. Though the Padres have one of the smallest payrolls in the league, the surprising Pads nearly were able to hold off the San Francisco Giants to win the National League West. Here’s a look at how the division worked out in an unpredictable, highly entertaining season.
Though the Rockies weren’t able to fully put together their usual late-season comeback, Carlos Gonzalez had a monstrous season and helped keep Colorado in the Wild Card hunt almost down to the wire. Gonzalez hit a league-leading .336 with 34 homers and 117 RBIs, placing him in the MVP discussion with Joey Votto and Albert Pujols. Ubaldo Jimenez also had a tremendous season, winning 19 games and finishing with an ERA under 3.00, even though he faded a bit down the stretch after his ridiculous start to the season. Troy Tulowitzki was one of the best players in the league when he was on the field.
Outlook for next season – With Tulo, Gonzalez and Jimenez, the Rockies have some very nice pieces to build around. Now they just need some guys to get on base at the top of their order and they can challenge the Giants in the division.
San Diego Padres:
Even though Adrian Gonzalez is the only player known to sell tons of MLB tickets, the Padres were able to surprise the baseball world for almost the entire season. With solid players like David Eckstein and Miguel Tejada, who had a nice stretch run with the team, the Padres finished 18 games above .500. Young stud pitcher Matt Latos was also a difference maker.
Outlook for next year – The Pads desperately need to re-sign Gonzalez, who had another 30-homer, 100-RBI season despite playing in a notorious pitcher’s ball park.
San Francisco Giants:
While the Phillies and Yankees were touted as the teams to beat for much of the season, the Giants quietly got their rotation in order and sneaked into the lead in the N.L. West late in the season. Despite a lackluster season from Pablo Sandoval, the unbelievable pitching staff, led by Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner, were able to not only get to the postseason but run the table to take home the World Series title. Buster Posey is a star on the rise and should win the National League Rookie of the Year.
Outlook for next year – The Giants are young and loaded in their starting rotation, which could set them up for long-term success. Getting a couple consistent bats in their lineup would also help tremendously.
Los Angeles Dodgers:
The Dodgers were the sexy pick to win the division, and for good reason. Manny Ramirez ended up being too much of a distraction, however, and the Dodgers never recovered once Andre Ethier went down with an early injury after getting off to a torrid start. Matt Kemp had a decent season, though he needs to get his on-base percentage out of the basement. Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw actually had decent overall seasons, even if that didn’t translate to a lot of wins.
Outlook for next year – The Dodgers still have plenty of talent, but need to find a way to overcome injuries and inconsistency.
Despite hitting 32 homers in 2010, Mark Reynolds just isn’t the type of guy at the core of a lineup that can anchor a team. Striking out 211 times and batting less than .200 certainly didn’t help. Adam LaRoche was actually a solid addition to the team as the former Brave drove in a team-high 100 runs and Chris Young also had a solid season in the heart of their order. Their pitching staff held them back, however.
Outlook for next year – After shipping out Dan Haren, the Diamondbacks desperately need a replacement ace, as well as a couple of other solid pitchers in their rotation to get back into the A.L. West hunt. Reynolds needs to work on putting the ball in play.