2014 Predictions: NL West

This is the last division, folks. We are nearly there, thanks for bearing with me. The NL West is the weakest division in the league and has been for a few years. Not the worst, but the weakest. Their division winning percentage of .492 is the 3rd lowest in baseball, which is not bad, but they only had one team above .500 (one was also at .500). The other divisions that had lower winning percentages were the NL Central (who had the 66-96 Cubs) and the AL West (who had the 51-111 Astros). This will be a one horse race for the majority of the year if not the whole year. The 1927 Yankees spent every single day in 1st place; I can see the Dodgers doing the same thing. They start the season in Australia against their only real competitor Diamondbacks – if they get a 2 game lead, they will not look back.

1. Los Angeles 98-64
I think the Dodgers have a chance to win 100 games this year, I really do. It depends on injuries. Last year, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, and Matt Kemp had multiple trips to the DL. Puig missed a number of games with a sore hip (presumably from sliding into home on his walkoff home run – you’ll learn I do not like anything about Puig). Adrian Gonzalez was in and out of the lineup in May; nothing serious, but it was still a missed bat. Zack Grienke broke his collarbone in a fight with Carlos Quentin and missed a few weeks. Fellow hurlers Chris Capuano and Ted Lilly went on the DL at least once each, as did both Ellises (Mark and AJ). That said, the Dodgers have a ton of talent up and down the dugout. The 1-6 hitters will most likely be Crawford, Puig, Ramirez, Gonzalez, Kemp, Uribe – holy cow.

Outfielders Crawford, Ethier, and Puig.

Then the rotation looks like Kershaw (best pitcher in the game), Grienke, Ryu, newly signed Dan Haren, and Paul Maholm or Josh Beckett. The bullpen also has flaming arms of Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen. Playing in the NL West the Dodgers will steamroll their way to the top with ease. 

2. Arizona 83-79
The Dbacks have gone 81-81 the past two years. Short of signing Mark Trumbo,

Slugger Mark Trumbo joins the Diamondbacks outfield in 2014.

the offseason was pretty quiet – picked up aging Bronson Arroyo, Eric Chavez, and Henry Blanco. Another solid pick up was Addison Reed to bolster the bullpen and give JJ Putz and Brad Ziegler support.  Gerardo Parra, coming off of a Gold Glove season, will continue to blossom in his career. Cody Ross is another powerful hitter that will play alongside Trumbo in the outfield. Goldschmidt should win the MVP this year. Last season’s snub aside, he has the capability to hit .330/30/130. If he does that, there shouldn’t be any questions about his value and therefore should win the award. That said, the Dbacks should also go over .500 to give him a shot. The infield rounds out with Aaron Hill, Didi Gregorius, and Martin Prado. A solid roster, but weak on pitching (Corbin, Cahill, Miley, and now Arroyo).

3. San Francisco Giants 81-81
2013 was a bad year for the Giants, mainly because Pedro Gomez wasn’t following them around for the whole season. They will likely have the identical starting 7 position players, with the exception of newly signed slugger Mike Morse.

After hopping around the league with Seattle, Baltimore, and Washington, Morse landed a home by the Bay.

All the pieces were there for the Giants, so its a bit of a conundrum that they did not perform better. They are an excellent hitting team; with a team batting average of .260 (.269 excluding pitchers’ stats) was 4th in the NL and 8th in the MLB. The problem is the long ball, the Giants finished second to last in the team AB per HR category, hitting a home run once every 51 at bats, barely one every other game. They also finished 25th in extra base hits. They are a singles team that didn’t play enough small ball. Matt Cain underperformed, going 8-10, as did Barry Zito (5-11) and Tim Lincecum (10-14). It was frustrating to say the least. Their power numbers will go back up this year; Kung Fu Panda finished with about 10 fewer bombs than usual, and Buster Posey will add a few more. 81-81 is a low ball I think, considering they will play almost 40 games against the very weak Colorado and San Diego. They won the title in 2010 and 2012, so 2014 would fit the mold. Bruce Bochy won’t put up with another sub-.500 year.

4. Colorado 72-90
Offensively, the Rockies are great. A force to be reckoned with, even. If Cuddy can match last year, look out. Losing the Toddfather hurts, but Justin Morneau is a nearly identical version of him (minus the awesome facial and the fact that he is Canadian, poor guy) in terms of doubles and average.

Morneau signed a two-year deal with Colorado – big shoes to fill.

Carlos Gonzalez is a stud, making them a lethal 3-4-5 combo. Tulowitzki, if he stays healthy, will produce a ton, making this lineup a pitcher’s bad dream, but add in a respectable .280 average from DJ LeMahieu and a growing Nolan Arenado, this is quickly turning into a pitcher’s nightmare, especially in the thin air of Denver. The problem is, their pitching is as bad as their offense is good. Last year they had a team ERA of 4.44, last in the NL and 28th in the MLB. Sure they signed Brett Anderson and Boone Logan, but they still have career ERAs of 3.81 and 4.39, respectively. Not great additions for a place where the ball flies so easily. Other notable additions include Drew Stubbs, LaTroy Hawkins, and Brandon Barnes, to fill in the outfield and bullpen. They’ll have to score an ungodly amount of runs to compete, and you know what they say: defense wins championships.

5. San Diego 70-92
Despite the offseason acquisitions of Joaquin Benoit

Benoit, coming off of a great year with Detroit, works out with his new team.

and Josh Johnson, the rotation needs some work. With starters of Eric Stults and Andrew Cashner, things won’t be pretty this year. Cashner had a solid year, going 10-9 with a 3.09 ERA, but he has Chris Sale Syndrome: no offense! The 2013 Padres placed 24th in runs scored and 23rd in average in the MLB. Everth Cabrera will be back from his suspension and hopefully Seth Smith can minimize his strikeout totals as he adds some power to the spacious Petco Park. Last year, the Padres won 76 games, beating their pythagorean total by 4 games. Truthfully, I think 70 wins is generous, but we’ll see. 

That’s the divisions, folks. Thanks for sticking with me. Next week I’ll be doing award and postseason predictions, oh boy! Have a great weekend.

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