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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