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How the West Will Be Won

How the West Will Be Won

Jason Stark of ESPN.com assesses the N.L. West and passes out grades for the NL West Clubs’ off-season acquisitions.  He starts out by saying:

The Giants and Rockies spent millions — on their own players. The Padres waved goodbye to the face of their franchise. The Diamondbacks blew up their bullpen. And no team filled its shopping cart with more free agents than the Dodgers.

Well, that is apparent to even Ray Charles – the Dodgers signed about 1,200 Free Agents in the off-season, but how does that stack up against the other teams in the NL West?  I’ll get to the Dodgers last but here’s what he says about the Giants:

But this is still a team that’s dumping its fate mostly on the rotator cuffs of that great rotation. And if those guys feel any aftereffects of all those high-leverage innings last September and October, it could be big trouble.

The Padres obviously have regressed and the D-Back should be somewhat better, but the NL West figures to be a three-team race between the Giants, Dodgers and Rockies.  On the Rockies, Stark said:

But this is a team that’s essentially counting on the same cast of characters that landed nine games out of first place last year. And it’s tough to jot an “A” on the report card of a club that fits that description.

He gave the following grades to each NL West team (for their off-season activity):

  • Diamondbacks – C-
  • Padres – C
  • Giants – C-
  • Rockies – B
  • Dodgers – B+

Draw your own conclusions, but I agree with Jason that the Dodgers did the most this off-season to strengthen the team.  Stark concludes his analysis of the Dodgers by saying:

What remains to be seen: How the left-field jumble of Thames, Gabe Kapler and Tony Gwynn Jr. works out — and, even more importantly, how Mattingly’s managerial debut works out. This is a tough clubhouse. And this division leads the league in pitchers’ duels, where running the game matters. So as astute and well-liked as Mattingly may be, he’s in for the biggest challenge of his lifetime.

I think that San Diego and Arizona will battle for the cellar in the NL West, but I think each will win more than 72 games.  I think that the Giants, Dodgers and Rockies will all win more than 84 games, with 90-92 winning the division.  The Dodgers are obviously the most improved in this off-season, and if you factor in that nearly the entire team underperformed in 2010, a lot of players will be looking for redemption, to say nothing of contracts. Loney, Ethier, Kemp and Navarro are all players seeking redemption and new contracts.  That’s a powerful incentive.

Ned Colletti didn’t do anything to block Trayvon Robinson, Jerry Sands, Dee Gordon, Rubby De La Rosa or other youngsters.  That was prudent.  Come June, he can assess the situation and determine if the Dodgers should be buyers or sellers.

About Mark Timmons

When you see the invisible, you can do the impossible!

24 Responses to “How the West Will Be Won”

  1. Dusto says:

    We could be 20 games out and he’d try and convince us that “we are buyers”. I wouldn’t be surprised if he moved Elbert, Sands, and DeJesus for Garrett Jones.

  2. RogerCraig says:

    I think you are a bit cynical and jaded, Old Dusty!

    Just a bit!

  3. Bobby says:

    i dont know. i think it’s more likely that kemp ethier and loney, who were pure trash from july thru sept, will have better years than cody ross, pat burrell, etc, journeymen who played the best they ever have EVER, from aug-oct.

    granted lincecum/cain is a great 1 and 2, and bumgarner looks like he’ll be right up there with those 2, but their offense is not good whatsoever. they got ridiculous play from a bunch of guys who have always been career #6 and 7 hitters all together in a 2 month period. i’d bet that doesn’t happen again. logic would also bet that it doesn’t happen again.

    i have no problem whatsoever guaranteeing we’ll win the nl west.

    i won’t pick us over philly, but i do pick us over col, sf, sd and az.

    we’ll need a major move, or big improvement from 3-4 guys, or big time rookie of the year seasons from IDJ, t-rob, etc, to really take a philly type step.

  4. Captain Loose says:

    Not sure I follow the grading system above – or at least the meaning of it. Doesn’t look to me like he put a lot of thought into it. If the World Champions last year get a C for “off season moves”, doesn’t that mean they will be as good as they were last year? How much do they need to improve to be considered the West favorites? Answer? Not at all. And why do we get a B+? For Garland and Uribe? What about lf? 3b? C? Hell, Jamie Carroll was our best player last year at 2b. Uribe will hit more home runs, and have more rbi’s, but, will he be more valuable than Carroll was? Maybe. Garland is a good pick-up, but, that good? The Rockies won more games than the Dodgers did, and they get a B for improvement so, wouldn’t that mean they will win more than they did last year? The Dbacks improved their pen, which was an absolute disaster last year, worst in all of baseball. That pen cost them many games. They should improve with just that move.

    Frankly, Stark’s grading system is meaningless.

    I think the Gints know how to play as a team and win games. I think San Diego will be better than most people give them credit. They have athletes and good pitching down there. The Rockies are just good. I see another year like last year, 4 teams slugging it out. Only Arizona will not figure in the race come September.

    Guaranteeing the West huh Bobby? OK.

  5. Captain Loose says:

    I got a question for you statheads….. it’s a legitimate inquiry.

    Everywhere I go these days I hear the WAR stat being used as the tell all stat about a player. It’s how many wins above what is called a replacement player. What is considered a replacement player? I always thought it was an average MLB player at that position. And, wouldn’t a team of average MLB players win half their games? It would be the below average players that lose more than they win…. right?

    Using that as a criteria for trying to figure out how good the present lineup of the Dodger is, I just figured this:

    Using the WAR stats given, IF all the Dodgers that had bad years return to 2009 numbers, the Dodgers as they are currently constructed, with Furcal in every game, Gibbons/Thames in left, Carroll (better WAR than Uribe)and Gwynn as the back ups, and Barajas behind the plate, will win 102 games this year. If everybody gets better, they will win more than 102 games.

    So, about this WAR stat…… can somebody tell me what it REALLY means?

  6. Brooklyn Dodger says:

    Actually, the Giants offense appears as if it should improve, maybe a lot. Posey will be there all year, and its being reported that Sandoval has lost 30 pounds, and is ripped. If so, it’s more than conceivable that his bat will return, and that his overall play should be a lot better. And although he’s unproven, it’s looking like Brandon Belt, coming off a .352 year with 23 HRs at three levels in 2010, and a very strong AFL season, is in line to take over in LF. It’s not written in stone, but the Giants may have a much improved offense. In other words, don’t assume that the Giants offense will be their Achilles Heel.

  7. MillaBlue says:

    I think Kemp needs to get his head out of the clouds and his butt and we need to cut bait on Loney. I think we saw his ceiling 2 years ago and it’s not good enough at the major league level. Please prove me wrong James.

  8. Roger Dodger says:

    The pitching match up between the Giants and Dodgers, and the Rockies and Dodgers, and the Padres and Dodgers == could well all be classic duels for 6 and 7 innings — and be tied at that point.

    But it will be the bullpens that make the difference. In 2011, the team that can go out in the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings (and more in tied games) and just plain stop the other teams from scorning — wins in 2011.

    I think this is what Ned has seen as maybe the most important part of this Dodger team makeup. His decision now is — is Broxton to be a part of it, or be traded for another piece to be used elsewhere.

  9. Mark_Timmons says:

    Badger,

    WAR is a single number that presents the number of wins a player added to the team over what a replacement player would add – think AAA or AAAA (like a AAA player on his way to the Majors).

  10. ken says:

    RD – Great Point

    I say NO to Young.

    Truck Day is always a great day.

    Most improvement – That is like saying a POW who gained 25 pounds and is still underweight made the best weight gain. Starting from nothing and getting back to where you should be is a requirement that deserves little credit.

    Mark is finally quantifying his predictions. Respect is commanded! No blocking in baseball is a good long term strategy.

  11. Captain Loose says:

    Yeah, I finally figured out that there is no baseline for WAR.

    http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/blog/big_league_stew/post/Everything-you-always-wanted-to-know-about-WAR?urn=mlb-211211

    You are right Mark, a replacement player is nobody really.

    I think most of you guys have it right. The West is up for grabs, with the gints being the favorite. Doesn’t mean they will win it, just means if their wheels don’t come off like the Dodgers’ did, they SHOULD win it.

    I am not willing to “guarantee” anything. Too many ifs. Having said that, I think we can anticipate more divorce crap. In fact, maybe that is the one thing that CAN be guaranteed. Those two are the The War of the Roses II.

  12. Mark_Timmons says:

    I talked to someone (Giants fan) who saw Kung Fu Panda recently and he says he still looks like he weighs 275 pounds. In fact, he said he weighed over 300 lbs at the end of last season.

  13. Captain Loose says:

    Everything I just read says he has lost over 20 pounds and has been working with Barry Bonds all winter. Maybe he fails the drug test.

    Different grades here:

    http://detnews.com/article/20110210/SPORTS0104/102100493/1129/rss15

    • coloblue says:

      Detroit grades do not make sense..Colorado B+ for what?? AZ B? LAD-B-???
      I don’t think the guy knows MLB teams outside of Det…eastern guy with sense of west coast..

  14. SpokaneBob says:

    I think Ned has a plan. I think it was always his plan to stay with the core of ELK and to improve what he could. Our rotation is deeper than most and that depth will probably be needed. I think he has helped the bull pen and I agree with Roger that many games in this division will be determined by how the pen does. The BIG question there is of course BROXTON.

    I believe we will have a fleet footed centerfielder who hits in the top of the order and allows Ethier to play left and Kemp to play right. I just don’t know if its Tony Gwynn or T-rob. Maybe its Tony this year and T-rob next year. Maybe Sands cracks the outfield, maybe we more Loney and he ends up at firstbase.

    Casey Blake and Raffy will get the bulk of the playing time on the left side of the infield this year and then move on. Expect Uribe to move to third in 2012 while Dee Gordon and De Jesus become our nifty DP combo.

    So Ned hasn’t really blocked our best player prospects and its up to them to play their way on to the team.

  15. Captain Loose says:

    KFP looks pretty good here:

    http://kfrc.radio.com/2011/01/12/report-kung-fu-panda-has-lost-over-20-pounds/

    And there is no question he is natural born hitter. If he takes his job serious this year…. the gints look pretty not too bad.

  16. coloblue says:

    If we get Kemp and Ethier to rebound like 2008/9..and loney to hit around .285..we should be able to do OK in scoring runs.esp if Thames/Gibbons can hit for some power…

  17. Brooklyn Dodger says:

    Guess we’ll have to wait and see if the reports on Sandoval are real or not. But, if real, he should be a huge force in the Giants lineup.

    http://content.usatoday.com/communities/dailypitch/post/2011/02/pablo-sandoval-got-hitting-advice-from-barry-bonds/1

    http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/01/16/pablo-sandoval-is-shrinking/

    For now it seems, that we should not take for granted that the Giants lineup will continue to be weak. Might be quite the opposite, especially if Brandon Belt really turns out to be a left-handed hitting Posey. Only time will tell.

    However, with all the hype it gets, I’m not convinced that the Giants pitching is all what it’s hyped to be. I’ve never been much impressed with Sanchez, and Zito is probably not as good as anyone in the Dodgers’ rotation. Bumbarner may well turn out to be very good, but that’s still to be seen. And even if he ultimately becomes a top of the rotation starter, it doesn’t mean that he’s not going to hit a few bumps in the road before getting there, much like Billingsley and Kershaw have.

    If Broxton returns to form, Padilla adapts well to the bullpen, Kenely Jansen continues to impress, Belisario picks up where he left off this past winter, Kuo’s arm stays attached to his shoulder, Guerrier proves worth his contract, and perhaps even Elbert finds success, the Dodgers pen should be far superior to the Giants pen, or any other pen in the division. So Roger Dodger could well be correct that “it will be the bullpens that make the difference.”

  18. Jaydavis says:

    Same way it’s won the last few years, pitching and D

  19. ken says:

    Loney in the fold. Team payroll of $116 mil with incentives. $116 mil should be worth at least 88 wins. We will see.

  20. Badger says:

    Isn’t it interesting to go back a few months and read what the people’s was thinking. We know Mark always predicts all things Blue will be sparkly and the Dodgers will win everything, but the other posters comments between the end of last season and the beginning of this one are what I find fascinating. Some folks saw something wasn’t quite right, some folks just love the Dodgers to much to live anywhere but in denial. Brooklyn and that Captain Loose fellow seem to have a handle on what was coming. Many of these folks just aren’t around anymore.

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