Bullpen: San Francisco’s bullpen was one of most effective units in the league, despite the combined salaries of the relievers being less than $8 million. This group featured six relievers who threw at least 50 innings with a sub-3.00 ERA.
The Giants probably won’t win 107 games in 2022, they might not even crack 100 wins. But, like last year, this squad cannot be overlooked in spite of playing in a hyper-competitive NL West.
San Diego Padres
2021 Summary: San Diego went from a near playoff lock at the All Star break to an 83-loss team that spent the post season at home. The Padres collapse was thanks in large part to the worst month in franchise history in September. Their two All Star position players (Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr.) got into a verbal altercation in the dugout that showed just how dark of a pit this team found themselves in.
Ultimately, manager Jayce Tingler was made the scapegoat and kicked out of town. Now Bob Melvin will get the chance to lead this squad.
Batting: Melvin’s first major challenge will be to keep this team competitive without All Star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. Tatis injured his wrist during the offseason and isn’t expected back until June. Not a great start for a team that had more cumulative days on the IL than any team in baseball last season. The lineup still has Manny Machado, new slugger Luke Voit, and Eric Hosmer; so this squad will still be dangerous despite losing their best player.
Pitching: The pitching collapsed in the second half of the season, with Yu Darvish and Blake Snell being the primary disappointments. Darvish and Snell dealt with injuries which clearly affected their play. To add depth to their rotation, the Padres made a trade with the A’s to acquire Sean Manaea. Another pitcher to keep an eye on is Joe Musgrave, he led the rotation in wins, ERA, and strikeouts last season. If he can keep that level of play, and if Snell and Darvish can stay healthy, this rotation has the potential to be dominant.
Bullpen: San Diego’s bullpen is going to be important early in 2022 with starters Mike Clevinger and Snell both on workload limitations to start the season. Melvin will most likely keep to a five-man rotation, as it’s his preference, but the bullpen will need to step up if that’s the case. It wouldn’t hurt to start with a six-man rotation for the first two weeks of the season to limit the wear and tear on the starters in the beginning. This would also get some much needed innings to relievers looking to become starters.
New management should prevent an epic collapse like we saw last season. Barring injuries and bad luck, this team should find themselves playing October baseball as a wild card team or division winner.
2021 Summary: I genuinely don’t understand what this team is doing. For the past 11 years, the Rockies have made two playoff appearances and lost all 4 of those postseason games. Last year was more of the same for this franchise as they went 74-87 to finish 4th in the division and judging by their offseason moves management seems content to live in mediocrity-limbo. In a division that is arguably the most competitive in baseball, the Rockies are Squidward looking out the window as the rest of the division skips happily to playoff berths.
Batting: The Rockies first let one of their few bright spots go in Trevor Story and then signed Kris Bryant to compensate for the loss. This move was made a year after Colorado traded All Star, and fan favorite, Nolan Arenado to St. Louis for $50 million and a box of rocks. Bryant will help with attendance and add some excitement to a lineup that desperately needs it. It should also be noted that another fan-favorite, Charlie Blackmon, is on the wrong side of 30 and it’s showing. He had one of the worst statistical seasons of his career and it’s trending downward.
Pitching/Bullpen: The Rockies have German Marquez. Unfortunately, that’s about it in terms of pitchers. Also, Marquez struggled at times last season and he won’t have much help from the bullpen. The Rox bullpen allowed 39% of inherited runners to score, the 4th highest in MLB.
The Rockies clearly have work to do in the farm system, free agency, and every other agency that could possibly improve a baseball team. Colorado has made poor decisions over the years and are still paying for it (think the Arenado trade). It will take more than one season to climb out of the hole they’ve dug themselves into. Don’t expect a playoff appearance from this team this year or even next year.
2021 Summary: Oh god no.
Batting: For batting, their star is clearly Ketel Marte but that isn’t saying much as the rest of the lineup is average at best. Arizona does have some interesting prospects in the minor leagues, but it’s hard to truly analyze them until the D-Backs give these players a fair chance instead of playing old veterans like Josh Reddick.
Pitching: Arizona’s starting rotation unfortunately suffers from the same problems. Zac Gallen is the favorite to become the ace this year since veteran Madison Bumgarner showed signs of age last year. Bumgarner is also potential trade bait for a team looking to upgrade their rotation come the trade deadline. For Gallen, he is expected to be the future for this team that desperately needs an identity in any aspect of the game.
Bullpen: Their bullpen isn’t much better. Mitchell Stumpo was a nice surprise last season as he rose from an unimpressive college career to becoming the teams best reliever by far.
The D’Backs are in a similar position to the Rockies. I can’t imagine them losing more than 100 games again like they did last season, but this team needs a lot of help to sniff any playoff discussions.
Fangraph’s NL West projected standings
|Team||Record||Win division||Clinch bye||Clinch WC||Make playoffs||Win World Series|
|LA Dodgers||95 – 67||68.3%||59.7%||25.6%||93.9%||14.1%|
|San Diego Padres||89 – 73||22%||17.9%||50.8%||72.9%||5%|
|San Francisco Giants||85 – 77||9.6%||7.1%||41%||50.6%||2.3%|
|Arizona Diamondbacks||69 – 93||0.1%||0.0%||0.7%||0.8%||0.0%|
|Colorado Rockies||68 – 94||0.0%||0.0%||0.5%||0.5%||0.0%|
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Photo Credit: Charlie Riedel – Associated Press