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Questions for the NL West

Looked at three key questions for the A’s three challengers in the American League West on Tuesday. Time to do the same for the four clubs who will challenge the Giants in the NL West. And if you’re wondering about the Giants, check out Andrew Baggarly’s preview.


SAN DIEGO PADRES (88-74 in 2006)
1. Will they miss Bruce Bochy?
Of course. You don’t manage in one place for 12 seasons without leaving an imprint. But all managers are only as good as the talent they’re given, and new manager Bud Black will have plenty at his disposal, especially in a division that isn’t a world-beater.

2. What kind of impact will Greg Maddux have?
Here’s an interesting nugget, courtesy ESPN’s Peter Gammons. Los Angeles Dodgers starter Derek Lowe was 8-1, 2.40 after the team acquired Maddux from the Chicago Cubs last season. Considering young horses Jake Peavy and Chris Young head their rotation, no doubt the Padres took note of that stat as much as they did Maddux’s 15 victories last season.

3. Who will provide the “O” for the offense?
If you had to guess, Adrian Gonzalez would be a good start. He led San Diego with 24 homers and a .304 average last season. But it also was his first full season, and no telling how a hitter adjusts in Year Two. Beyond that, well, Brian Giles, Marcus Giles and Mike Cameron are all nice hitters, but let’s face it, this club will have to get by on its pitching.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS (88-74)
1. Does Jason Schmidt become their ace?
General manager Ned Colletti didn’t give the ex-Giant $47 million over three years with the idea he won’t, but Schmidt doesn’t have to be dominant for the Dodgers to succeed. This is a rotation that already had Derek Lowe and Brad Penny and added Randy Wolf. Add to the equation, possibly, Chad Billingsley, one of LA’s promising youngsters, and Schmidt doesn’t have to be spectacular for the Dodgers to win.

2. Will the fab frosh turn into super sophs?
This is always debatable, but it’s hard to imagine that such impressive 2006 rookies as relievers Takashi Saito (24 saves), Jonathan Broxton, catcher Russell Martin and outfielder Andre Ethier all will suffer sophomore slumps. All four played important roles in the Dodgers’ drive to the NL West title/wild-card, and the bet here is that none will suffer a significant plunge.

3. Who else is on the way?
Outfielder Matt Kemp hit seven homers in his first 18 games before appearing overmatched, but keep in mind that he was in college just three seasons ago. Fellow outfielder Jason Repko also showed flashes, and lefty Hong-Chih Kuo will be nasty if he harnesses his stuff.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS (76-86)
1. What does Randy Johnson have left?
At 43, the Big Unit is clearly not what he was before he took a two-year trip to a place he may remember as the Rotten Apple. What that means, of course, is that instead of 25-30 dominant starts per season, he’ll probably deliver only 10-15. Not a bad thing to expect from your No. 2 starter.

2. Does that mean Brandon Webb is a legitimate ace?
This curveball of a question was meant to remind any of you who might’ve forgotten that Webb won the NL Cy Young Award last season. Webb’s sinker is the heaviest pitch this side of Kevin Brown, and he used it to start 8-0 and string together 30 straight scoreless innings last season. Yeah, you could say he’s an ace.

3. How’s Captain America these days?
You might know him better by his alias, Eric Byrnes, and he’s doing just fine. Byrnes was one of just three NL players with 25 homers and 25 steals last season, and he laid the groundwork for what will be a successful career in sportstalk radio or network TV with some impressive work in the offseason.

COLORADO ROCKIES (76-86)
1. Whither Todd Helton?
The Rockies made noise last month by trying to move their aging and overpaid first baseman to Boston. But after trade talks fell apart, he’s likely to remain in Colorado for the entire season. Hard to believe that he had his worst season last year, because he still hit .302.

2. What’s up with the humidor?
Apparently, it’s the wave of the future. As was heavily publicized last season, Coors Field has become a more level playing field offensively, because baseballs have been stored in a climate-controlled chamber called a humidor. Now, in 2007, all 30 clubs will store their baseballs in climate-controlled environs, and can only use balls that have been purchased for the current season in games.

3. Is this the year the Rockies compete?
Let’s see. The Giants added Barry Zito to a rotation that already had Matt Cain, Noah Lowry and Matt Morris. The Padres have added Maddux and David Wells to complement Peavy and Young. The Dodgers added Schmidt to go with Lowe, Penny and Billingsley. The D’backs have brought in the Unit and Northgate High School grad Doug Davis. The Rockies added nobody to a rotation headed by Aaron Cook. So in a word, no.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS (88-74)
1. Does Jason Schmidt become their ace?
General manager Ned Colletti didn’t give the ex-Giant $47 million over three years with the idea he won’t, but Schmidt doesn’t have to be dominant for the Dodgers to succeed. This is a rotation that already had Derek Lowe (8-1, x.xx down the stretch) and Brad Penny and added Randy Wolf. Add to the equation, possibly, Chad Billingsley, one of LA’s promising youngsters, and Schmidt doesn’t have to be spectacular for the Dodgers to win.

2. Will the fab frosh turn into super sophs?
This is always debatable, but it’s hard to imagine that such impressive 2006 rookies as relievers Takashi Saito (24 saves), Jonathan Broxton, catcher Russell Martin and outfielder Andre Ethier all will suffer sophomore slumps. All four played important roles in the Dodgers’ drive to the NL West title/wild-card, and the bet here is that none will suffer a significant plunge.

3. Who else is on the way?
Outfielder Matt Kemp hit seven homers in his first 18 games before appearing overmatched, but keep in mind that he was in college just three seasons ago. Fellow outfielder Jason Repko also showed flashes, and lefty Hong-Chih Kuo will be nasty if he harnesses his stuff.

rhurd

  • proxl

    Love Byrnsie and root for his success. But I dunno about TV — that “gimme-another-bong-hit” speaking style and eye-burning fashion sense both need work!