This division has been won by the LA Dodgers 8 of the last 9 years with last year being the only exception. The SF Giants were the surprise in all of MLB and not only won the NL West, but they also had the best record in baseball with 107 wins! The Giants had career-type seasons from their veteran batters (Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey, and Brandon Belt). They found outstanding pitching from Kevin Gausman and Logan Webb. This got 31 saves from Jake McGee! It is not easy to follow a season like this and live up to expectations set last year. Regression should be the mindset for those in SF.
The chart above shows several things. Let’s start on the right-hand side. PYTH is the Pythagorean wins for last year and BR is the BaseRuns wins for last year. The 2021 column is the average win based on those two data standings combined. Ideally, it is the number of wins they should have had based on the team’s output. The columns on the left side show projected wins from FG (FanGraphs), BP (Baseball Prospectus), and SB (SuperBook, LV). The blue columns BLEND is an average of the three projections and its winning percentage. We need to start in the yellow column first. LAD should have won 108 games last year. They are projected to win 99 (98.8). The goal is to understand if this team is equal to, better, than, or worse than last year’s team. We cannot predict injuries, legal troubles, or other issues that may affect wins, so we don’t worry about that stuff. To help us gauge where the teams are I have another chart.
The chart represents many offensive categories by teams. The green shade is better than average and the red shade is below average. We can easily see the lower winning teams have less offense. I did make a very real distinction though, with NL offense, wRAA (weighted runs above average) as a league is actually below average! Good thing we do not have to the pitcher bat any longer!
Another quick summary page that breaks down the best players in the division both on offense, with their defense, starting pitching, and a bullpen rank.
We go through the exercise for every team. We start with last year should have won, then see where strengths are, then gauge gains and losses to produce a realistic outcome for the division. The Dodgers are not the most pitching-rich team in the NL any longer. They do however have the division’s best projected starting pitcher Walker Buehler. Plus they have Julio Urias and Clayton Kershaw who also make the best in the division list. They are going into the season with Andrew Heaney and Tony Gonsolin as the back end of the rotation. I would argue that to win 100 games, this rotation needs another arm. Herein lies the question of Trevor Bauer. He has been cleared legally, now it is suspension time from MLB. We shall see how much if any playing time he gets. This quality of pitcher though is what they need to get over the 100 win hump. Their offense is amazing! They might look like a beer league softball team at times! They have 4 of the top 5 best offensive players in the division and they have 5 hitters on the list in total. Mookie Betts and Trea Turner are MVP caliber players. Freddie Freeman and Will Smith are All-Stars. Max Muncy only projects with 32 HRs! It is very possible for this team’s everyday lineup to have every batter achieve 20 or more HRs!
The Padres should have won 82 games last year. Their shortcomings and the quality of players on this team led to a managerial change so in comes Bob Melvin formerly of the Oakland A’s. It is very unfortunate for them that superstar Fernando Tatis Jr will miss half the season. He is the best player in this division, but he not when doesn’t play. SD has more red areas in their offense than expected so they need improvement here. They have 4 guys that show up on the best in the West list. They are Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis, Trent Grisham, and Jake Cronenworth. They still have outfield holes (brought in Jorge Alfaro) and are trying to rid themselves of Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers contracts. Maybe this team is still transitioning, but they have components to build around. The pitching is where things were much worse than expected last year. This staff was to rival the best in baseball, but it fell flat. The surprise was Joe Musgrove. He led the team in starts (31), innings, quality starts, and WAR. Yu Darvish was supposed to be the ace. He had a good season, but not even close to the ace level performance. Blake Snell has trouble going past 5 innings however threw the ball well. Mike Clevinger missed most of the season. Chris Paddack didn’t live up to his rookie season. So this year’s team has a couple of changes. Mike Clevinger is healthy from the start. They signed Nick Martinez from the Japanese league, so they have more depth. They only had 2 pitchers throw more than 130 innings last year! That said, they have 4 guys who show up on the best pitchers in the division list which means if things go right, they could be better due to the quality of arms getting the majority of the innings. They are the 2nd best offense and 2nd best bullpen to the Dodgers. The gap in offense is pretty big but would be much closer with a healthy Tatis. Their starting staff does not match up in the front line but is deeper than many other teams 1-5. The blend calls for them to win 89 games. I think this is very realistic and could surpass the 90 mark. I like them to make the playoffs and be 2nd in the West.
The SF Giants were the cream of the crop a season ago. We should expect regression from them through this season. Their great offense from last season is gone. Their best-projected batter is Brandon Belt with 2.0 WAR and 118 wRC+. Offensive stars have 130+ wRC+ and OFF WAR of 25 or better. Belt leads their projection with 11.2 OFF WAR. They better pitch well. They lose their best starter last year in Kevin Gausman, but arguably they have replaced him with a better pitcher in Carlos Rodon. I like Rodon and Webb at the top of this rotation. They can match up as slight underdogs to the two best LAD starters. Alex Cobb was brought in, put him in line with DeSclafani, and Wood; you have a nice rotation. Health will be key for Rodon, but they can pitch. Their bullpen ranks 3rd in the division. Both ARI and COL are so bad offensively, that no matter how far SF falls off of last year’s numbers, they won’t fall to the level of those teams. They are projected to win 82 games which makes them roughly a .500 team. I like that projection as I think their pitching could be just good enough to keep them above .500 but not expecting a playoff run from them this season.
Arizona won only 52 games last year. That means they lost 110! They were the worst team in the NL and were tied with BAL for the fewest wins in MLB. The trouble here for ARI is there was nothing done in the off-season to improve this team. Not pitching help nor offense help. The good news is that they should have won 60 games so we start there. The projections say ARI wins 70 games. They do have one offensive start tup player in Ketel Marte. If he stays with ARI (possible trade candidate) the entire season, he will lead this team in every major offensive category. He does make the list of best players in the division too. They will again have an influx of young talent trying to find their way at the MLB level playing routinely. They don’t have can’t miss prospects, but have several guys who will at least bring a different look to the team over the course season. They need a quality season from Zac Gallen. He made 223 starts ly and had a record of 4-10. He is their best pitcher and you can’t win many games if he only wins 4 games! They had zero pitchers win more than 7 games! Another shot in the arm would come from Madison Bumgarner. A return to even .500 for him would help this team immensely. He could give them innings, he takes the matchup with the opponent’s best starter, then give Gallen a good chance of being more competitive being in the #2 slot. Merrill Kelly was their best pitcher a season ago and he would not be but a 4th or 5th option on most teams, and likely a bullpen choice for the good teams. Their bullpen ranks 4th in the division. I am not sold on what this team is doing at all. I think 70 wins is a big stretch. I could see how they improve some, SF has fallen back as well, so maybe they are better due to that a bit too. This looks like a good spot to look for UNDER scenarios to wager. The SuperBook line was 66.5 which is just low enough for me to pass, but if you can find a 68 out there or higher, take an under ticket to the window!
The Colorado Rockies won 74 games a season ago. They are flat in relation to the “should have won” result of 74.5 wins. This is another team where I think they are off the rails with no discernable plan going forward. This is a team that let Arenado go, then didn’t sign Trevor Story and turn around to sign an aging Kris Bryant. Makes you want to scratch your head. This is a poor offensive team that plays in a stadium way above seas level where baseballs fly which is all about offense. This team has only 1 prospect ranked in the top 100 and he is 71st. They haven’t developed players recently and have become old in places too ie, Charlie Blackmon (36). CJ Cron will be the #4 batter on this team. He hit 30 HRs once in his MLB career and that was 2018. He will be 32 this season. Kris Bryant is their main guy now. He too has only had 1 season where he hit over 30 HRs and that was back in 2016. He has had one good season since 2017 so he is on the decline and he did not make the top players in the West list. They have a long way to go as they finished 2nd worst offense in the NL (-125.4 OFF). They do have German Marquez to lead the staff and he does show up on the best pitchers in the division list. They have “guys” filling the roles in the other slots that are decent but will not be a favorite against many other opponents. It puts them in a tough spot. Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela, Austin Gomber are guys that can pitch but won’t be favorites often. They have some young arms that just haven’t worked but maybe this year they will get it together. They have the worst bullpen in the division. This is a team based on their pitching that needs to outscore their opponents but doesn’t have the offense to do it. They are in a bad way. They are projected at 68.5 wins. I like that number as they won 74 last year. They didn’t get better even with the addition of Bryant. They lost Jon Gray too. I can’t say they win 70 games but the SuperBook total is 70.5. I am not running to the window here either, but if there was a gun to my head, give me the under.
As a recap, I like the Dodgers to win the West with relative ease. I think the SuperBook total of 100.5 wins is reasonable, yet I would wager this Under that number. as stated above, they need one more quality arm to climb over the triple-digit mark. I like SD to come in 2nd and to make the playoffs in the NL. The SB number is 87.5 and I think that have a good chance to get to 90 so this would be an Over for me. SF comes in 3rd with a near .500 record. Anything you can get that is 85.5 or higher, is a quality Under wager. SB was 84.5 so it is a pass. ARI and COL are neck and neck for the basement dwellers. I do think there is a possible play on ARI Under as I think 65 or more wins will be tough to come by. COL is a team around that 70 win number, but again, they will struggle to match what they did ly so a 70 win season is a reasonable expectation.