Likely, the National League West is going to become a two-team race fairly quickly. It will be a fairly similar situation to last season. That means the San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks are going to fight for first place more often than not. With that in mind, the Los Angeles Dodgers could be a presence in the division on occasion. I cannot say the same for the San Diego Padres or Colorado Rockies though. Here are some quick projections.
1. Arizona Diamondbacks (93-69)
2. San Francisco Giants (85-77)
3. Los Angeles Dodgers (Above .500)
4. Colorado Rockies (Below .500)
5. San Diego Padres (Below .500)
Obviously, this looks a lot like last season. Not a whole lot has changed with most of these teams throughout the offseason. I think the Giants have actually made some really poor moves in the last couple months. On the other hand, the D-Backs have made a couple of smart decisions that will help themselves continue to win games. Unfortunately, the Dodgers are going through a lot right now with the whole McCourt fiasco. It does not help that the organization's GM is not the most capable person in his position ever. The Friars shipped off Matt Latos and that is about as much as I know.
None of these teams have made enough noticeable changes to drastically improve their records from last season. Of course, that is not necessarily a bad thing for Arizona. For the Giants, this could mean good or bad things, depending upon a few factors. If everyone on the team performs as expected, then we will witness a pitching juggernaut/offensive power. The exact opposite could happen should too many players underperform though. Undoubtedly, that is exactly why I have the defending NL West champs repeating again this season.
The right moves over the past few months could have meant great things for the Dodgers. Sadly, it seems as though reigning NL MVP Matt Kemp and reigning NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw are out of luck. Sure, both could repeat, but it will not help the team be much higher than a .500 club. A brighter future lies ahead once the team is sold and more competent owners/managers (specifically a better GM) are available though.
I honestly could not tell you what is going on with the Padres and Rockies. Both teams are bound to amass .400 to .500 winning percentages. Luckily, neither are too bad to do anything under .400. However, it would surprise a lot of people if either breaks even. These teams are going to be non-factors in the NL West unless one plays spoiler for the Giants or Diamondbacks.
By the end of the 2012 regular season, things are going to look eerily similar to 2011 in my mind. Failure to make enough changes will doom each team but the D-Backs. That will not stop the Giants from being competitive or keep the Dodgers from breaking even at the least. Otherwise, Colorado and San Diego will give us more of the same failures. The NL West should be competitive in the beginning and wind up as a two-team race after the All-Star break. It will more than likely be one of the weaker divisions in the National League still though.
Errick D. Williams is a lifelong fan of the San Francisco Giants who has attended over 200 games at AT&T Park. He lives in San Diego but regularly travels back up to the Bay Area to catch a game with friends and family members.