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NL West Preview: Is 2021 the Year that the Padres Dethrone the Dodgers in the NL West?

A mini NL West preview. One of the 2020 NLDS matchups featured the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres. The Dodgers, who would go onto win the 2020 World Series, swept the Padres in three games.
Game 2 of the NLDS was a heartbreaker for the Padres. The Dodgers took the contest by a score of 6-5 and San Diego was unable to respond in Game 3 ending their NLCS dreams.
The Dodgers will still have one of the best lineups in baseball this coming season. However, the Padres are on the rise and some of their offseason acquisitions thus far have put the division on notice. 
The 2021 Padres roster has the all the firepower to make a deep postseason run in October. However, they’ll have to find a way to dethrone the Dodgers along the way.
Is 2021 the year that the Padres take home the NL West crown? Let’s take a look.

Padres/Dodgers NL West Preview: The Padres Pitching Staff

The Padres had the eight ranked pitching staff in baseball last season. The unit had a combined 3.86 ERA and compiled 565 strikeouts in 2020. Mike Clevinger won’t be available in 2021 after undergoing Tommy John surgery this past fall. 
Clevinger’s injury made the Padres focus on their starting rotation in the early offseason. The Padres brought in two big arms that will challenge batters in the Dodgers’ lineup. 
Yu Darvish will come to San Diego from Chicago. Darvish was 8-3 last season with a 2.1 ERA. Darvish is a pitcher that could headline any pitching staff, but he won’t be the 2021 ace in San Diego.
Blake Snell is expected to be the Opening Day starter for the Padres this season. Snell was dealing against the Dodgers in Game 6 of the World Series for Tampa Bay before he was pulled by Rays skipper, Kevin Cash. Cash faced a lot of backlash for this questionable decision.

This call to the bullpen ultimately cost the Rays a World Series Championship. Snell has proven that he can shut down the Dodgers so he will be a valuable part of the team’s championship blueprint in 2021. 

Padres/Dodgers NL West Preview: The Lineup 

The San Diego lineup was devastating for opposing defenses last season. The Padres scored 325 runs in 2020. The Padres were fourth in the league in homers with 95. They didn’t have as good of a lineup as the Dodgers, but they had a comparable number of weapons to the defending champions.
The centerpiece of the Padres is Fernando Tatís Jr. who was a First Team All-MLB selection in 2020. Tatís batted .277 and went deep 17 times for San Diego last year.

Manny Machado joined Tatís on the First Team All-MLB squad. Machado is just consistently solid year after year, so people tend to forget about his presence in the Padres clubhouse. Machado hit .304 with 17 jacks and 47 RBIs in 2020. 
Eric Hosmer is also a big piece of the Padres lineup. Hosmer only played in 38 games in 2020 due to a broken finger in September, but he still produced. Hosmer’s OPS was .851 and he drove in 36 runs during the regular season. Unfortunately, Hosmer’s bat was silenced in the playoffs.

Padres/Dodgers NL West Preview: The Dodgers

The 2021 Dodgers will resemble their 2020 squad when spring training opens in February. The pitching rotation is stacked, and the bullpen is one of the best in baseball. The Dodgers had the best combined ERA in the league last season at 3.02. 
Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Joe Kelly, and Kenley Jansen led the entire group of pitchers. There are a lot of secondary options in the Dodgers’ bullpen that would be starters with other MLB franchises. This speaks to the depth of Los Angeles’ arms. 
Offensively, the Dodgers are just as good as their pitching staff. The best bats in the Dodgers’ lineup are Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Max Muncy, and AJ Pollock. Los Angeles can hit one through nine which isn’t common in the game of baseball.

The Dodgers weren’t the best offense when it came to batting average in 2020. The squad hit .256 which was good for 11th in the MLB. Although, nobody went yard more than Los Angeles last season.
The Dodgers hit 118 home runs. The next closest team was Atlanta with 103. The Dodgers also led the league in runs with 349. The Dodgers’ power and pitching were the two reasons that the franchise won its seventh World Series Championship in 2020.

Padres/Dodgers NL West Preview: So, is 2021 the Year that the Padres Dethrone the Dodgers?

I don’t think the Padres will own the NL West in 2021. I think San Diego has a better chance to take the division in 2022 when Mike Clevinger returns to the Padres rotation. Snell and Darvish will help San Diego win games, but it won’t be enough in my mind. 

San Diego was 4-9 against Los Angeles in 2020. Snell will be dominant against the Dodgers, but he won’t be perfect. Darvish has been too inconsistent. He’s 25-26 since 2017. The 6’5” righty has shown signs of greatness, but I think the Dodgers will get the best of Darvish in 2021.
San Diego has a terrific lineup, but the Dodgers are just a little better than the Padres in nearly every category. This will result in Los Angeles winning another NL West title in 2021. 

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