Season 32: 95-67
Season 32 Strengths/Weaknesses: The Padres have long relied on speedy contact hitters like Melvin Charleston to score runs in spacious Petco, but they got a power boost last year from 1B Hipolito De Aza (40 HR's) and 3B Hal Hernandez (38 HR's). Bob Powell missed nearly 100 games with a herniated disc, but the offense managed 660 runs (11th) - not bad for their park. The pitching was tough as usual, with Starters 1-4 (Taylor, Buhner, Pendleton, Thames) all throwing over 200 innings and winning 10+ games. It was a pretty old, expensive club, but with plenty of talent still in place (as evidenced by the 95 wins).
Addressed In Offseason: The Pads had to replace 3 starting pitchers (Willie Ontiveros and Grover Thames left in FA, Brandon Taylor was released); they did so with Pascual Rosario (FA) and Willie Espinosa (FA). Damaso Martinez, a long reliever last year, probably wins a rotation spot. They also updgaded at SS with Jorge Martinez.
This could be the last hurrah in San Diego, for Melvin Charleston, who's 35 and declining, makes $20MM and becomes a free agent after the season. The Padres have only missed the playoffs twice in his 14 seasons, but haven't won a WS (in 2 trips). Is Charleston the favorite destiny play?
Season 32: 88-74
Season 32 Strengths/Weaknesses: The Rockies' speed-based (245 SB's - 1st) offense was 5th in the NL with 715 runs. 5 colorado baserunners swiped 20 or more bags, and 2 of those (RF Paul Caruso - .309/30/106 and 1B Orval Miller - .273/31/104) did the vast bulk of driving those runners home. The pitching didn't fare as well - it allowed 682 runs (11th). Wandy Mateo (5 wins, 2 saves, 3.23) excelled in a part-time starter role, but it was his best ERA year by far - a repeat is questionable at best. RP Norman Weston (Sea 27 #13) has put together excellent numbers in his first 2 seasons and seems settled in as the closer. And Stubby George (14-11, 3.38) produced his usual solid campaign. The rest of the starters were trending on the wrong side of 3.50-ERA for a pitcher's park, and the bullpen needs some upgrades.
Addressed In Offseason: Their only big FA splurge was 5 years, $32MM for SS Santos Peraza. Rockies SS's had 30 errors and bad plays last year - Peraza had 17 in his last fulltime season at SS (Sea 31 for the Cardinals), so there's some improvement potential. Plus, Peraza has about 100 career OPS points over his predecessor, the departed Otis Simmons.
Season 32: 77-85
Season 32 Strengths/Weaknesses: The Giants slumped last year after three straight 96+ win seasons. What happened? First, they scored 91 fewer runs (than Season 31) with almost the same lineup. Rabbit Grill dropped 100 OPS points. Julio Nunez dropped 50. Kiki Mijares 60. Sandoval 60. Renyel Ozuna dropped over 100, although to be fair, his Season 31 was a career year (but I guess Grilli's was, too). Anyway, almost every player who got more than 200 AB's had a worse year (by a fair margin) in Season 32 than 31. The pitching staff posted a near-identical (to Season 31) 3.76 ERA (10th). Ace Maicer Comacho put up a fine 3.06 ERA, but clearly suffered from lower run support - 10 wins versus 17 in each of the previous 2 seasons. Closer Pepe Vazquez (28 saves, 2.42 ERA) bounced back from a poor season, and SP's Marino Palmeiro (3.21 ERA) and Slick Adkinsson (3.70 ERA) both hung tough with 13 wins.
Addressed In Offseason: Grilli's FA departure created even more pressure to add offense. They signed 1B Yorvit Gomez (3 years x $5.8MM) - he won't match Grilli's power but might reach base more. They also got Miguel Gonzalez, a switch-hitting contact-type who could be a plus at reaching base. Santos Gardel was a nice budget bullpen addition for 1-inning situations. The staff is also likely to lean more on 2nd-year pitcher Edgar Tavarez. He was in AAA for much of last year but was terrific in 32 major-league innings: 3 wins, 11 saves (out of 11 chances) and a 2.78 ERA.
Season 32: 55-107
Season 32 Strengths/Weaknesses: The Dodgers endured their second straight year of, shall we say, "extreme" rebuilding. While I fear their first-rounder (Quentin Blair, #3 overall) won't live up to the expectations of a high pick in a good draft, he'll be a solid major leaguer and adds to the pipeline of youngsters in the Dodgers' system.
Addressed In Offseason:
The Dodgers loosened the purse strings a little in free agency this year, mostly for pitching. Here's the assessment of the GM:
From GM chisox378: We tried to go after that free agent pitcher Toronto signed (Midre Espinosa) but after almost going to the max, figured no player is worth that much. We have some young guys that are getting better (Ross and Takada), and will play the matchups at 1B with Hines , Fuentes, and Healy (FA - 2years x $2.9MM). Thought we got a steal in free agency with Diego James ($1.6MM for 1 year). Still need help with pitching but hopefully this years free agents will come through. Pitching help is coming from Daryl Vitters (Sea 31 #6) and Vin Owen (Sea 31 #37).
Division Outlook: It's always tempting as a prognosticator to try to find reasons to project a tight, 4-team race. Tempting here, yes, but I really don't see it. While there's every reason to expect San Diego to fall off a little, the Rockies haven't made any huge upgrades, and I think the Giants are going to struggle to score runs. And the Dodgers, while I think they'll move beyond "doormat" to "legit", won't make up the huge gap required to get into the race. I think the Rockies reclaim the top spot in a tight race with San Diego.
Awards Watch: San Diego's Paulie Pendleton has been close on putting up CY numbers before; with enough help from the ballpark he old get there. Pretty much the same story with Colorado's Stubby George and Justin Zagone. The Rockies also have a pitcher who could get into the ROY race - Season 30's #22 pick Amos Gregorio. San Francisco's Julio Nunez, while an outside shot given the pitcher's park, could affect the MVP race. Maicer Camacho needs more wins to ener the CY conversation, but he certainly has the stuff to do it. The Dodgers aren't likely to have a major awards contender, but if I had to pick a dark horse from their roster it would be 2nd-year 2B Dan Ross.