NL West Historically Bad in 2008
by Trevor Whenham - 07/03/2008
There have been worse divisions than the NL West over the years. I just can't think of too many off the top of my head. With a win on Monday the Diamondbacks moved to the dizzying heights of one game above .500. That would be good enough for fourth in four divisions, and third in the other. In the National League West their .506 mark is good for a 3.5-game lead. That is, in a word, pathetic.
Let's take a look at this mess in a historical context. Over the last five years the average winning percentage for a division leader is .581. The worst winning record was the same .506 that Arizona is at now. That happened just once, in 2005, and it seems fitting that it was when San Diego prevailed in that equally pathetic version of the NL West. Only three of the 30 division winners in the last five years have had a record worse than .543. The struggles of the NL West aren't entirely unprecedented, but that's not something for the division to be proud of.
Since we just finished the ridiculous exercise called Interleague Play, we can use that as a measure of how the teams are doing. Since they all played teams they don't usually play, their records over those 12 or 15 games will give us a relatively true sense of where the teams are at. It's not pretty. The Padres won just twice in their 15 games. The Giants were 6-9. The Rockies were 5-7, and were spared from further humiliation by only having to play four series. The Dodgers were even worse at 4-8. That's the same record as the Diamondbacks. That makes them a combined 21-45 against the American League. There is no way to spin it - this division is really not very good.
The noble thing would probably be not to pick on this division. Where's the fun in that, though? They are down, so let the kicking begin. Let's see what other ways we can express how dismal this group is. Though we're doing this mostly for entertainment, it can serve a few betting purposes as well. If you've been betting on this division and losing then making fun of them might make you feel better. If you haven't been betting on them, or you have consistently been betting against them, then this may convince you to stay with the course.
- It probably goes without saying, but none of the five teams in the division are anywhere near profitable on the season. If you had flat bet on every game the teams have played (not that you would), you would be in the hole about 63 units so far. The Padres are the very worst team to bet on in the league, and the Rockies and the Dodgers are also in the bottom seven. If you see a guy tearing up a betting slip the next time you are at a sportsbook it's probably because he bet on the NL West.
- There are only five regular starting pitchers in the division with a winning record, and two teams - the Dodgers and the Padres - have none. The Diamondbacks have two in Brandon Webb and Danny Haren. In contrast, the Rays, the division leader with the best record, have four. So do the Cubs. The Rockies have just one - Aaron Cook at 10-5. The most pleasant surprise is with the Giants. They are a lousy team, but for two games out of five they are a pleasure to watch anyway. Jonathan Sanchez is at 8-4 in his first full year as a starter. He pales in comparison to Tim Lincecum, though. Lincecum looks like he is about 12 years old, yet he has a truly filthy fastball that has led him to a 9-1 record and a 2.38 ERA that is second best in the NL. Despite the team he plays for, Lincecum would get my CY Young vote if I had to choose right now (and if I had a vote).
- The five teams in the division have swept 11 series throughout the season. They have been swept 24 times. To make it worse, only five of those 11 sweeps have come against teams outside the division. That means that they have been swept 18 times by teams from outside the lousy confines of home. That's unimpressive. If you aren't already making money betting against these teams in series bets then maybe you should start.