|The NL West's Only Hope Against The Giants...|
Los Angeles Dodgers
Why They'll Win: Money. After shelling out $2B for the team (and accidentally enriching human gravy stain Frank McCourt in the process), ownership isn't going to flinch over spending a few dozen million for a veteran pickup before the trade deadline. Matt Kemp is an MVP level-talent, Clayton Kershaw is a Cy Young-level talent, and if the guys they picked up from Boston rebound to previous levels of performance, they'll be scary. Oh, and Zack Greinke.
Why They Won't: The problem with having a lot of money to spend is spending it in the wrong places. The Dodgers have been spending it in, as Connor McLeod might say, lots of different places, some of them real head-scratchers. For all their star power, they've got little depth. Counting on bounceback years from so many guys who flopped or were hurt (or both) in Boston is like counting on David Lee Roth to behave himself when he gets invited back into Van Halen.
Moment They're Dreading: Carl Crawford simultaneously pulls every muscle in his upper body during pre-game calisthenics, causing Adrian Gonzalez to complain about the team, ownership, Satan, and Bobby Valentine.
San Francisco Giants
Why They'll Win: Pitching, pitching and more pitching. An MVP behind the plate in Buster Posey. Brandon Belt seems to have undone much of the damage the Giants did to his swing and is ready to rake. Hunter Pence can't possibly be as bad as he was after coming over from the Phillies last year. Sergio Romo throws roughly 27 distinct pitches, all of them for strikes. Beards.
Why They Won't: Lincecum appears shot. Zito's had stretches of effectiveness before relapsing into Zito-ness before. Most of the offense is unimpressive, and as long as he's behind the plate, Posey's a serious injury risk. Front office is addicted to adding veteran 4th OF types at the trade deadline instead of impact players. Garlic fries on sale at concessions at AT&T Park may distract players into disappearing into the stands during the game.
Moment They're Dreading: Tim Lincecum, with a 6.91 ERA and a $22M contract, refuses to go to the bullpen after a 8 run, 4 inning outing against the Padres.
San Diego Padres
Why They'll Win: Every few years, the Padres mount an amazing run that comes out of nowhere. They're due. Also, they've moved in the fences at Petco, so not every home run ball is going to die on the warning track this time around. Chase Headley is a star, Jedd Gyorko could be one, and one of these days Cameron Maybin is going to put it all together.
Why They Won't: Headley's hurt. So's half their middle infield. The back half of the rotation is a hydra of identical fringy guys and unready prospects. Catcher Yasmani Grandal got slapped with a 50 game suspension for snorting ground up moose testicles. There is, to be blunt, not enough thump without Headley, and possibly not enough with him. Moving in the fences helps hitters, but it'll hurt their collection of guys-who-only-look-good-pitching-at-Petco that much in return.
Moment They're Dreading: When the words "setbacks" and "expected return date" are used in a sentence by a doctor when discussing Chase Headley.
Why They'll Win: Troy Tulowitzki is healthy and beastly again. Carlos Gonzalez is the greatest exemplar of the postulate that Billy Beane wouldn't know an OF prospect if one moved into his guest bedroom. Dexter Fowler seems to have figured it out. Exciting young talent behind the plate and at 3B.
Why They Won't: They pitch about as well as drunk guy on Shark Tank. They've got minimal power in the rotation and their infield defense is deeply suspect. Todd Helton's still hanging around sopping up ABs at 1B, despite having turned into Lyle Overbay. Humidor effect can't overcome the fact that their starting rotation's less appetizing than day-old sushi.
Moment They're Dreading: Management announces an additional two-year contract extension for Helton, and a trade for Joe Blanton, on the same day.
Why They'll Win: They're gritty! They play the game the right way! They scrap and fight for every run and play fundamentally sound baseball! Also, lots of highly regarded pitching prospects and some solid starting pitching.
Why They Won't: Grit < Talent, and they traded a ton of talent away to get grittier. Prize acquisition Martin Prado is a complementary piece, not a foundation. Slugger Paul Goldschmidt has contact and same-side issues. They've got an outfield's worth of injured outfielders already, and a whole lot of money wrapped up in Heath Bell.
Moment They're Dreading: The one when Justin Upton accepts his MVP award - wearing a Braves hat.