The NL West From ’08 to ’09

Instead of going team by team this off season, I will review the divisions as a group. And whereas last year, I used a version of BaseRuns, with some modifications for strength of schedule and the like thrown in, to determine the ranking of teams’ true talent levels, this year I will use WAR as provided here on FanGraphs.

Part Two: The NL West

The ranks last year were Las Angeles (9th), Arizona (14th), Colorado (21st), San Diego (25th) and San Francisco (27th). Like their Western counterparts in the American League, the NL West teams were largely poor and the Dodgers took the division with just 84 wins.

The Dodgers captured the division title once again in 2009, but it took a lot more work to do so, as they finished with 95 wins, three games ahead of Colorado. They stayed atop these rankings as well, with 43 WAR to land them in 5th place. Matching the close finish in the actual won-loss records, the Rockies, at 42 WAR, were just behind the Dodgers, 6th overall in baseball.

Now comes the first curve ball. While in actuality, the rest of the division went Giants (88 wins), Padres (75 wins) and Diamondbacks (70 wins), the WAR rankings have the Giants, then Arizona and finally San Diego. Now that’s not a huge surprise. The interesting part comes in how close San Francisco and Arizona are. The Giants, with 34 WAR, are 16th in baseball, while Arizona, at 33.5 WAR, are 18th. Separated by 18 wins, the Giants and Diamondbacks are just 0.5 WAR apart. The Padres accumulated 22 WAR, for 28th in baseball.

The Rockies’ high rating came as a result of their pitching staff, which graded out by WAR as the best in baseball, just barely ahead of the Red Sox. The Giants also had a strong pitching staff and were generally great at the whole run prevention deal with really good defenders as well. It’s a good thing they could field because the Giants could not hit a lick. Their -121.1 runs to average ranked as baseball’s worst group.

Here’s a summary of the ranks for the NL West teams, with 2008 first.
LAD: 9, 5
ARI: 14, 18
COL: 21, 6
SDP: 25, 28
SFG: 27, 16

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

15 Responses to “The NL West From ’08 to ’09”

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  1. Great post – I wish MLB would move the Jays into the AL West :)

    Seriously, the Dodgers are going to take a fall given their messed-up ownership situation, and the D Backs will do much better. Right now, I’d go with 1) D Backs. 2) Dodgers 3) Giants (no hitting!) 4) Padres

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    • Switzlebeegen says:

      The Rockies are moved to the AL East, for the sake of baseball.

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    • neuter_your_dogma says:

      Why not scrap revenue sharing and group the divisions by payroll? Top 5 payroll teams go to one division, 6-10 to the next, etc.

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      • Toffer Peak says:

        Why not?

        1. Travel. Teams already fly enough and this has a bad effect on teams, Getting rid of geographical divisions would only make it worse.

        2. Loss of geographic rivals. People inherently prefer rivals that are geographically close. LA-Boston will simply never be a strong of a rivalry as LA-Bay Area or LA-San Diego.

        3. Loss of Division Consistency. Divisions would need to be realigned every so often to correct for changes in revenue. This would lead to the loss of division rivalries.

        4. Boring. Fans don’t want a super-division and a terrible-division they simply want reasonable expectations that any team can have a good season at some point every few years. Having a losers division that gets walloped each post-season is going to little little better than the situation now.

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      • quincy0191 says:

        ^You forgot:

        5. It’s already bad enough that one division can have three 90-win teams and another division one 85 win team, and the 90-win team gets shut out of the playoffs while the 85 win team gets in because of the division they’re in (and thanks to the large amount of intra-division play, the 85 win team is more than just five wins worse than the 90 win team). This could increase the likelihood of situations in which multiple 90-win teams don’t make the playoffs and sub-.500 teams do, since there’s a pretty obvious correlation between payroll and success (though a payroll clearly does not automatically equal success). So it’s not only that the bad team gets walloped in the postseason, but great teams have less of a chance at making the playoffs than bad teams, which is kind of backwards.

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  2. discogerbil says:

    LAD hasn’t been improving this season, and I doubt that they’ll win 95 again. The just got rid of Pierre who was a major contributor when Manny was out, their pitching staff looks to get worse, and they almost lost the division at the end of the season to the Rockies.

    Now with that said, barring another terrible start by the Rockies, it’s not inconceivable that they could win 100 games this season. They got off to a miserable start last season going what? 18-28? But they managed to finish 92-70, almost caught the Dodgers, finished better than the Cardinals, and fought off the Giants and Braves to win the NL Wild card. The Rockies if anything have only gotten better this off season. They’ll have Jeff Francis back and healthy, Jhoulys Chacin will exhaust rookie eligibility, and guys like Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler will really start coming into their own.

    Meanwhile, the Giants refuse to spend any money on getting a bat, and lost two key bats in their line up to free agency. The Padres may be getting rid of Adrian Gonzalez, and the Diamondbacks haven’t done much to improve either. Just looking at it from this early in the off season it looks like it will be a show down between the Rockies and Dodgers with the Giants being a major thorn in both teams sides.

    I’m calling the Rockies to win the NL West for the first time this season with 97-65 record, Dodgers to come in second at 89-73, Giants to finish 84-78, Diamondbacks at 75-87 and the Padres with a dismal 67-95.

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    • Travis L says:

      97 win prediction for the Rockies? Aggressive. I’d put their line at 92-93 wins, still winning the division.

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      • discogerbil says:

        Well, consider that they should have a better start to the 2010 season, and that they seem to be looking for more right handed bats so that they wont get dominated by lefties again. Also you have to consider that Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler will most likely perform all season and add a little bit of hope that Ianetta will snap out of that funk he had in ’09 and yeah, I can easily see 5 more wins than last year.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      AZ will get a 6-7 WAR pitcher back in their rotation, and added Kennedy and Jackson is a 2SP for 1 SP trade. Both have to help.

      So, AZ started the year off losing their ACE (A top 5 CY guy for the prev 3 years) and dealt with a death (Schoenweiss’s wife), and then basically had “rookie tryouts” in the bullpen for the 7th and 8th innings.

      Byrnes is the only real offensive let down on the team. Upton is a major plus. Reynolds is what he is, and Drew is due for that “breakout year” any time.

      AZ *could* be 10 wins better than last year, by simply just “the trade and Webb’s return”.

      Big issue will be at 1B, whether it will be Whitesell or Allen, with neither likely making a huge impact.

      The NLW will be more competitive than it was lastyear, with the overall division strength remaining about the same. Some of LA’s slippage will be picked up by AZ and COL.

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    • DavidCEisen says:

      Yeah, for some reason, I don’t think the Juan Pierre “loss” is going to hurt the Dodgers that much… Randy Wolf leaving will hurt, but they still have some nice pitchers in the rotation and a young core that should improve.

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    • quincy0191 says:

      The Dodgers definitely won’t be winning 95 games next year with their payroll problems and lack of SP depth, not to mention the McCourt divorce preventing Colletti from spending any money (though that may actually be a good thing…). They almost definitely won’t win the West next year, simply because Billingsley and Kershaw can’t throw 500 innings each.

      The D’Backs will be a force to be reckoned with, however. They’ve got a bunch of good young bats (Upton, Drew, Reynolds) and probably one of the best starting staffs in baseball in Webb, Haren, and Jackson. The Jackson trade was silly in the long run, but there’s no question Jackson>Scherzer next year. As the post pointed out, Arizona wasn’t a bad team last year, they were just unlucky, and it stands to reason they’ll get better and will be a contender next year.

      The Giants haven’t really done anything (yet), but they were a surprise contender, and the addition of Sanchez over Burriss (one of the biggest offensive black holes) plus John Bowker, Andres Torres, and Nate Schierholtz providing lots of OF depth, and Posey over Molina, the offense should be better next year even without any FA additions. Molina and Randy Winn were both bad offensively last year, and they’re gone, which is good. The staff is due for some regression, but it’s still got Lincecum, who’s probably the best starter in the game, Cain, who has a lot of potential he’s started to realize, Sanchez, who’s got even more but isn’t as polished as Cain, and Zito, who managed to post a 4.03 ERA last year, good for a third starter. The fifth starter and bullpen are questions, but the ‘pen should actually be better with some farm callups in Dan Runzler and Waldis Joaquin.

      The Rockies will likely take the division, though I doubt they’ll be a 97 win team. They’ll be lucky to repeat their 2009; a lot of that success was pulled out of Tracy’s bum, though they are solid through the rotation and down the lineup. But the NL West is going to be competitive, likely with four teams who think they can make the playoffs (none of whom are crazy), and they’re going to have to fight through some of the best pitching in the majors in the Giants and D’Backs and great lineups from Arizona and LA. Still, the division crown is mostly within their grasp.

      The Padres are of course the Padres; a terrible team who knows it’s terrible. They’re not going anywhere, and Padres games will feel more like a AA squad in a twisted Disney movie where they don’t beat the big bad major leaguers. No rotation, no lineup (excepting, of course, Adrian Gonzalez, who really should be traded), no nothing. Best hope for them is as a late-season spoiler.

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  3. JJJ says:

    So the Dodgers lose Wolf and Hudson.

    Have the same exact offense coming back minus Hudson, who fell off the face of earth offensively.

    The same exact Pen is coming back.. So the Dodgers are the same team with a need for a 4 and 5 starter.

    Manny is a in contract year, and this is his last shot at a decent pay day. Lets assume he has something in the tank.

    Why do people predict a sharp decline?

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      I haven’t read anyone say ‘sharp’ decline, maybe inferring a ‘slight’ decline … but nothing drastic.

      I think COL will be good again, and AZ’s increase will likely coincide with a slight decrease in LA.

      I will also state that LA seemed to “catch lightning” a few times last year with all the walk-offs.

      This year will be a little tougher than last. Should be a pretty good race for the division.

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  4. Ivdown says:

    Las Angeles? Come ooooon, lol.

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