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3 teams with 88 wins or more last year after the winner in 2008 had just 84 wins, what to expect this time? All 5 teams have made the playoffs at least once between 2003 and 2009, so again, how to predict? Mix in that, vs 2008, the Dodgers were +11, Diamondbacks -12, Rockies +18, Padres -12, Giants +16 - most variable division out there - how the heck do you predict?

Team Questions

San Diego Padres

  1. OPS+ of 96, ERA+ of 84 - Truly a land of opportunity for any kids, but are there any?
  2. Only one starting pitcher with 20+ starts, only one with 10+ who had an ERA+ over 94 (he was at 103) with 15 guys starting a game in 2009. Things have to get better right?
  3. Hope comes in the form of an average age on the staff of 26.6 years old. Outplayed their expected record by 8 games, how ugly can 2010 get?

Colorado Rockies

  1. Massive jump last year, was it for real?
  2. Despite 130+ OPS+ from both Tulowitzki and Helton and a 120+ from their LF/RF combo of Seth Smith and Brad Hawpe the team OPS+ was still just 98. Will they get the support they need to move to the next level?
  3. 4 starters with 30+ starts, 5th with 27 and all with an ERA+ over 100 (all 30 or younger too). How the heck did that happen and can you really hope for it again?

San Francisco Giants

  1. A GM many feel is an idiot yet they won 88. Offense was McDonald like - Pablo Sandoval and Juan Uribe were the only guys with 200+ PA with an OPS+ over 92. Only can add Andres Torres for one with 10+ PA's. Team OPS+ of 88.
  2. Pitching was WOW - 123 ERA+ but it was almost all Lincecum & Cain then pray for rain. OK, not that extreme but those two clearly are why they won 88 (darn you JP for not expanding the offer).
  3. Can this amazing pitching hold together mixed with just a bit more offense?

Los Angeles Dodges

  1. Russell Martin - do they get the good one (100+ OPS+, All-Star) or the not so good one (86 OPS+ last year)
  2. No starter had more than 12 wins despite 3 with 30+ starts, two with 120+ ERA+'s - Will one get the run support/bullpen support to be a Cy Young winner?
  3. Manny - need more be said?
  4. Ownership - what a mess eh?

Arizona Diamondbacks

  1. OPS+ of 88, thanks to a 1B with an OPS+ of 76 (!).
  2. Improvement should be easy, especially with average age of 26.3 years. 6 guys with 5+ starts, 4 with 27+ - Can staff health stay for 2010?
  3. Dan Haren - true ace, signed through 2013. Will anyone help or will he get sick of this ala Halladay?


Off-Season Moves

When I volunteered to help John out with the NL West I did so mainly out of curiosity after coming to the realization that I know very little about these teams.  In fact, I was about twenty minutes into my research before remembering that the division is comprised of five teams, not four.  (Sorry, Colorado, all tucked away down there).  In any event, now I know why I barely acknowledge the existence of these teams:  Nothing happens here!  Sure, there are some interesting storylines, as John has noted above, but man alive, these guys sure follow the Stand Pat mantra.  Don't believe me?  Well, check it out.

San Diego Padres
In: Jon Garland, Scott Hairston, Aaron Cunningham, Josh Barfield, Matt Stairs, Yorvit Torrealba,

Out: Kevin Kouzmanoff, Eric Sogard, Edgar Gonzalez

Not exactly a murderer's row there, huh?  Hairston and Cunningham arrive via the A's in a deal for The Kouz and Eric Sogard.  Jon Garland is here to fill as much of Jake Peavy's void as possible and Matt Stairs will hang around for a few dozen at-bats.  Other than that, the biggest news of the off-season involved who wasn't on their way out of town, namely Adrian Gonzalez and closer Heath Bell.  Both of the 2009 All-Stars were expected to be on the move at some point and while neither is likely buying season passes to the San Diego Zoo, they're both still destined for Petco come April.  Bell's departure could be hastened by the Twins' loss of Joe Nathan to Tommy John surgery, though Minnesota may not be looking to add much salary after giving Joe Mauer $2.75 trillion on Monday.  As for Gonzalez, if you read Red Sox related sites, Kevin Youkilis is apparently just keeping first base warm for him until the Padres realize that it's Boston's right to acquire the 40-HR man. 

Colorado Rockies

In: 3B Melvin Mora, C Miguel Olivo

Out: SP Jason Marquis, SP Jose Contreras, SP Josh Fogg, 3B Garrett Atkins, C Yorvit Torrealba, RP Alan Embree, OF Matt Murton, RP Matt Herges, RP Joe Beimel,

That's a whole lot of mediocrity.  To be fair, the Rockies didn't actually need to do much this winter given their excellent finish to the season with a stable of young, homegrown talent.  So, really, this offseason just involved a lot of fat trimming and bench rotations.  Melvin Mora is the prized acquisition here and will spell Ian Stewart at third from time to time.  Other than that, the Rockies will rely on their core of Troy Tulowitzki, Stewart, Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gonzalez, and the ageless Todd Helton.  The rotation looks a little shaky, however, but Colorado decided to stick with what they had rather than take serious runs at any of the available big name hurlers.  Plus, phenom Jhoulys Chacin should be ready to slide into the rotation at some point.  Might be an opportunity for the Fan 590 to unload some cologne on Denver.

San Francisco Giants
In:  1B Aubrey Huff, SP Todd Wellemeyer, RP Guillermo Mota, IF Mark DeRosa,

Out: SP Randy Johnson, 1B Ryan Garko, RP Bob Howry, SP Brad Penny, OF Randy Winn

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Aubrey Huff era!  I guess he's the impact bat the pitching rich Giants have been looking for.  Unfortunately, he had a pretty atrocious 2009 and looks about done.  Randy Johnson departs to pursue a career in modeling while Ryan Garko heads back to the AL after a pretty miserable two month stretch in San Fran.  Other than that, Giants fans will just pray that Tim Lincecum continues to rack up Cy Young Awards before realizing that he is, in fact, an awkward teenage girl.

Los Angeles Dodgers
In: IF Jamey Carroll, RP Alfredo Amezaga, OF Brian Giles, OF Reed Johnson

Out:  IF Orlando Hudson, SP Randy Wolf, IF Mark Loretta, IF Juan Castro, OF Juan Pierre, RP Guillermo Mota, Wife of Owner Jamie McCourt

Again, chaff in, chaff out.  The biggest news of the off-season was owner Frank McCourt's extremely contentious divorce from wife Jamie which has effectively forced the Dodgers into a waiting game to see if they can afford any salary increases.  Maybe weekend dad will end up taking them out for ice cream and stuff but for now, they're in limbo.  Oh, and starter Vincente Padilla got shot but recovered.  Though the Google translation stating he "left the medical center, without gravity" seems a tad troublesome.  You never can trust those erratic fireballers and their lack of respect for basic laws of physics.

Arizona Diamondbacks
In: SP Edwin Jackson, SP Ian Kennedy, 1B Adam LaRoche, 2B Kelly Johnson

Out:  OF Eric Byrnes, 1B/3B Chad Tracy, SP Max Scherzer, SP Doug Davis

There are actually a few serviceable names here.  Jackson and Kennedy come from the Tigers and Yankees respectively in the Curtis Granderson deal.  Adam LaRoche turned down two years and $17.5MM from the Giants before finding his options fairly limited and signing for one year and $5.5MM.  LaRoche played in Pittsburgh, Boston, and Atlanta last year where he managed to slug .488 with 25 HRs.  The good news is the Diamondbacks inked superstar Justin Upton to a six-year, $51MM deal so they've got that going for them.  On the flip side, Brandon Webb is injured again with no timetable for his return.  So Dan Haren and Jackson are going to need to shoulder a fairly large load for a while.


John: Sheesh - do I have to? Dodgers tend to be the favorite just due to inertia but in a crazy division like this? I'll go out on a limb and continue the craziness of the division with San Diego living an impossible dream just to get slaughtered in the playoffs while the Dodgers crash and burn to an 82 win season.

Braden:  Gah, I dunno.  I'm always an idiot at these things.  I think it'll come down to the Dodgers and Rockies with the Giants somewhat close behind.  Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley make The Leap for the Dodgers and they take the division by 3 games with 91 wins.  Or not.  Who knows.

NL West - The Most Unpredictable Of Them All | 17 comments | Create New Account
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christaylor - Tuesday, March 23 2010 @ 12:34 PM EDT (#212621) #
SDP: "OPS+ of 96, ERA+ of 84 - Truly a land of opportunity for any kids, but are there any?"

Latos? Poreda? They could thrive in Petco. A-Gon will probably be dealt for a prospect grab bag... hopefully not to the AL East.

COL: "Massive jump last year, was it for real?"

I still am not sure it Tulo is for real, let alone this team. Tulo's tOPS+ splits make me believe that JP yet may be proven correct for picking Romero over him.

ARI: I think they take this mess of a division and surprise in the playoffs and then get slaughter by the Yankees in a dull world series. Upton gets better, LaRoche and Johnson have good years. Webb stops looking like a wounded duck and more like the NL version of Doc again (but I guess Doc has filled that role now, huh).

Mike Green - Tuesday, March 23 2010 @ 01:53 PM EDT (#212622) #
Orlando Hudson "chaff"?  Recount, please, and none of this Gore-Bush Supreme Court nonsense.
Gerry - Tuesday, March 23 2010 @ 02:18 PM EDT (#212624) #

The division has got to come down to a Dodgers/Rockies race.  The Padres will trade away anyone with a big contract approaching free agency, see Heath Bell and Adrian Gonzalez.

The Giants have never been able to overcome some of their stinky contracts, see Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand.

The Diamondbacks have some good young players but they haven't shown the ability to break-out over the last couple of years and Brandon Webb appears to be still hurt.

The Rockies do have some pitching, Ubaldo Jimenez emarged as a potential ace last season and Aaron Cook is always good.  They have a lot of home grown talent in the lineup. 

The Dodgers might have lost a few players but they were the class of the field in 2009.  A lot may depend on which Manny shows up this season.

I will pick the Rockies as it is time for a change in the NL West.

James W - Tuesday, March 23 2010 @ 02:32 PM EDT (#212626) #

Tulowitzki is definitely real.  He's the number 2 shortstop in baseball.  Injury problems coincide with his periods of struggle (2008, early 2009).  When healthy, he's an outstanding player. 

JP will never be proven correct on that one, sorry.

Magpie - Tuesday, March 23 2010 @ 02:33 PM EDT (#212627) #
Anyone ever wish Toronto was in Southern California?

Besides most days in January...

92-93 - Tuesday, March 23 2010 @ 02:36 PM EDT (#212628) #
I think it would take a miracle or some shrewd trading for the Dodgers rotation to hold up this year - they don't have anybody that can be counted on for 200 innings, and I think they'd be considered lucky getting 550 out of their top 3. Padilla and the race for their #5 spot ain't too pretty either. If the Rockies had one more starter I'd feel more comfortable choosing them. The division will probably come down to whose rotation stays the healthiest between the two teams.
Magpie - Tuesday, March 23 2010 @ 02:47 PM EDT (#212629) #
JP will never be proven correct on that one, sorry.

Never is a very long time, and it's probably prudent to refrain from such totally categorical assessments of the future. I was reminded today that just two months ago, the American commentator Fred Barnes wrote that:

The health care bill, ObamaCare, is dead with not the slightest prospect of resurrection.

He ain't looking too good today. Now as is well known, a week is a long time in politics. A decade is an eternity. Tulowitzki and Romero have years and years left to settle this. You may very well may be right about them - I'd bet on it myself, if I did that sort of thing - but nevertheless. In the very same week that Nomar Garciaparra's career skidded to a halt, you might remember the great truth that Joaquin taught us so long ago:

John Northey - Tuesday, March 23 2010 @ 02:56 PM EDT (#212630) #
In this division 'youneverknow' is sooo true. I'm thinking of it as the anti-AL East right now. Over here you know the Yankees/Red Sox will likely be 1-2 as they have been for all but 2 seasons this millennium. That the Orioles will be fighting for last or 2nd last as they have for a decade+. That the Jays and Rays will tease but not keep up for more than a season (yes, the Jays did finish ahead of the Sox one season).

Ah well. Could be worse. Could be cheering for Kansas City (one 500 season since the strike, 83-79) or Pittsburgh (Barry Bonds was playing for them when they last won, Bush the first was in power) or even poor Baltimore - also stuck here in the east but peaked at 3rd since making the playoffs in 1997 then firing Davy Johnson (idiots) and being sub-500 since (sub-400 twice, last done here in 1995 then back to 1981 for a second occurrence).
92-93 - Tuesday, March 23 2010 @ 03:00 PM EDT (#212631) #
JP will never be proven correct on that one, sorry.

While things certainly look that way, as Magpie says you really never know. Furthermore, Tulo was worth 6.3 WAR in his first 2 seasons, and only 5.7 if you want to include his cup of coffee in 2006. Romero was worth 2.7 WAR last year, and would only need to slightly improve on that (or avoid the DL) to be worth more than Tulowitzki was to the Rockies with the same amount of service time.

Thomas - Tuesday, March 23 2010 @ 03:45 PM EDT (#212632) #
the American commentator Fred Barnes wrote that:

Not starting a political discussion, but I re-read that Barnes article last night and it was great fun.

As for the Padres, there is some hope there, but it is a few years away. Latos is a favourite of mine and Kyle Blanks has a very legitimate bat. Garland was a smart signing to anchor the staff and may have trade value in July. Wade LeBlanc could make an appearance this year and slot towards the back of the rotation. Poreda and Clayton Richard could also be contributors, but I'm a bit hesitant on them. It will be an interesting year to watch Chase Headley, as the Kouzmanoff move opened the door at 3B, but he's got to show some more with the bat (especially at PETCO) or else he won't be a permanent solution at either 3B or a corner OF spot. There is also talent deeper on the farm, but none of that should appear before September, at the earliest.
braden - Tuesday, March 23 2010 @ 04:57 PM EDT (#212634) #

Orlando Hudson "chaff"?  Recount, please, and none of this Gore-Bush Supreme Court nonsense.

Pfft.  The guy's a former 43rd round pick.  If that's not chaff, I don't know what is.

Actually, I bungled that one.  My defence is that I was on a roll.

Mick Doherty - Tuesday, March 23 2010 @ 05:19 PM EDT (#212635) #

So if I read that right, John picks the Padres and Braden picks everybody BUT the Padres.

Tell me there's a bet brewing here ...! :-)

92-93 - Tuesday, March 23 2010 @ 05:50 PM EDT (#212636) #
Courtesy of Jordan Bastian :

Over six innings against a group of Yankees farmhands, Romero surrendered one run on six hits and finished with 88 pitches (54 strikes) and two walks. With the exception of a runner being thrown out at the plate to end the third inning, all of the outs Romero record were strikeouts (nine) and groundouts (eight). That was the result of a strong sinker, along with some sweeping curveballs and dancing changeups.

I continue to be extremely encouraged by Romero's lack of flyballs against, and hope this is a trend he carries into the season.

Alex Obal - Tuesday, March 23 2010 @ 07:33 PM EDT (#212637) #
It was there last year, too. 54.0% GB. That's very good - league average is around 44.
Thomas - Tuesday, March 23 2010 @ 08:47 PM EDT (#212639) #
Also, I was under the impression Brian Giles had retired.
dan gordon - Wednesday, March 24 2010 @ 10:50 AM EDT (#212649) #

The Giants won 88 last year and have made a significant improvement at 3 positions - LF, 1B and 2B (De Rosa, F. Sanchez and Huff).  Those positions were wastelands last year and while the replacements aren't stars, they are much better than their predecessors.  Huff had a weak year last year, but the year before he hit over .300 and had more than 30 HR's.  F. Sanchez is out for a few weeks at the start of the season, with Uribe filling in at 2B, and then likely sliding over to SS to take some time away from Renteria once Sanchez is ready.     

Their other Sanchez, Jonathan, looks like he is blossoming into a 3rd top starting pitcher to go along with Lincecum and Cain.  Wellemeyer beat out Baumgarner for the 5th starter spot and has looked great so far in the spring.  Like Huff he was a disappointmewnt last year, but, also like Huff, he was excellent in 2008, with an ERA of 3.71.  Baumgarner will no doubt be up from AAA at some point, and is one of the best pitching prospects in baseball.  Zito's contract is terrible, but he's not a terrible pitcher, with an ERA of 4.03 last year.  The team looks a fair bit better than last year, and I think they give the Dodgers a run for it.  Colorado will be in there, too, and I think it could be a great 3 team race.

John Northey - Wednesday, March 24 2010 @ 12:30 PM EDT (#212654) #
Could be a great race but watch out for the plexiglass principle - namely that when a team has a big jump in one season they tend to regress the following season. See Tampa Bay for a recent example - +31 in 2008, -13 in 2009.

The Rockies, Giants, and Dodgers all improved by over 10 games last year. That is a big warning sign of a likely decline this year - maybe just a few games, but a decline none the less.

Also for fun check Colorado's recent record...
2006: 76 wins
2007: 90 wins
2008: 74 wins
2009: 92 wins
2010: 72 wins? (following above pattern)
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