Saturday, April 7, 2007

NL West 2007 Predictions

TEAM (concrete) / WINS (fluid)

San Diego Padres - 85
Los Angeles Dodgers - 83
Colorado Rockies - 79
San Fransisco Giants - 77
Arizona Diamondbacks - 72

The NL West is known for pitching, at least in my mind it is, so the team with the best rotation and best bullpen is likeliest to win (note: this may be true in any division). In any event, the Padres have pitching. Their bullpen 1-2-3 punch of Trevor Hoffman (46 saves, 0.97 WHIP, 7.14 K/9), Scott Linebrink (1.22 WHIP, 8.09 K/9), and Cla (pronounced either "Clay" or "Klah"...just kidding, it's the former) Meredith (0.72 WHIP, 6.57 K/9) is the best in the majors, or at least the NL. I'm a little less enthused about their rotation, but it's still good, presuming Jake Peavy (1.23 WHIP, 9.56 K/9, 39.2 VORP) rebounds from his somewhat shaky year last season, and Chris Young (1.13 WHIP, 8.23 K/9, 45.8 VORP) keeps up his performance from last year. Clay Hensley (1.34, 5.87 K/9, 40.8 VORP) is a nice #3, and the addition of Greg Maddux (1.22 WHIP, 3.9 K/9, 8 RAA) is not earth shattering, but is not bad as a fourth starter, either. They'll need plenty of quality pitching performances, because outside of Mike Cameron (22 HR, .355 OBP, 39.8 VORP) and Adrian Gonzalez (24 HR, .362 OBP, 32.8 VORP), they're lacking in power. Josh Bard (9 HR, .406 OBP, 29.7 VORP) could possibly lead the team in home runs, however, given a full season of starts behind the plate. Second baseman Marcus Giles (11 HR, .341 OBP, .254 EqA) isn't that great of an offseason signing, Kevin Towers, but if losing second baseman Josh Barfield (.262 EqA) for third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff (.230 EqA in 16 games) pays off, then it will look fairly smart.

The Dodgers are the favorites to win the division, from what I've seen, but they'll need solid years from Derek Lowe (1.27 WHIP, 5.08 K/9, 49.3 VORP), new signing Jason Schmidt (1.26 WHIP, 7.59 K/9, 49.4 VORP), and Brad Penny (1.38 WHIP, 7.05 K/9, 32.8 VORP) to do that. The gamble on Randy Wolf (career 18 RAA, 6.5 K/9, 1.33 WHIP) will more than likely determine where they finish; a good season from Wolf will be highly valuable. Takashi Saito (24 saves, 0.91 WHIP, 12.29 K/9) filled in quite well for the injured francophone Eric Gagne, and Jonathan Broxton (1.23 WHIP, 11.44 K/9) is a solid set-up man. The line-up is a little shaky, with Nomar Garciaparra (20 HR, .367 OBP, 27.6), Jeff Kent (14 HR, .385 OBP, 32.8 VORP), and Luis Gonzalez (15 HR, .352 OBP, .265 EqA) possibly being able to stay healthy and have a last hurrah. Sophmore Andre Ethier (11 HR, .365 OBP, 19.1 VORP) could have a big 2007, but Juan Pierre (3 HR, .330 OBP, .249 EqA) doesn't do much. Yes, he had 58 stolen bases, but when he's only on base for 1/3 of his 700 AB, I don't think that much makes up for it.

My surprise (surprise, puppy surprise) team of the NL West is the Rockies, whom I predict will make great strides in 2007, nearly finishing with a .500 record. Garrett Atkins (29 HR, .409 OBP, 62.7 VORP), Matt Holliday (34 HR .387 OBP, 56.8 VORP), and Brad Hawpe (22 HR, .383 OBP, 56.8 VORP) can provide pop and get on base, and if Todd Helton (15 HR, .404 OBP, 31.1 VORP) can find his power again, the Rockies might have the best offense in the league. Their starting pitching doesn't have much of a great K/9 rate, with rookie Jason Hirsh (7.73 K/9, 1.05 WHIP in AAA Round Rock) having the best potential for strike-outs. However, Colorado has been about sinkerball pitchers who get a lot of ground outs to reduce the home runs in the thin Denver sky, so guys like Aaron Cook (1.40 WHIP, 40.6 VORP), Jeff Francis (1.29 WHIP, 35.5 VORP), and Josh Fogg (1.55 WHIP, 4.6 VORP) need good defense behind them to do well. As you may have noticed, I have not analyzed defense for any team, so let's pretend I don't care (which wouldn't be hard to do, as I don't care). Brian Fuentes (30 saves, 1.16 WHIP, 10.4 K/9) and LaTroy Hawkins (1.46) are part of an adequate bullpen.

San Fransisco made big waves by luring Barry Zito (1.40 WHIP, 5.9 K/9, 49.9 VORP) over from Oakland to join a staff that includes Matt Cain (1.28 WHIP, 8.45 K/9, 34.9 VORP), Matt Morris (1.35 WHIP, 5.07 K/9), and Russ Ortiz (2.00 WHIP, 6.29 K/9). Cain has the potential to be an ace, and maybe Ortiz puts up some of his decent numbers that he had with San Fransisco, such as that 122 ERA+ and 1.27 WHIP he had in 2001. Let's be honest, though, he won't. The bullpen, with guys like Armando Benitez (17 saves, 1.57 WHIP, 7.28 K/9), Steve Kline (1.53 WHIP) and Brian "Surfin' Safari" Wilson (1.77 WHIP), isn't, you know, all that good. The line-up looks like it could cause some damage, with such hitters as Barry Bonds (.336 EqA, 26 HR, .454 OBP), Ray Durham (26 HR, .360 OBP, 47.9 VORP) and Rich Aurilia (23 HR, .349 OBP, 27.4 VORP), but they're getting up there in age (42, 35 and 35, respectively). Dave Roberts (22.2 VORP) is a decent offseason acquisition, but he has no power (2 HR) and doesn't get on base as much as would be preferable (.360 OBP).

I look at Arizona and don't see a lot. Eric Byrnes (26 HR, .313 OBP, 25.1 VORP) is their biggest bat, although rookie Chris Young (21 HR, .361 OBP in AAA Tucson) could have a breakout year. After that, there's not a lot of power (Chad Tracy - 20 HR, Conor Jackson - 15 HR, Orlando Hudson - 15 HR). The pitching, much praised, fails to impress. Brandon Webb (1.13 WHIP, 6.82 K/9, 68.9 VORP) is very good, but after that, there's a questionable Randy Johnson (1.24 WHIP, -16 RAA), Livian Henandez (1.50 WHIP, 7.04 K/9, 16.1 VORP) and Doug Davis (1.51 WHIP, 7.04 K/9, 18.8 VORP). Granted, they could always turn it around and put up sweet stats, but for now, I'm going to guess they don't. The bullpen has a few options, with Jose Valverde (18 saves, 1.46 WHIP, 12.99 K/9) and Jorge Julio (16 saves, 1.31 WHIP, 11.08 K/9) both able to strike out batters and close down games, but some control would be nice. Arizona is always welcome to have a big year, as I'm sure their fans would like, but I'm not very high on them right now.

And there you have it, folks. All that's left is the wild card predictions. Take a look at my explanations of the stats used and abused, if you care to, and feel free to bust my chops if you disagree.


revenantive said...

i totally agree. the NL West will be fun to watch this year.

I see a three-way race between San Fran, San Diego & LA. but you never know.

San Fran's starting pitching, featuring the $100 million dollar man (zito), might be enough to capture the division assuming no injuries.

with all the differed money on the line, Zito had better come through. The other Barry (Bonds) gave up millions this year so the team could hand out the largest contract for a pitcher in baseball history.

Chris V said...

San Fran has every chance to win the division, but I think they need to get something in that bullpen. All a team needs is three really good starters, and they have two in Zito and Cain, so if Morris or someone comes through with a big year, they can contend all season and probably win the division. Again, though, that bullpen worries me. I'd say they should make a trade midseason, but the team is old enough that it shouldn't be trading away young talent. I know they want to make one last run with Barry Bonds, but bad trades (Pierzynski for Nathan, Liriano and Bonser) have hurt the team. Imagine where the Giants would be with Nathan and Liriano, and even Bonser? It changes the whole dynamic of the West. The Giants would easily be a division favorite.

revenantive said...

so true. lucky for the giants, they play in a division that is relatively evenly matched.

older teams always make things interesting in the second half...

will old age and treachery overcome youth and skill in the western division this year???

i love baseball.

Chris V said...

Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron's record, an all-star game, and a return to the playoffs all in one season? It may be too much for one city...unless that city contains the still beating heart of Tony Bennett.