Predictions are fun, so I am going to cover every MLB team, but first a caveat: I don’t follow the NL nearly as closely as the AL.
Today the NL West.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (91 wins)
I am very conflicted over this one. On one hand, I know how overrated Joe Torre is. But the Dodgers are a very talented team. Even if Torre does throw away at-bats on veterans like Juan Pierre (by most accounts, one of the worst players in baseball) and Nomar Garciaparra, the Dodgers will probably still be good. James Loney, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier should all improve. Russ Martin is getting a little too much hype (I don’t want to read any more about how he’s the best SS and 3B in the NL – then why are you playing him at catcher?) but he’s obviously a good player. And with pitchers like Penny, Billingsley, and Broxton, LA has a great young foundation, and Clayton Kershaw is waiting in the wings.
If this does happen and the Dodgers win the division, the media will say it’s because they signed Torre. But take a look at this article, that suggests that Torre has been killing the Yankees recently in close games (which as a Yankee fan, seems accurate to me). Most likely, the Dodgers this year are talented enough to win no matter who manages them. In the NL especially, I think they could win 95. So I’m predicting the 2008 Torre-led Dodgers to win 91.
2. Arizona Diamondbacks (89 wins)
Arizona was a lucky team last year, despite having the NL’s best record. Like the Mariners, their expected win-loss was actually under .500, as they were outscored by their opponents. But I’m still picking them to win 89 games because I think they’ll be an improved team. Like the Dodgers, they have a lot of talented young players who should be getting better: Conor Jackson, Mark Reynolds, Stephen Drew, Chris Young, Justin Upton, Brandon Webb, and Dan Haren to name a few.
Dan Haren in particular I think some people are overlooking. He was dominant in the AL last season, particularly in the first half. He’s a year and a half younger than both Erik Bedard and Johan Santana and has been a work horse the last 3 seasons. I’m not saying he will be better than those other 2 pitchers, but it does seem like he’s been ignored a bit.
No matter what happens this year, the D’backs and the Dodgers should be the primary contenders in this division for the next 5 years. And this is no slight to the Padres and Rockies, who both have solid foundations. It’s just that there is too much of a disparity in both finances and young talent.
3. San Diego Padres (86 wins)
I like the Pads. Their pitching staff will be good and when you look at their roster, they have a lot of players where you think to yourself “given the right circumstance, I could see them filling in nicely.” The problem is, they don’t really have any offensive players who are really good and they have a terrible farm system.
They had similar problems last year and were still able to put together a decent season and I think this year will be more of the same. They’ll miss the playoffs, but still go over .500 and stay close until September.
4. Colorado Rockies (83 wins)
So yeah, that whole expected win-loss thing I talk so much about? Well according to that, the Rox were the best team in the NL last year. So before you go saying I put too much faith in that stat, let me tell you, I don’t like Colorado this year. They’ve got some good position players (Holliday, Tulo, etc.) but their pitching is suspect and other players tend to look better because of their home/road splits.
I think they’ll still be a decent team, but I don’t see them recapturing last year’s second half fire, especially in such a tough division.
5. San Francisco Giants (59 wins)
I think you can sum up my thoughts on the Giants with this:
I wrote this entire thing and was ready to publish it and then said to myself, “wait there are more than 4 teams in the NL West, right?” I had to look up who the 5th team was.
So yeah, I think the Giants will be the worst team in baseball.