N.L. West Head to Head, Part 1: The Rockies 

Now that most of the free-agent dust has settled, we can start comparing the Giants to their NL West competitors. No doubt there will be a few more signings around the division (David Wells? Jeff Weaver?) and trades, perhaps not quite as momentous as Randy Johnson-back-to Arizona, but let's play with what we have and see how the Giants stack up.

As a basis, I'm going to use a projection system called ZIPS, which just released its 2007 estimates (BP's PECOTA is not yet ready), but I'll also use some common sense and a sprinkling of conjecture pulled from certain body cavities only the Transportation Security Agency is allowed to explore.

Each day I'll line up the Giants versus a different NL West rival. I'll compare starting lineups, starting rotations, and bullpens and rate the comparisons as GG (big advantage Giants), G (adv. Giants), N (neutral), O (adv. opponent) and OO (gack). I'll assign a rating for home games and away games. Because it's Friday and no one's paying attention anyway, let's start with the Rockies:

The projected lineups


CF Roberts
SS Vizquel
1B Aurilia/Klesko
LF Bonds
2B Durham
RF Winn
C Molina
3B Feliz


CF Taveras
SS Tulowitzki
1B Helton
LF Holliday
3B Atkins
RF Hawpe/Baker
2B Matsui
C Torrealba

Comments: Unless Taveras and Tulowitzki quickly improve their offensive games, the Giants have the upper hand in the first two batting slots. Colorado may slot Jamey Carroll or Kaz Matsui in the 1-2 spots, too. Matsui was much better as a Rock than a Met, and Carroll has shows flashes of OBP prowess in his utility career, including a fine 2006 as the main 2Ber for Colo. ZIPS is impressed with Tulowitzki, who could soon put up Aurilia numbers (the 20 HR version, not the 37 HR version). If Roberts is injured or neutralized by LHP, and Omar declines, the Giants lose their advantage quickly.

Other than Molina providing a bit more power at the bottom than Torrealba, the rest of the way it's all Colorado. Holliday and Atkins should continue to mash. Hawpe and Baker will probably platoon, which according to ZIPS gives the Rockies a two-headed monster (Hawpe: .368 OBP, .493 SLG; Baker: .342 OBP, .504 SLG). Between the two I'll bet they hit 35-40 HRs. Hawpe also has a cannon of an arm. And we haven't even gotten to Todd Helton. Will he regain his fearsome power, or continue what was a noticeable decline in '06? Back problems are a bad sign...

The upshot: Colorado has quietly assembled a homegrown, well, if not a murderer's row, at least a circle of muggers. But if Tulowitzki takes a big leap forward, Taveras learns how to lead off with a .360+ OBP, and Helton stays relatively healthy, we'll see a lot of games like this. Take note: while Atkins and Hawpe seem to hit equally well on the road, Helton and Holliday have big career splits. Historically the Rockies offense stinks at Mays Field, but with this year's crew, I fear the Giants have no advantage.

Rating: N at S.F., OO at Colo

The projected rotations


5th guy


Jeff Francis
Josh Fogg
B.K. Kim
Taylor Buchholz
Jason Hirsch

Comments: With Jason Jennings gone, the Rox rotation is a bit unknown, with the two rookies acquired for Jennings tentatively penciled in. Francis could be very very good; Francis could be better than Zito. Cook's heavy sinker is well-suited for Coors, which started playing far more normally last year anyway. On the Giant side, Lowry has the Coors heebie-jeebies; Zito's thrown one game there and thrown it relatively well (7 IP, 12 baserunners, 1 ER). On the whole Giants starters are expected to be very good next year. Even Morris should bounce back, says ZIPS. Colorado will only match them if the rookies bust out.

Rating: G at S.F., G at Colo.

Projected bullpens

To save space I won't list all the names. We know this: Colorado turned journeyman lefty Brian Fuentes into a damn good closer last year. He strikes out more than a batter an inning, he doesn't give up many hits. Better than, ahem, the Giants' closer. Colorado also picked up LaTroy Hawkins and Jeremy Affeldt, two vets who could be very good. File under: you never know with relievers. Like the Giants, they also have several live young arms, two of whom (Manuel Corpas, Ramon Ramirez) had very impressive debuts last year. Putting Benitez aside for a moment -- gonna need a forklift! -- the Giants bullpen is roughly akin, though their young live arms (Wilson, Sadler) had less success than the abovementioned Rox.

Rating: O at S.F., OO at Colo.

If the teams as constituted today played 18 games split between S.F. and Denver, I'd guess the Rockies would win 11.


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