Newsflash: The Giants are struggling. They saw a double digit number of runs cross the plate against them (again) last night for the seventh time this season. They allowed double digits six times in all of last season and five times each in 2010 and 2011, and we still have ninety-eight games to go in 2013. The injuries are notable in Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro, Pablo Sandoval (1-2-3 in the order), Ryan Vogelsong, Santiago Casilla, and the starting pitchers have struggled to remain consistent while the bullpen has been overused and has seen ten different men toe the slab for them this year (eleven if you count Kickham, but he was supposed to be a starter). The Giants are 33-31, 4-6 in their last ten, 9-11 in their last twenty, and 13-17 in their last thirty. This has given them time to sink to .500, and allow a team that’s performing better than them to catch up. That team would be Bud Black‘s Padres (sorry, Dodgers, not you this time). In their L10, L20, and L30 they are 6-4, 11-9, and 16-14, respectively. It’s nothing over-the-top fantastic, but it’s enough to get you to .500 and get you out of the cellar if the pattern holds, and right now only two games separate the Friars and the Champs. The table below is from baseball reference and while there are some fancy abbreviations and acronyms, don’t be scared, but don’t get depressed if you’re a Giants fan.
At least the Giants are 14.5 games ahead of Miami! So the Giants are just below average in runs per game, and run differential, but that 12-20 record away from home, and actually have a better record against teams at or above .500 (20-18) than below .500 (13-13) which is a little puzzling for a team that is supposed to have that championship swagger.
Here’s who the teams have coming up for the rest of the month:
Giants — @ Pirates (1), @ Braves, vs. Padres, vs. Marlins, @ Rockies
Padres — vs. D-Backs, @ Giants, vs. Dodgers, vs. Phillies, @ Marlins
I’m going to say the Giants have a little bit tougher of a schedule, so with the Padres only two games back of the Giants entering play on Thursday, it wouldn’t shock me if the Giants continue their business of salvaging one game out of three in every series that isn’t against the NL West. Then again, Hunter Pence could give a speech and inspire the Giants to a ten-game winning streak and then they’re tied for first or something while the second place Rockies (one game ahead of the Giants) work their way to fourth place. Who knows, but the way injuries have been going SF’s way, no sign of a rotation producing the production we’re used to, it’s no wonder the Giants are rumored to be in the market for a starting pitcher to help stop the bleeding. This wasn’t a post about selling off the team, rather just a warning about where they happen to be going. When the healthy come back, the Giants will be stronger, and it is yet to be seen if they will be given the room from the other NL West teams to climb back to the top.
So it’s not a bold prediction, but there’s no denying that the Colorado Rockies have raced to a fast start, garnering the 2nd-most wins in the Majors (14) before their game tonight. They beat up on a slow-starting Milwaukee Brewers team, swept the lowly Padres, got swept by the Champs, swept the Padres AGAIN, swept the three games they had of the four scheduled with the Mets at home in the snow, and then took two out of three from the DBacks before seeing two out of three get taken from them by Atlanta, the hottest team in the Majors. Got all that? The standings right before their game tonight look like this in the NL West:
While their Strength of Schedule is 5th in the Majors, remember the Brewers were not the hot team they became, and nearly half of their wins have come from the Padres, and they got swept by the Giants. Credit should be given to the Rockies whom are winning the games they should be winning, and not only their hitting, but their pitching has helped more than I thought their pitching could, even after twelve games at home! Starters Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa have led the staff while the bullpen has accumulated tied for the highest fWAR of all thirty relief corps with Detroit led by setup man Matt Belisle, Rex Brothers, and the walk-happy Rafael Betancourt. The rest of the Rockies are pitching like you’d imagine the Rockies pitching.
On the hitting side, Dexter Fowler has seven bombs, Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez are doing their part, and Michael Cuddyer plus Wilin Rosario are having nice starts to the year with the first four position players listed all having a wOBA above .400 and a wRC+ above 150. You get four players to do that, chances are good things will happen. We knew this team could hit, the question was could they pitch, and could they stay healthy.
The Rockies now have to put up as they begin to square off away from home in Arizona, Los Angeles against the Dodgers, come home for interleague action against the Rays, Yankees, and then go to St. Louis. With Chacin on the DL, I see their lack of pitching depth coming back to get them as they begin to face off against good pitching. The Rays and Dodgers are both a game under .500, and that’s as low as the records go for the upcoming Rockies opponents. While I’m sure the hitters that have started well will still contribute, I don’t think it’ll be enough to cover up for four starters that are more used to seeing runs get up against them than seeing a quality start registered to their names.
So I’m a non-believer, I’m sure Rockies fans happy with their team’s success are used to seeing those, and some of them are still mad over Keith Law’s prediction for them, but there’s always a few teams that start off hot then tail off, and I think that hot start is starting to come to an end for the Rockies, and will bow out from the top of the West by May 13th at the very latest.
The regular season begins this Sunday at 5:05PM PST when the Texas Rangers play the Houston Astros in that famous AL West rivalry, which means this week is all about previews, bold predictions, and message board put downs. I will say I am not good at predicting things, so let’s get that straight. Like everybody else though, I have an opinion on the matter of how events will play out. As I preview these divisions, I’ll tell you a little of what sport betting sites see, what computer simulations see, and what I see. The teams will be previewed in the reverse order I expect them to finish. Let us preview the NL West, where my predictions mean I have no respect for managers that have transformed Eric Gagne‘s career (“Trace, you’re crazy!”), the intangibles, and recent success.
5. Colorado Rockies
Bovada’s odds to win the division, pennant, and World Series: 25/1, 60/1, 150/1
Stuart sees: a team that if healthy, could hit their way to third place in the division. Really! It’s just that I don’t know how healthy they can be, and their starting pitching is mostly what I would call “not good.” Jeff Francis and Jon Garland bring up the back of the rotation, and I’m not sure how long that’s going to work, especially Francis. Maybe he’ll wind up with the Marlins some time this season. The bullpen is whatevers with Rafael Betancourt handling the save opportunities, and the bench not being horrible for a bench. That lineup led by Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gonzalez, and Troy Tulowitzki should be respected, and yea, Michael Cuddyer and Todd Helton are older, but if they’re in the lineup, you respect that, too. With this team, I’m just waiting for the wheels to come off in terms of health and then watch the pitching suffer. I’m glad they tried that four-man rotation last year to try and innovate, and hope they try something else this year. Maybe less sacrifice bunting by position players?
4. San Diego Padres
Bovada’s odds to win the division, pennant, and World Series: 14/1, 40/1, 75/1
Stuart sees: a farm system that’s good, but just saw Casey Kelly and Rymer Liriano go down for a significant amount of time, so the Padres won’t have a starter and a worthy OF reinforcement to help them out in the middle of the season. They’ll probably get some assistance elsewhere from within, but knowing your back-up plan isn’t as readily available as you hoped it’d be isn’t quite the start to the season you were hoping for. Back to the major league club, I’m curious how Jedd Gyorko will do as he springs onto the scene at 2B, and I’m sure he won’t mind that Petco brought its fences in. 2012 second-half erupter Chase Headley will miss a month with a thumb injury, and Yasmani Grandal decided to be stupid so he’s missing fifty games, so if the Padres start slow, don’t be all too surprised. The bullpen should be good (again), with the rotation holding their own, promising to be that annoying team that doesn’t just let you trample them in September when you need those wins. I say the ceiling for this team is third, the floor being last. Yea, yea, I can hear you, I know that’s not a super-bold prediction.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
Bovada’s odds to win the division, pennant, and World Series: 13/2, 25/1, 60/1
Stuart sees: a front office that went out of its way to make its squad worse because Justin Upton wasn’t good enough for them, and their bullpen didn’t have enough 9th-inning experience so they decided they would be happy to pay for Heath Bell, and why not ship off Chris Young, and get Cliff Pennington, too… as your starting shortstop. Sure, Didi Gregorious will be diddling about in the minors, but if the moves the DBacks made this off-season didn’t make your eyes roll, what will? Trevor Bauer was given up on, and I’m just hoping they trade top prospect Tyler Skaggs to the Giants for someone “gritty” because intangibles, that’s why. Each part of this Diamondbacks roster should be able to pull its own weight at the major league level, which makes them sound remarkably average, and that’s where I think they are, but maybe a few games above that. This team can win the division, and they might have a couple guys that can provide some help in the home stretch if they so desire to bring them up in Matt Davidson, Didi, and Skaggs.
2. San Francisco Giants
Bovada’s odds to win the division, pennant, and World Series: 8/5, 13/2, 12/1
Stuart sees: loyal Giants fans getting ticked at me putting them here just because I predicted they would win just about every three-game or playoff series against their opponent last season which means I should place them first here, too. Some Giants fans after 2010, and now after both 2010 and 2012 get extremely butthurt when you don’t put the team they support in first, as if that’s disrespecting their team. It’s not at all disrespecting their team as it is respecting what the team ahead of them has put together by throwing around money to bring in talent. Changes to this team include: the bench of Nick Noonan, Andres Torres, and Cole Gillespie, and long-reliever Chad Gaudin in the bullpen. Outside of that, not too much different. The Giants must have someone in the crowd of Hunter Pence, Tim Lincecum, and Barry Zito to step up their game to both compensate the regressions that will happen with Gregor Blanco, and help them make up for the difference in talent on paper between them and the Dodgers. This team can definitely win the division, but I don’t see them finishing any worse than third. I am hoping they do not part with any of their top pitching prospects again to bring in someone this year, but I am worried it will happen.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
From a Spring Training game vs. the Giants, but take note:
— Stuart Jones (@HeHitsItDeeeeep) February 26, 2013
Bovada’s odds to win the division, pennant, and World Series: 5/6, 4/1, 9/1
Stuart sees: a new land of evil, sure it’s a new kind of blue, or whatever the slogan is, and it’s funny how we associate large amounts of spending with being bad, but the contracts the Dodgers handed out to the likes of Zack Greinke and Matt Kemp weren’t all that obnoxious at all. Swallowing up Carl Crawford‘s, taking a risk on Hyun-Jin Ryu, though, are just going to anoint you king of the moneys by people observing the game. A rotation led by Kershaw and Greinke (though the latter might be a little slow out of the gates) followed by some decent guys in Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett, and the question mark Ryu, we’re just wondering who can stay healthy, and who Ryu really is: is he a starter? Or an expensive reliever? The spring of Yasiel Puig came to a halt when the Dodgers wisely optioned him to the minors to get an extended look at him there to see if he can develop some plate discipline, but I’ve heard a lot of positive reports on him even without said discpline. Their bullpen is good, so anything that lineup that includes Kemp, Gonzalez, and the platoonable Andre Ethier can put together in the form of a lead, I expect them to hold it down. Injuries are really the only thing that I can see bringing these guys down (hello, Hanley Ramirez‘s thumb), or Don Mattingly bunting them all over the place. The floor is third, but it is an unlikely floor at that.
I’ve only seen one person say this, but to me it’s pretty clear as well: on paper, the Dodgers are very much the team to beat in the NL West, and maybe even the National League itself. While you may be inclined to question Carl Crawford‘s return, Andre Ethier‘s production against LHP, Matt Kemp‘s hamstrings, Hanley Ramirez‘s dedication, Luis Cruz‘s stability at the MLB level, Chad Billingsley‘s elbow, what new acquisition Ryu Hyun-Jin actually is (a starter or a reliever), Kenley Jansen‘s heart condition, and Nick Punto, no team in the majors is perfect or free from their own questions. They have a rotation that has a one-two punch that can go up against any rotation in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Their bullpen may not be fantastic, but it’s good enough. Their manager may continue to bat A.J. Ellis eighth because I guess he’s a catcher, but this team is built to win better than even the beloved San Francisco Giants. Arizona Diamondbacks, I’ll start talking about you when you get your act together. Padres, I see you coming up and moving your fences in. Rockies, you may just want to lay there for a while.
Oh, did I tell you the funny story of remembering how before Ryu Hyun-Jin signed with the Dodgers that there were whispers from the team residing in Chavez Ravine saying they might still target another free agent even if they had said Korean pitcher signed to a contract? They’re not done yet! Ha! They are playing with video game money that you only get by typing in cheat codes, it’s crazy. For the people that have a big problem with the Dodgers spending all this money in a way that’s done fair and square, I don’t know what to tell you besides you’re going to have a big ol’ bag of get over it. The Dodgers already have a record-breaking payroll and by the time they hit Spring Training, they’re going to have broken that record a bunch more times.
If you are in the mood to torture yourself and count your blessings at the same time, remember how this could have been an off-season where Jared Weaver, Cole Hamels, and Matt Cain had all become free agents. This is not to say they would’ve all become Dodgers though, because there is some consideration to be had to them signing a long-term deal with their current clubs while the pre-off-season was going on. Would have made the off-season more crazy, but aren’t you happy the Dodgers didn’t have the chance to drive up the price for these guys elsewhere (especially for Jared Weaver and his hometown discount of a contract).
So if you’re an NL West fan, fret if you must because your team has a bottom to its pockets, but by no means does a roster on paper before the season even start determine what will actually happen come October. The regular season is a marathon full of a whole bunch of crazyness, and the Postseason is a crapshoot. Did that make you feel better? Yea, I didn’t think so.
You’re starting to check the standings because it’s not April anymore. For some reason, whatever site you’re looking at has the default division not on the NL West (how dare they), and then you see the NL West. To your shock, whether you’ve been keeping up with baseball or not, you see the Dodgers in first, and the Giants in second. If you’ve been watching games thru the season thus far, the Dodgers have looked great as a team. Heroes different nights, three guys in Matt Kemp (currently shelved by the hamstring), Andre Ethier, and usual back-up catcher A.J. Ellis are leading the way in a very strong manner, and if I’m not mistaken, ESPN’s Cy Young Predictor had four Dodger pitchers listed — 3 starters and 1 reliever on their list to give you an idea of how well they are executing. If you look on Fangraphs and look at the defensive stats — the majority of which I don’t understand, the Dodgers are leading in the majority of them. If you watched the game tonight, you saw the Dodgers come from behind in pretty non-9th-inning dramatic fashion. Everything’s clicking right now, and it’s OK to be in awe of it. They’ve won four in a row, sweeping the defending World Champs and scoring at least 6 runs in each of those games. They are 28-13, with a 19-4 record at home. They are 7 games up on our beloved Giants. You’re starting to think they really are for real, that they can’t be stopped, that you’re picturing them in the playoffs and doing unspeakable things there, and we will be forced to watch them play out the postseason like they had to in 2010…
If I may: It’s May. They have 121 games left to play.
Might they make the playoffs in a relatively weak NL West? Sure. Totally possible. Might they tailspin and fall to 3rd or 4th? Difficult to see, but also possible. Baseball gives us so much unpredictable stuff, it can be difficult to process, and predict at times. I shouldn’t need to bring them up, but you remember what happened to the Red Sox and Braves last year, don’t you? Baseball can be very good to you, and it can act like it’s around to break your heart.
There will be plenty of time to concern ourselves with the SoCal Stinkers, but remember there are 5 playoff spots this year, and not anywhere does it say the winner of a division in the regular season is guaranteed a ticker tape parade in November.
So 3 games down, and 15 to go against the Dodgers. The feeling going into this series had pretty good levels of anticipation, the Dodgers with an inflated record from playing less than mediocre clubs, the Giants depleted from injuries making them worse than the Miami Marlins.
Tim Lincecum looked good for three innings. I’m talkin’ not-2012 good — I’ve got your attention now, haven’t I? He actually had 8 K’s amongst his 5 innings of Wednesday night. 3 of them belonged to the one that gets those MVP chants. It kills me though that the 0-2 pitch to Tony Gwynn Jr. with the bases loaded was a hanger of a splitter up and in, a prime pitch to pull. I think a part of me died inside. I don’t like seeing Dodger fans happy, because they’re the bad guys.
What didn’t kill me as much at the time but in hindsight Nate Schierholtz just made an absolute not even Little League but slow-pitch softball stupid play making a wide turn with the ball in CF that would’ve scored Belt to make it 3-0. Who knows what the game would’ve been after that (we could’ve lost 10-3, but hey, we love to speculate don’t we). No doubt Nate’s going to be grilled about it, but this game’s really on him, as much as I want to put it on Timmy for that 0-2 WTF.
If your staring at the standings and panicking, may I remind you it’s May 9th. I’m going to also remind you that some players don’t play for a month how they play for a whole season. Do not be surprised to see the Dodgers continue to do well in the first half (seriously, look at their schedule), but the second half of the season may tell a different story for the NL West. Lots of time.
Like I said earlier in my tweet parade, this day off tomorrow should do real well for Buster Posey. Some of his ABs just look like he’s exhausted.
In Arizona, here are your matchups (K/9, BB/9, ERA, FIP, xFIP):
Friday — Madison Bumgarner (5.08, 2.08, 2.31, 3.58, 3.99) vs. Patrick Corbin (8.00, 5.00, 7.00, 4.61, 3.93) in 1 start
Saturday — Matt Cain (7.94, 1.39, 2.38, 3.08, 3.42) vs. Trevor Cahill (5.35, 3.49, 3.26, 3.33, 3.70)
Sunday — Barry Zito (4.42, 4.17, 2.21, 4.42, 5.18) vs. Joe Saunders (5.90, 2.27, 2.50, 3.77, 3.95)
Miami had its 15 minutes of fame. Jose Reyes? Oooooooh. Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle? Ahhhhh. New stadium? Ooooh. Federal investigation? Ahhhhh. And then the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim — or as I like to call them: “The Anaheim Angels,” come in and take CJ Wilson and Albert Pujols almost at the same time. Holy moly, we all thought. But are they better than the Rangers yet? I don’t think so, but I know the bandwagon in the Orange County side of town has a lot more members now for a reason. This division is going to get interesting. Meanwhile, Gio Gonzalez could be traded to just about any team needing prospects as the A’s gear up for the 2014 season and no, that’s not a joke. They’ll fit right in with the Houston Astros. The Seattle Mariners are up to a load of nothing but the reigning back-to-back AL Champions have been busy adding more pieces to their bullpen because they’re freakin’ loaded with cash. Oh and that stud in Japan everyone’s talking about? They just won the bid to have exclusive contract negotiations with him at a cool $51.7MM. Even though only 2 teams have done some big-league-ready additions, the focus of baseball fans are shifting west a bit to watch some big names play. We don’t even know where Prince Fielder will go. Just imagine if he lands in that West division somewhere.
Think of the matchups you’ll see: Darvish vs. Ichiro, Feliz vs. Pujols, Hernandez vs. Fielder (maybe). That just sounds cool.
And then here we have the NL West. You liked it in 2010 when two offensively challenged teams fought for the title in Game 162. In 2011 Arizona used its offense and up-and-comers to take over the division from the crowned champions. So naturally every team goes into the offseason thinking, “We have to get better. How do we do that without signing a big name?” Every team has done their due diligence. One has done a great job doing it in one trade, and that was the Padres in trading Mat Latos to the Reds. The Giants have improved their offense in my opinion with Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan but the health and the back end of the rotation along with Brian Wilson’s elbow remain question marks for me. The Rockies were convinced Michael Cuddyer should be overpaid, especially after Josh Willingham was given a fair 3/$21MM deal. The DBacks did do a good job of getting Takashi Saito to a 1/$1.25MM but then trade for Cahill and then sign Jason Kubel? Confusing considering they’re considering platooning a Gold Glove defender (I understand that these awards may not be the best, but still a testament to Gerardo Parra being a better defender). And then there’s the Dodgers, who are adding every AAAA middle infielder known to man and signed Capuano and Aaron Harang and those AAAA all to 2 year deals just about.
Now imagine these matchups you could see in the NL West in 2012: Aaron Harang vs. Melky Cabrera, Edinson Volquez vs. Jason Kubel, Huston Street (as a Padre) vs. Michael Cuddyer. Doesn’t exactly have the same ring the AL West does, now does it?
So excuse MLB Network and ESPN when you see an overhaul of AL West games, especially involving the Angels and Rangers or both over games involving the teams in the NL West. Things are about to get exciting in the AL West, while in the NL West we’re left scratching our heads wondering what’s to come.
The sun is shining on the West, for sure. Just not in the parks that have the pitcher batting 9th.