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2023 Cubs: Know your enemy, NL West

The Cubs didn’t do very well vs. the West last year.

Kris Bryant hopes to get back on the field this year
Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Unlike the Cubs vs. the National League East in 2022, the Cubs did extremely poorly against NL West teams last year.

The Cubs went 10-25 against the five NL West teams in 2022, including a 7-0 sweep at the hands of the Dodgers.

Some of this is because of the way the schedule was arranged last year. The Cubs played only seven games against NL West teams after the All-Star break, all of them against the Giants, and they went 2-5 in those games... so not very good either.

Hopefully, an improved Cubs team will play these clubs better in 2023. As you’ll see below, 16 of the Cubs’ games against the NL West this year will be played in September.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Key departures: Cooper Hummel, Ian Kennedy, Caleb Smith, Daulton Varsho

Key arrivals: Andrew Chafin, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Kyle Lewis, Evan Longoria, Gabriel Moreno

The D-Backs were terrible in 2021 (110 losses) and somewhat better last year. They made a significant “challenge” trade when they sent Daulton Varsho, who had developed into quite a good hitter while both catching and playing the outfield, to the Blue Jays for Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Gabriel Moreno.

Moreno, who was the Jays’ top prospect, is expected to slot right in behind the plate. He was blocked in Toronto so this is a good fresh start for him.

Pretty much everyone else returns from a team that went 74-88 last year, same as the Cubs. They’re hoping the pitching staff will improve, and that they can get better performance out of veterans like Zach Davies and Madison Bumgarner.

At Wrigley Field: September 7-8-9-10
At Arizona: September 15-16-17

Colorado Rockies

Key departures: Alex Colomé, Garrett Hampson, Jose Iglesias, Connor Joe, Scott Oberg, José Ureña

Key arrivals: Pierce Johnson, Brent Suter

I don’t understand this team or how it’s run. Any time you want to complain about Cubs management, go look at how the Rockies organize their team.

The most interesting thing about the Rox this year will be how Kris Bryant does in his second year there. His first season was ruined by injuries and he played in only 42 games. He still hasn’t hit a home run in Coors Field since 2018. A good comeback year from KB could make the Rockies at least competitive.

I’m glad to see Brent Suter out of the NL Central. He always seemed to tie Cubs hitters in knots; his 2.73 career ERA in 27 appearances against the Cubs is his best against any NL Central team. Go tie Dodgers and Padres hitters in knots, Brent.

At Wrigley Field: September 22-23-24
At Colorado: September 11-12-13

Los Angeles Dodgers

Key departures: Tyler Anderson, Cody Bellinger, Joey Gallo, Andrew Heaney, Craig Kimbrel, Chris Martin, Justin Turner, Trea Turner

Key arrivals: Jason Heyward, J.D. Martinez, Miguel Rojas, Noah Syndergaard

The Dodgers have been the class of the NL West for a very long time. They’ve won nine of the last 10 division titles (and it would be 10 except for the Giants winning a ridiculous 107 games in 2021), they’ve had a winning percentage of over .640 five of the last six years, and have a World Series title from 2020, albeit from the pandemic-shortened 60-game season.

Now look at the two lists of players above. Doesn’t it seem as if the Dodgers are kind of moving into a new era of sorts? They did re-sign their own free agent starter, Clayton Kershaw, but I see this year as one where the Padres, who made significantly more moves (see below) could take over the NL West.

Maybe the Dodgers were trying to clear space to sign Shohei Ohtani next offseason. Obviously that would make them a juggernaut again, but this could be a transition year in Los Angeles.

At Wrigley Field: April 20-21-22-23
At Los Angeles: April 14-15-16

Maybe the Cubs can catch the Dodgers off-guard early in the season. Seven of the Cubs’ first 22 games are against L.A., then the two will not meet again in 2023, unless the Cubs somehow pull off a miracle playoff spot.

San Diego Padres

Key departures: Josh Bell, Mike Clevinger, Brandon Drury, Sean Manaea, Wil Myers, Jurickson Profar

Key arrivals: Xander Bogaerts, Matt Carpenter, Nelson Cruz, Adam Engel, Seth Lugo

Yes, a couple of the Padres’ “key acquisitions” are old (Carpenter and Cruz, who are likely to platoon at DH), but they filled a big hole by signing Xander Bogaerts. That will likely push Fernando Tatis Jr. to the outfield, though for now on their depth chart he’s listed at shortstop.

The Padres’ rotation looks strong and although they finished 22 games behind the Dodgers last year, that gap appears to have been narrowed quite a bit.

At Wrigley Field: April 25-26-27
At San Diego: June 2-3-4-5

San Francisco Giants

Key departures: Brandon Belt, Evan Longoria, Carlos Rodón

Key arrivals: Michael Conforto, Mitch Haniger, Sean Manaea, Taylor Rogers, Ross Stripling

Brandon Belt’s departure leaves just one key Giant from their World Series days of the last decade: Brandon Crawford. And Crawford, now 36, is probably in his final MLB season.

This gave the Giants a chance to re-tool their offense with the additions of Michael Conforto and Mitch Haniger, and even in a pitcher’s park like Oracle, that will make them more dangerous offensively.

The departure of Carlos Rodón hurts, but they’ve added solid starters in Sean Manaea and Ross Stripling.

The Giants won’t be the 107-win team of 2021 again — that is looking like a fluke. But they should be better than the .500 team (81-81) they were in 2022. Like the Cubs, they were better late in the year, going 20-13 after September 1.

At Wrigley Field: September 4-5-6
At San Francisco: June 9-10-11