What’s Going on in the NL West? | The Golden Sombrero Baseball Blog | MLB, Fantasy, College & High School Baseball News

What’s Going on in the NL West?

If you check back to my preseason predictions, you will find that mine for the American League are spot on.  While the exact order of teams is not perfect, the top of each division is without blemish so far.  In the National League, however, I’m not right on a single division through the first half.  If someone would have told me that at the halfway mark the Phillies would be third in their division and fifth in the wildcard, I would have most likely laughed and degraded whoever said that.  Well, they are.

What’s more is that the Cardinals, another team I considered an absolute lock to win their division, find themselves behind the Reds…that’s right…by two games as a write this.  The biggest mystery has to be the West, though.  The rankings today for that division read the Padres at the top followed by the Dodgers, Rockies, Giants, and Diamondbacks in that order.  No one is within three games of the Padres as well.  My prediction for that division read Dodgers, Giants, Rockies, Diamondbacks, and Padres in that order.

How are the Padres, a team many viewed as perhaps the worst team in the game going into 2010, winning their division as the All-Star break approaches?  Let’s take a look at how the Padres have done everything right and what the rest of the division is doing to allow such a pathetic bunch of players to beat them.

First, the Padres only have one player in the All-Star Game, and he does not deserve to be there this year.  I am talking about Adrian.  Adrian is far and away the finest player the Padres have had for the last few years, and he continues to be so, but the suggestion that he is even the second best 1st baseman in the NL is laughable.  Joey Votto, who was left off the initial roster and must now rely on the fans to get him in through the final vote method, is perhaps the MVP of the NL through the 1st half. Adrian’s slashes read .291/.386/.517.  Joey’s by comparison are a Pujols-esque .318/418/.599.  While some adjustment is in order when comparing these two to account for the gross difference between Petco and The Great American Ballpark, Votto is still quite clearly more deserving than Adrian.  Nevertheless, Adrian is in, and it’s not as though his numbers are not All-Star worthy.  It’s just that this year is a little different.

Adrian is the only regular on the Padres to post an OBP over .340 or a slugging percentage over .420.  They have one guy with an OPS over .750.  To put it bluntly, these guys absolutely suck.  They still do.  That has not changed.  Nothing about their first half should have changed anyone’s mind about the quality of this offense.

What about the pitching staff?  Somehow, the Padres have four starters with ERA’s south of 3.30.  The only guy in their rotation with an ERA over that mark is Kevin Correia who posts a respectable 5.05 in 16 starts.  Let’s take a deeper look at what can only be deemed a miracle.  The ace of the staff is Mat Latos who is exempt from my bashing because he is honestly good.  The guy currently posts a K/BB of 91/26 and a sub-1.00 WHIP through nearly 100 IP.  He’s a gem, and it’s a wonder that an organization that has failed so many young players was able to get him without trading or damaging him.  Anybody else worthy of his ERA?  Nope.

The closest is Clayton Richard with a K/BB of 81/38, which is a respectable ratio for a back of the rotation guy, but his ERA is a frontline caliber 2.74.  The most curious performance through the first half in the Padres rotation?  Easily Wade LeBlanc.  A WHIP of 1.40, a K/9 of 6, and a K/BB of 58/33 buoy his current ERA of 3.10.

Basically what I’m trying to say is that the Padres must continue to defy the metrics to even come close to the top of their division.  By all accounts, they should be getting pummeled as usual.  But what is going on with the other teams in this armpit of a division to allow such a bad team to come across so good?  The Diamondbacks are playing predictably poorly, so we won’t address them.  Tulo is on the DL for a long time, and despite Ubaldo’s effectiveness in the first half and the emergence of CarGon, without Tulo, the Rox don’t have enough either.  Let’s investigate the Dodgers because the Giants simply don’t have the offense despite having the West’s best rotation.

The Dodgers were my pick to win the West in my preseason predictions because their offense is remarkable and their pitching staff should be good.  So why aren’t they winning?  Matt Kemp, Russell Martin, and Casey Blake are all hitting .265 or below, ManRam has 183 AB’s, Kershaw has walked 50 guys in about 100 IP, and Billingsley has a BABIP of .024 points higher than his career average.  I expect all of these situations to correct themselves quite easily except the Manny issue and Kershaw’s wildness.  Manny is old.  Kershaw is wild.  That’s just who they are.  Kershaw strikes enough guys out to still be successful with the high walk total, but his starts are a drain on the bullpen.  Speaking of the bullpen, the trio of Broxton, Sherrill, and Kuo should be the best 7th, 8th, and 9th inning guys in the West by a ton, but Sherrill has posted an ERA of approximately 7 in under 20 IP due to injury.  With a lifetime ERA of 3.60, that will correct itself too.

I still think the Dodgers will win this division.  The Padres are safe from finishing in last simply because the Diamondbacks are presently 17 games back.  The Dodgers currently have 4 games to make up.  San Diego is a fun group and a true underdog because of how bad they are, and the Dodgers are a challenging team for me to root for because they have such well-publicized problems in their front office both ethically and financially, but I love Ethier and Billingsley.  I expect the final standings in the West to look remarkably similar to what I predicted during Spring Training with the Dodgers putting together a run in the second half that takes them to the top where they will be quickly eliminated from the playoffs so long as the Reds don’t win the Central.  They won’t.

3 Comments

  1. The Towel says:

    Armpit of a division? I don’t think so, Steve. At the time of this writing, the NL West as a whole was 17 games over .500. That’s the best mark in baseball outside of the ridiculous AL East. It’s the only division in baseball with four teams over .500. And if you’re looking historically, consider the fact that the NL West has captured three out of the last four wildcards.

    How about the NL Central as baseball’s armpit of a division? After all, the NL Central is home to four of the five poorest teams in the NL. Four NL teams have a better record than the division-leading Reds, and the Cards just got done looking awful in three consecutive games at Coors Field. Collectively, they’re a putrid 49 games below .500. That division makes the West look like the AL East.

  2. The Towel says:

    However, I must also say that I agree with your assessment of the Padres–they’re not that good, and I predict that sometime this season (maybe it’s happening now) they’ll have a stretch where they lose 12 out of 15 games or so and that will be the end of it for them. I just don’t think it’s fair to say that the entire division sucks just because the team in front happens to be getting lucky and is in reality not that good.

    Put a towel on.

  3. Barfy says:

    while it’s never been easy to argue with winning percentage, i think i should point out the limited level of talent within the West. the Central has albert, holliday, votto, phillips, wainwright, carp, oswalt, berkman, lee, rammer, fonz, soto, wandy, mccutchen, braun, prince, yo, and rolen. they developed rasmus and bruce recently. No scout thinks cargon’s ceiling is anywhere near bruce’s. the West has a few guys. they have timmy and cain. bumgarner and posey look like higher ceiling guys. at least posey. the dbacks have upton and haren. the rox have ubaldo, tulo, and cargon. the padres have adrian. the dodgers have ethier, kemp, broxton, and manny. look at those guys by comparison, though. it’s not a comparison. let’s just see if these team’s regress to where they belong. as evidenced by the first half, any team can get lucky for a half a season. perhaps even any division can, but luck can be good or bad, and it always runs out. i don’t see the west duplicating its first half because i simply accept that the talent level is inferior. it usually is. they don’t draft well and only one team (the giants) seems all that adept at developing its talent. maybe they will surprise me, but i doubt it.

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