Wednesday, April 22, 2009

2009 National League Western Division: Which Team Flashes the Leather?

In order of ESPN mag's 4/6/09 issue...

Los Angeles Dodgers. The team that signed Manny when nobody else could be bothered. Manny, wanna hear more about this guy? Sean Casey, the former Red who ended his career in Boston had this to say,"If slumps are between a player's ears, which I think they are, then Manny is slump-proof, because mentally he's always the same."

Dodger batting coach and former New York Yankee, the accomplished Don Mattingly says: "The thing I love more than anything about Manny, and the thing I try to tell our players, is that he puts in the work, he gets himself ready to play, but once the game starts, he actually has fun. When he hits a home run, I swear, on the bench, it's like he's never hit one before in his life. But when he strikes out looking, he's still smiling, coming back to the bench saying, 'He throws me there again, he's asking the ump for a new ball.' Man, the game is hard, but to him, it's still a game. I wish everybody could be like that."

About the Dodger fielders...Orlando Hudson (2B) solidifies the middle infield. But while Kemp is a great athlete, his circuitous routes in center field can lead to misplays-and that's a bigger problem when you factor in a certain leftfielder's occasional defensive indifference.

2) Arizona Diamondbacks During the winter, the team let veterans Adam Dunn, Randy Johnson, Orlando Hudson, Brandon Lyon and Juan Cruz get away. Can Eric Byrnes come back to play the way he did in 2007?
As for their defense, ESPN mag has this to say: Chris Young and Chris Snyder are two of the best at their positions. But losing Hudson, at second base, will hurt. Felipe Lopez and Stephen Drew form one of the game's worst middle infields.

3) San Francisco Giants ESPN mag has this to say: Like the Mets of old, the 2009 Giants have good pitching, a weak lineup and a big home ballpark, all of which gives them a chance to double the 14 games they lost last season when holding foes to three runs or less.

The single-season record for games lost when allowing 3 runs or less is 42, st by the 1968 New York Mets.

The good news? The 1968 Mets became the 1969 Miracle Mets.

As for the defense: Like many converted shortstops, Emmanuel Burriss might prove to be a slick second-baseman. But the outfielders are all mediocre. Best thing about this defense? The rotation which is loaded with strikeout pitchers. (Sigh.)

Colorado Rockies
The Rockies failed to re-sign Matt Holliday, who went to Oakland for Huston Street and a couple of prospects. Holliday's replacement is Seth Smith, the guy who backed up Eli Manning at Mississippi and never took a snap in four years. Smith's assignment figures to be a lot tougher. Glove story: Whatever hitting edge Ryan Spilborghs has over Willy Taveras (now with the Reds) he gives much of it back in centerfield. The rest of the defense is undermined by Brad Hawpe and Garrett Atkins, both of whom should be playing first base.

San Diego Padres ... The 2008 Padres became the first NL team since the 1959 Chicago Cubs to steal the fewest bases (36) while allowing the most swipes (168). Glove story: The Pads are decent in most spots, but age has slowed down Brian Giles, 38, (except, of course, when he plays the San Francisco Giants. As I have not seen a hint of that!) in rightfield. They might be tempted to play 2006 first-rounder Matt Antonelli at second for his bat, but he doesn't hit nearly enough to make up for his awful defense.

With prognostications you have to figure some of what is said will materialize and the rest is purely speculation, even if it is based on facts. Because you cannot ever count on the ball bouncing the same way every time, right?

And so far, the Padres, everybody's doormat going into the season, have proved to be competitive. Defense will win or lose games no matter how much offense a team has because you still have to make 27 outs. And even then you must get those outs without creating opportunities for your opponent.

So, as with all prognostications, we shall see.

(thanks to ESPN the mag for their input)

Kevin Marquez