The Washington Post

NL West predictions


The Colorado Rockies' Mike Jacobs hits a single against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the fourth inning of a spring training baseball game. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

We enjoyed the Giants’ run to the World Series title as much as the next baseball writer, but there was something fateful, charmed and (yeah, we’ll say it) fluky about it.

None of their five starters missed a start all year — which is practically unheard of. Their oldest players (Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell) were rejuvenated, their youngest players (Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey) played beyond their years, and in October, trash-heap pickup Cody Ross turned into Babe Ruth.

So forgive us for suggesting it’s unlikely to happen again, especially after the Giants made few if any upgrades this winter.

The Rockies , on the other hand, are on the rise. They were only a game out of first place on Sept. 18, before crashing to a 1-13 finish. They have a pair of MVP candidates in Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, a Cy Young candidate in Ubaldo Jimenez, and a bullpen that’s gotten stronger at the back end with the addition of hard-throwing Matt Lindstrom. Watch out for them.

The Giants ’ offseason essentially amounted to this: replacing shortstop Juan Uribe with Miguel Tejada. Clearly, they think their dazzling rotation, a full season of Posey and a renewed contribution from third baseman Pablo Sandoval will be enough. We doubt the postseason journey can be as smooth as it was in 2010.

All Don Mattingly has to do as the new manager of the Dodgers is fill Joe Torre’s shoes (despite having never managed in the majors or minors), deflect attention from the ugly divorce of owners Frank and Jamie McCourt, find a way to connect with wayward center fielder Matt Kemp and reverse a sense of fatalism that arises when a team sees its archrival win the World Series. Other than that, the road to third place is a breeze.

The low-payroll Padres nearly pulled off a stunner last year, leading the division race for much of the season before fading in the final five weeks. The inevitable trade of all-star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez makes it almost impossible to imagine a similar run in 2011, but a rotation headed by Mat Latos and Clayton Richard and a bullpen headed by Heath Bell make them worth watching.

For the Diamondbacks , the first full season of the Kevin Towers/Kirk Gibson management team could be tough to endure, as the team embarked on a rebuilding project that cost them some power (Mark Reynolds, Adam LaRoche). In the last four years, their win total has fallen from 90 to 82 to 70 to 65, and it’s not going back up significantly anytime soon.

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