2014 NL West Preview

The Los Angeles Dodgers are the best team in the National League and the other four teams in the division are no slouches themselves. The cellar of this division is miles above the cellars of the Central and East. The Rockies are just a couple of arms away from having a nice club. If San Diego’s young players prove they can hack, that team is probably good enough to win the wild card, granting them a couple of breaks along the way. Arizona and San Francisco are familiar rivals for the division chair, blah blah blah. The rest of this stuff is really more interesting, so why wait?

Projected Standings

Team W-L Games Back RS RA
Los Angeles 95-67 675 565
San Francisco 86-76 9 665 625
Arizona 85-77 10 705 675
Colorado 80-82 15 720 730
San Diego 78-84 17 635 660

 
To make these standings I used the Pythagorean Win Expectation formula developed by Bill James. Much of this preview owes credit to Bill James, and some of the categories below are taken directly from his Historical Baseball Abstract. The Pythagorean formula spits out an expected winning percentage when you input a team’s runs scored and runs allowed. I used my projected 2014 totals for those two figures, which you can see above.

Ultimately, I believe the Dodgers have such depth of pitching to constitute the best staff in the National League, leading to a division race where the second-place team is closer to last than first. Still, San Francisco and Arizona are good enough to get into the playoffs with some luck.

All NL West Team
Bold denotes players who would make All West Team (AL plus NL)

C Buster Posey San Francisco
1B Paul Goldschmidt Arizona
2B Aaron Hill Arizona
3B Pablo Sandoval San Francisco
SS Troy Tulowitzki Colorado
OF Carlos Gonzalez Colorado
Hunter Pence San Francisco
Yasiel Puig OLos Angeles
SP Clayton Kershaw Los Angeles
Madison Bumgarner San Francisco
Zack Greinke Los Angeles
RP Kenley Jansen Los Angeles
Sergio Romo San Francisco

 
Worst Regular: DJ LeMahieu, Colorado 2B
This category may sound harsher than I feel. It is certainly a backhanded compliment. While DJ LeMahieu has a firm grip on second base, guys like Dee Gordon and Didi Gregorius struggle to win starting spots when there are starting spots right there to be won. They are right on the cusp, but they are not regulars, because they can’t separate themselves from other would-be starters. LeMahieu is a level above them. A good all-around fielder, LeMahieu has the arm for third base and a slick double play rapport with Troy Tulowitzki. But Coors Field is the only place LeMahieu seems to get extra-base hits, and only doubles at that. His .379 slugging percentage in two years as a Rockie speaks to that.

Worst Rotation Pitcher: Tyler Chatwood, Colorado

Best Rotation

Team Sum Team Score Weighted Average
1. Los Angeles 22.5 360 3.60
2. San Diego 19.5 303 3.03
3. San Francisco 19 303 3.03
4. Arizona 17 263 2.63
5. Colorado 16 257 2.57

 
Same system as in the AL West Preview. There you’ll find a helpful breakdown of the scores. All 10 teams end up like this:

1. Los Angeles (NL), 360
2. Texas, 331
3. Seattle, 317
4. San Diego, 303
5. San Francisco, 303
6. Oakland, 295
7. Arizona, 263
8. Los Angeles (AL), 259
9. Colorado, 257
10. Houston, 222
 
I like it. It seems right to me. We’ll see how it holds up at the end of the season.

More Notes:

Patrick Corbin might be out for the season. Arizona’s score above assumes that will be the case. Before his injury, Arizona’s score was 293, what we might call average given the spread of scores now.

The Giants’ score was actually 302.5, with Madison Bumgarner’s rating being responsible for the extra decimal place. Before I knew the Padres’ score would be 303, I bumped the Giants up half a point to reinforce my optimism about Bumgarner’s upcoming season. Even so, I figured it was only fair that in the rankings I list the Padres above the Giants.

The ratings for individual players (70 in all) will be posted later as an appendix.

Best Bullpen: Los Angeles
I’d describe the five bullpens as mostly good. The Rockies have another very good bullpen and they will rely upon it more than any other team. At the end of the year the Colorado unit should have impressive statistics save for ERAs inflated by Coors Field.

Best Infield: San Francisco (Brandon Belt, Marco Scutaro, Brandon Crawford, Pablo Sandoval)

Best Outfield: Los Angeles (Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier in some order)
 Don’t forget Scott Van Slyke.

Best Platoon Combination: Cody Ross and Gerardo Parra, Arizona RF
Parra will move all round the outfield, spelling Mark Trumbo once in a while and AJ Pollock as well. It should end up an equal distribution of plate appearances among the four of them, with Parra and Ross constituting the main platoon, as they have some drastic handedness splits between them.

There are intriguing outfield platoons for every team, but this one and the ones in SF and LA will impact the playoff race. Los Angeles also has four outfielders to juggle, but with two left-handed hitters to Arizona’s one. We’ll keep an eye on the different strategies Don Mattingly and Kirk Gibson use to cycle these guys through the lineup both between days and within games.

In San Francisco it is more of a straight platoon in left field, with two everyday players—Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence—in center and right. Tall home run man Mike Morse was brought to a poor power hitter’s ballpark, so the Giants have kept lefty-hitting Gregor Blanco as a hedge.

Best Hitter: Buster Posey, Giants C

Best Hitting Pitcher: Zack Greinke, Los Angeles

Best Outfield Arm (Vlad Guerrero Award – Fielding): Gerardo Parra, Arizona

Worst Outfield Arm: Will Venable, San Diego
Venable has one assist for every 501 innings in the field over the last two years; Gerardo Parra in the same time frame has one assist for every 88 innings played in the field.

Glove Team
Bold indicates player would make team from both AL and NL West

C Buster Posey San Francisco
1B Paul Goldschmidt Arizona
2B DJ LeMahieu Colorado
3B Nolan Arenado Colorado
SS Troy Tulowitzki Colorado
OF Gerardo Parra Arizona
Carlos Gonzalez Colorado
Gregor Blanco San Francisco
P Clayton Kershaw Los Angeles

 
Most Aggressive Hitter (Vlad Guerrero Award – Hitting): Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco 3B

Best Base Stealer: Everth Cabrera, Padres SS

Best Base Runner: Angel Pagan, San Francisco CF

Best Rookie: Archie Bradley, Arizona SP

Best Front Office: San Francisco (Stability, Pitching Development)

Heaviest Player: Tie (3-way), 265 lbs.
 Kyle Blanks (Padres OF), Kenley Jansen (Dodgers RP), Seth Rosin (Dodgers RP)

Lightest Player: Alexi Amarista, San Diego OF  150 lbs.

Tallest Players:
  Brandon McCarthy, Arizona SP         6’7”
  Josh Johnson, San Diego SP          6’7”

Shortest Player: Alexi Amarista, San Diego OF    5’6”

Oldest Player: LaTroy Hawkins, Colorado RP            41 (December 21, 1972)

Youngest Players:
 Nolan Arenado, Colorado 3B          22 (April 16, 1992)
 Paco Rodriguez, Los Angeles RP 22 (April 16, 1992)
(Ho ho.)

Raul Navarro of Arizona was born February 5, 1992 but he probably won’t make the 25-man roster.

Best-Looking Player:
 Drew Stubbs, Colorado OF
 Andre Ethier, Los Angeles OF

Ugliest Player: Juan Uribe, Los Angeles 3B

GAHH!: Juan Uribe, Los Angeles 3B
 Those ears though.

Best Name: Tuffy Gosewisch, Arizona C

Nickname by Drunk Berman: Brandon “Don’t Make Me Get The” Belt, San Francisco 1B

Highest-Paid Player: Zack Greinke, Los Angeles SP  $26,000,000

Fastest Player: Will Venable, Padres OF
Let’s give him a mention because Pagan and Cabrera got base running honors and the three of them have the same speed score.

Slowest Player: Carlos Quentin, Padres OF
Both “Padres oof” and “Padres oaf” are acceptable pronunciations.

2014 Predictions (500 PA)
Most Home Runs: Paul Goldschmidt, 38
Highest Batting Average: Buster Posey, .330
Lowest Batting Average: Juan Uribe, .227
Best ERA: Clayton Kershaw, 2.08
Most Strikeouts: Clayton Kershaw, 229

Swiss Cheese Award for Hitting: Drew Stubbs, Colorado OF

Ozzie Guillen Award for Walk Avoidance: Wilin Rosario, Colorado C

Wet Noodle Award for Floppiest Bat: Gregor Blanco, San Francisco OF

Iron Man: Hunter Pence, San Francisco RF

Best Switch Hitter: Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco 3B

Best Power/Speed Combo: Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado OF

Hardest-Throwing Pitchers:                2013 Fastest
  SP Andrew Cashner, San Diego            100.18 mph
  RP David Hernanez, Arizona               97.64 mph

Best Curve: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles

Best Control Pitcher: Dan Haren, Los Angeles

Best Double Play Combination: Troy Tulowitzki and DJ LeMahieu, Colorado

Best Pitching Staff: Los Angeles

Best Offense: Arizona

Best Defense: San Francisco
This was very close between the Giants and the Diamondbacks. The Giants get the edge based on superior play at catcher and shortstop, and more consistency in the outfield. For the Diamondbacks, Mark Trumbo will run around left field like it is a sinkhole in the process of sinkholing, doing much to negate the great work for Gerardo Parra. Goldschmidt is a better defender than Belt but Belt is quite good in his own right. Giants’ pitchers generally field their position well.

If you look at the glove team, you will find it obvious that Colorado has the best defensive infield. However, the outfield in Denver is much too spacious to be covered adequately unless you have three speedy, instinctual defenders and shift them liberally. Plus, Wilin Rosario is a nightmare behind the plate, and that is the most important defensive position.

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