Giants and Dodgers: Who Will Take the N.L. West Crown?
Thursday August 2nd, 2012
Bernie Olshansky: Now that each team is for the most part set going into the final stretch, the NL West is up for grabs. The Dodgers were the most prominent buyer this year and the Giants didn’t stand idly by. Los Angeles acquired Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, and Brandon League, and the Giants got Hunter Pence. Before any deals were made, I would say the Giants had a better overall team. But after getting some of the best talent that was made available at the non-waiver trade deadline, the Dodgers might have grabbed a slight edge. Both teams may still make more moves before the year is done, but at this point the N.L. West race will be coming down to the wire.
With arguably the best pitching staff in the whole National League, the Giants have a great advantage in pitcher-friendly AT&T Park. This year with Tim Lincecum in a bit of a funk, Matt Cain leads the strong staff including Ryan Vogelsong, Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, and Barry Zito. Heading into this season, Barry Zito was the weak link, going 9-14 with a 4.15 ERA in 2010, and 3-4 with a 5.87 ERA in 2011. Zito was left off the playoff roster in the Giants’ World Series-winning season in 2010. This year has been a good one for Zito—he’s 8-7 with a 3.89 ERA in 20 starts. The weak link in the pitching staff this year has been Tim Lincecum. He is 5-11 with a 5.62 ERA, but has shown some signs of coming out of his season-long slump. If he can replicate some of last season or his performance in the 2010 playoffs, the Giants will have no problem making the playoffs.
This winter, the Giants signed Melky Cabrera. Last year with the Royals, he hit .305 and had 201 hits. The Giants hoped that they would get close to that production from Melky, and they have gotten that and more. This year, the All Star Game MVP is hitting .353 with 10 homers and 52 RBI. When the Giants have their full lineup of Posey, Cabrera, Sandoval, and now Pence, they should be powerful. Coming over to San Francisco, Pence will see a drop in his home run numbers, but his average should go up a bit with the spacious outfield in AT&T Park. One of the Giants’ needs this year is an extra bullpen arm. They lost reliever Guillermo Mota towards the beginning of the year due to a failed drug test, so they were short an arm to begin with. Then closer Brian Wilson needed Tommy John Surgery, so Santiago Casilla had to take over in his role. Clay Hensley, an offseason signing, has done well for the most part, and George Kontos came over from the Yankees in a trade for catcher Chris Stewart. The Giants were eyeing the Mariners’ Brandon League, but the Dodgers swiped him up before dealing Josh Lindblom to the Phillies for Shane Victorino. The Giants’ bullpen should be fine, but they definitely can’t afford an injury or a slump for one of the relievers.
The favorite now to win the division in my mind, the Dodgers went all out at the trade deadline. They upgraded two major positions with two top-of-the-line players, and added to their bullpen. Hanley Ramirez will play on the left side, filling in at short for the injured Dee Gordon and playing third until he adjusts to short, and Shane Victorino will play left. The Dodgers had a potent lineup before making any moves with Matt Kemp hitting three and Andre Ethier protecting him hitting cleanup. Kemp got off to a hot start this year but was sidelined with a hamstring injury. Ethier also spent some time on the DL with an oblique injury, but now both are back and healthy. Victorino will serve as the leadoff hitter, Kemp and Ethier will be the three-four combo, and Ramirez will hit five. This lineup, along with Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley atop the rotation will definitely give the Giants a run for their money. I didn’t really think the Dodgers needed any bullpen help, but seeing them trade Josh Lindblom for Victorino made the League move make sense. Still, it seemed strategic the way the Dodgers came in at the last-minute and took League. If the newly acquired talent plays to its potential, the Dodgers should have no problem securing a playoff spot.
When the Giants hosted the Dodgers last weekend, it seemed like there was a bit of animosity from the Giants toward the Dodgers (or at least from the fans’ standpoint). Hanley Ramirez hit a late-inning home run off of Sergio Romo, and consequently did the “I see you” gesture as he rounded the bases. There were calls to drill Hanley the next day, but that didn’t happen. It’ll be interesting to see what happens the next time the two teams face off. It looks like the rivalry is heating up. This could be a preview of a possible playoff series to come in October.
***Today’s feature was prepared by Bernie Olshansky, Baseball Writer & Facebook Administrator. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Bernie on Twitter (@BernieOlshansky)***
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Posted on August 2, 2012, in MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis and tagged al, angels, baseball, brandon league, buyers, contenders, cubs, dodgers, giants, hanley ramirez, mariners, marlins, mlb, moves, nl, pence, rangers, sellers, trade deadline, victorino, west. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.