Sunday, April 12, 2009

Why The San Diego Padres Could Win The NL West

So the headline caught your attention, as it would a lot of baseball fans, especially those that are fans of teams in the National League's Western Division. A division that, and maybe rightly so, has been called the weakest division in baseball over the past few years. Well, regardless of whether or not that's true, it makes it a much more interesting race as October draws nearer.

All the talk at the beginning of the 2009 season was about the Los Angeles Dodgers and how they were the odds on favorite to win the division. Well, not to steal a line from ESPN College Gameday's own Lee Corso but, "not so fast my friend." Could the San Diego Padres possibly make a run at the Dodgers in 2009? I think they can and I believe they will.

After a 2008 season that saw the San Diego Padres lose 99 games, Padres' General Manager Kevin Towers knew that they would have to make some changes if they were going to improve on that record and make sure they didn't have a season like that again. It didn't start the way he or the team had hoped with all the rumors swirling around ace Jake Peavy and his possible trade to a team like Atlanta or Chicago. Just as it looked like Peavy might be headed to the Cubs, negotiations broke off and Peavy remained in San Diego.

As Spring Training began, there were more questions than answers. The rotation was anything but set, the bullpen had more holes than a golf course fairway after I've played and the Trevor Hoffman era would come to an end after 15 seasons when the team elected not to re-sign the long time closer. So where would Kevin Towers turn and who could he possibly bring in to fill those holes?

As spring wore on, the team began to take shape, new faces started to emerge and the roster was widdled down until there were down to their official 25-man roster as Opening Day was just a few days away. New faces like David Eckstein, Duaner Sanchez, Walter Silva and Kevin Correia would try and put the Padre fans at ease, try to prove that they could help this team win.

It wouldn't take long for any of those guys to make their presence known. Eckstein has already had a few key hits, especially in a come from behind victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 9th when the team rallied from 3-1 down to win 4-3.

Duaner Sanchez has done his job out of the bullpen, having yet to give up a hit in either of his two appearances.

Walter Silva made his first start for the Padres on April 8th against the Dodgers and would be equally as impressive, pitching five strong innings giving up two runs on five hits but getting a no decision in a 5-2 loss.

Kevin Correia would make his own mark in his first start as a Padre against the San Francisco Giants. Although he struggled with his command at times, he still kept the Padres within striking distance of the Dodgers and it eventually led to their come from behind 4-3 victory over the Dodgers. Correia would go six innings giving up three runs on five hits and striking out five.

The one thing that this Padres team lacked over the last few seasons has been their offense. Leaving runners in scoring position, not getting the timely hits when they needed them and not giving their pitchers any run support. Through their first three games, it looked like it was going to be the same old story, but a come from behind victory over the Dodgers and two straight wins over the Giants and it looks like they have a new found confidence.

There's no doubt that Jake Peavy and Chris Young will anchor the Padres' rotation, but when guys like that have the confidence to pitch six or seven innings,getting run support from their offense, lights out pitching from bullpen guys like Duaner Sanchez, Cla Meredith and new closer Heath Bell, it could make the Padres a team to be reckoned with in 2009.

No comments: