Conversations with the Enemy: 2012 Rockies/Padres Preview
Today we begin a new series in which I will have a friendly conversation with a writer or writers for other teams within the National League West. We’ll compare notes and agree to disagree on whose team is more awesome. Although in this entry, a back-and-forth with Padres’ writer Justin Hunter, it’s clear neither of us thinks much of what our teams did last season.
The Padres finished dead last in the division in 2011, but the Rockies weren’t much better finishing fourth and with just two more wins. Who’s improved the most and where do you think these two clubs finish when we close the books on the 2012 season?
Michelle – Rox Pile:
The Rockies were God-awful in 2011, and it’s still shocking to me that anybody managed to be worse. Chalk it up to a franchise-best April, the only thing that kept us from a season-long mudslide into the basement of the NL West. If the Padres had even one more offensive performance like Chase Headley‘s (or managed to hold on to Adrian Gonzalez), they would have overtaken us easily.
It’s hard to say who’s improved more. The Padres have been gutting their stellar bullpen over the past few months, losing Mike Adams and Heath Bell. But their young-ish starting rotation, minus Wade LeBlanc, seems poised for a breakout. The Pads also have more catching depth with the acquisition of John Bakerfrom the Marlins. The Rockies, too, have tinkered with their catchers this offseason, dealing Chris Iannettato the Angels in exchange for young pitcher Tyler Chatwood. Ramon Hernandez, signed as a free agent by the Rox to replace Iannetta, is an older, slightly more experienced version of what we already had. Cutting Ty Wigginton loose was a good move, but third base is far form a stable position at the moment. Most people think giving Ian Stewart another chance there is a mistake, but there is no obvious alternative. Losing Bell seems to the be the only move by either team that’s likely to have a huge impact, and it weakens the Padres.
I don’t see the Rockies contending in ’12. Jim Tracy was unable to put all the pieces together this season, and I expect the same in the next. My best hope is that we manage to surmount the Dodgers, but they have a reigning Cy Young and a robbed MVP. Despite their troubles, they might even charge past the Giants next year.
Sorry Friars, looks like you might be the only thing standing between the Rox and the cellar yet again.
Justin – Chicken Friars:
The Rockies actually surprised me with their finish last season. The pre-season predictions, the way they started, and the perceived talent they had on the field led me to believe they would be competing right down the stretch for first place. Now that we saw how 2011 ended, I don’t see the Rockies improving much with the moves they’ve made so far. I agree the Ty Wigginton move makes sense. His production was far below what the Rockies need going forward. As for the Chris Iannetta trade and the Ramon Hernandez signing, I guess only time will tell. The Rockies seem to have a surplus of prospects at the pitcher position, but I guess you can never have too many. Ramon Hernandez spent some time in a Padres uniform and was a solid player. At this point, though, I think he is a back-up at best.
As for the Padres, their moves have done nothing to improve their potential for the 2012 season (save for the Baker trade, but that’s a move for a back-up catcher. We’ll see how much that actually helps). Josh Byrnes is going to need to prove himself as a GM as his time in Arizona is still fresh in many Padres’ fans memories. He did not succeed there and that makes most fans suspicious. Unless they go out and sign/trade for a power hitting right handed bat, I don’t see the Padres improving much in 2012. I think they can win around 75 games.
However, I think the Rockies will once again finish ahead of them. I think the Rockies may actually finish ahead of the Giants too. A third place finish would be a nice improvement for Colorado, and would help build toward competing again in the very near future. A last place finish for the Padres would only further push them back into the hole of perennial cellar dweller.
Which Padre do you feel is the biggest threat to the Rockies next season, and which Rockie is most dangerous to the Padres?
Justin – Chicken Friars:
I think Mat Latos has the makings of being the biggest threat to the Rockies. altos had a tough 2011, but looks to bounce back with a healthy off-season and extra work leading into Spring Training. I think Latos has a chance to dominate the Rockies much like Clayton Kershaw has dominated the Padres throughout the course of his career. Obviously, this all depends on how many times Latos actually pitches against the Rockies. As unlikely as it may be, there is a chance Latos doesn’t ever pitch against the Rockies. However, if/when he does pitch, the Rockies may struggle. Latos figures to get back to being a strikeout pitcher which would bode well against the Rockies. He doesn’t give up too many home runs, and will hopefully reduce his walk rate. Altogether, I think 2012 will be a bounce-back year for Latos, and I think the Rockies will be his personal punching bag.
The biggest threat from the Rockies to the Padres is going to be Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton. Tulowitzki has the power to be a 40 home run kind of guy. He doesn’t seemed fazed by any teams pitching, so I don’t think the Padres and their slowly depleting pitching staff will be able to hold him down. The forever-young Helton figures to hit over .300 again and smack his fair share of home runs. He has always been successful against the Padres, and while getting closer to retirement, he should still find ways to hurt the Padres. Overall, the biggest thing the Rockies have going against the Padres is star power. Helton and Tulowitzki are true stars. The Padres have Cameron Maybin as their potential star, but he’s not there yet.
Michelle – Rox Pile:
Both these organizations build teams that fit the particular strengths of their home ballparks; so in the Padres’ case, pitching, and in the Rockies’, power hitting. That always makes for interesting match-ups when the Rockies come to bat. I agree that it will likely be a starting pitcher who most flattens the Rox in 2012. Mat Latos is a safe choice because he is nowhere near his potential yet, and in 4 starts against Colorado last season he posted a 2.70 ERA. 3 of those 4 games were wins.
It’s just as likely that a Rockies hitter will dominate the Padres, especially at Coors Field. Both Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton hit around .350 against San Diego pitchers in 2011, with a combined total of 5 home runs. On paper, the teams split the season series, with the Padres winning every game at Petco and the Rockies winning every game at Coors. And that’s exactly what happened last year, though a surprising number of games were won by the visiting team in both cases.
We hope to continue this series with each of the teams in National League West, so check back for insight from around the division.
Check out Chicken Friars for updates on the Padres and follow me and Justin on Twitter.