MLB Betting: 2009 NL West Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 03/05/2009
Our long national nightmare is over: Manny Ramirez has found a home and he and the Dodgers have kissed and made up.
I know everyone was very concerned - you couldn't talk baseball with anyone in the country without the stalemate coming up - about Manny's financial and mental well being, you know, with the recession and all. So now that Man-Ram has been locked up for two years and $45 million you can all sleep a little easier.
Well, that is, as long as you don't play or coach within the National League West.
Manny's signing has completely changed the landscape of this division and has vaulted the Dodgers to the top of the scrap heap that is the NL West. That said, I don't feel like this one player has locked up a spot in the postseason for the Dodgers and I certainly don't think it makes them a World Series favorite.
Here is Doc's Sports National League West preview:
Los Angeles Dodgers
2008 Record: 84-78 (-830)
2009 Wins Over/Under: 84.5
Odds To Win 2009 NL West: 7-to-5
Odds To Win 2009 NL Pennant: 5-to-1
Odds To Win 2009 World Series: 10-to-1
Manny absolutely dominated NL pitching once he came over from Boston and I'm sure that's he's going to put up serious numbers again this season, even in pitcher-friendly Chavez Ravine. Ramirez bolsters what was already the best lineup in the division. And his status as a difference maker is enhanced that much more by the fact that the NL West style of baseball results in a lot of low scores and one- and two-run games.
Ramirez wasn't the only difference maker that the Dodgers picked up in the offseason. Mark my words: the Orlando Hudson signing will end up being one of the mot underrated free agent signings of the year. Hudson's signing not only weakens the D-Backs but also will be a tremendous upgrade - in the boxscore and the clubhouse - over Jeff Kent. And when you add the O-Dog and Man-Ram to what was already one of the best young lineups in the game you suddenly have a team that can consistently generate offense in a division that generally doesn't.
But the problem is pitching. L.A. watched Brad Penny and Derek Lowe leave in the offseason. Now they will be leaning on a rotation full of fourth and fifth starters and I think they clearly have the weakest pitching staff in the West. Even below Colorado. The Dodgers got rid of their closer and haven't made any moves to shore up the back end of the bullpen. They have a lot of young arms and that's going to make them unreliable and overpriced to wager on.
Los Angeles has the best lineup and offensive depth in the division. But without any frontline starters or a proven closer I can't see them making huge strides in the NL. Also, the price that you're going to have to pay to back questionable starters like Hiroki Kuroda and Clay Kershaw is going ruin their value quite a bit.
Arizona Diamondbacks 2008 Record: 82-80 (-1430) 2009 Wins Over/Under: 87.5 Odds To Win 2009 NL West: 8-to-5 Odds To Win 2009 NL Pennant: 6.5-to-1 Odds To Win 2009 World Series: 14-to-1
The Diamondbacks are a team that could use a fresh start after their absurd collapse last season. They used a 20-8 April to build a serious lead in the West but managed to blow a five-game cushion in September. Their lineup was a mess the second half of the season and I think that a lot of their young players actually got some great experience of going through the lows that were equal and opposite to their highs of 2007.
All of the offseason moves this team made weakened the roster significantly. They lost their leader (Hudson), their closer (Brandon Lyon), a surprisingly solid starter (Randy Johnson) and their Big Trade Deadline Acquisition (Adam Dunn). This club had to make these moves because the organization was hemorrhaging money. That also means that you shouldn't expect them to do much to upgrade as the season goes on. That puts all of the pressure for this young core of players to produce, and produce now.
Dan Haren and Brandon Webb constitute the silver lining for this team. They are one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball. Doug Davis is serviceable and Max Scherzer is an up-and-comer. But they still have one of the weaker bullpens in the division and blowing leads late in games can wear on a team's psyche.
It's pretty simple for the D-Backs: they need to play better. They struck out too much, didn't steal enough bases, blew too many leads, didn't play well on the road and committed too many errors. That's a blueprint for bad baseball. Guys like Justin Upton, Mark Reynolds and Chris Young need to tap their potential and start to mature. If they can do that then Haren and Webb are good enough to keep them in the race. If they can't then they will again be one of the worst bets in the Bigs.
San Francisco Giants
2008 Record: 72-90 (-460)
2009 Wins Over/Under: 78.5
Odds To Win 2009 NL West: 3.5-to-1
Odds To Win 2009 NL Pennant: 25-to-1
Odds To Win 2009 World Series: 50-to-1
San Francisco is the sexy sleeper pick out in the West. But I, for one, am still not buying. Travis Ishikawa, Kevin Frandsen, Pablo Sandoval and Fred Lewis comprise half of their starting lineup. And if you don't have the foggiest idea who any of those guys are, take a number.
Here are some names you will recognize though: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Randy Johnson. The Giants have one of the better pitching staffs in the NL West and they are one of the few teams with a proven closer. That said, this team is trying to rely on its pitching, but their team E.R.A. was No. 17 in the league last season. And those numbers came in a pitcher's ballpark.
San Fran is really the perfect foil to the Dodgers. The Giants have tremendous starting pitching - a former Cy Young winner is their No. 5 starter - but have a Little League lineup. If they can patch together some rallies and build on their success in one-run games last year (their 31 one-run wins was tied for the most in the Majors) then they might be able to hang around. But I don't think this lineup is good enough to get them a spot in October.
2008 Record: 74-88 (-2000)
2009 Wins Over/Under: 77.5
Odds To Win 2009 NL West: 6-to-1
Odds To Win 2009 NL Pennant: 18-to-1
Odds To Win 2009 World Series: 38-to-1
The Rockies fell about as hard as a team can fall after their miracle run to the 2007 World Series. Injuries just ravaged this team, but a comical parade of starters and a disproportionate fall off between their team E.R.A. (No. 26 in MLB last year after No. 14 in 2007) and their team batting average (No. 16 last year after No. 5 in 2007) doomed this team from the start.
Colorado dealt team superstar Matt Holiday in the offseason and it appears that this organization is completely dedicated to building its roster from its minor league stables. There is still plenty of pop left in the lineup with guys like Garrett Atkins and Brad Hawpe leading the way, but without Holiday they lack a leader and clutch performer in the cleanup slot.
Despite one of the league's worst starters E.R.A.s, the Colorado pitching staff actually made some strides with some of the youngsters. Aaron Cook had a breakout season, and Ubaldo Jiminez, Frank Morales, Jorge De La Rosa and Greg Reynolds were all able to get some experience and show some flashes. Now the Rockies enter the season with almost too many pitchers, as they have about five arms vying for the No. 5 slot. That's a good problem to have for this squad, especially since Jeff Francis will miss part of the year.
The Rockies are not a favorite in this division, but they could be a threat. Other than that miracle run in 2007 this franchise really hasn't done much and I don't expect much from them though. They are tricky at home and when they get hot or cold they are a great "streak" team. But that's about it.
San Diego Padres
2008 Record: 63-99 (-3680)
2009 Wins Over/Under: 71.5
Odds To Win 2009 NL West: 15-to-1
Odds To Win 2009 NL Pennant: 50-to-1
Odds To Win 2009 World Series: 100-to-1
The Dads are pretty much a mess. They play a very distinct type of baseball. But over the past three years it's as if the front office is daring itself to see if they can produce an equal amount of wins with significantly lower talent. The answer, as we saw in last year's 99-loss debacle, was no.
San Diego won the West in 2006 with 88 wins and then actually topped that total with 89 in 2007. But then the bottom fell out last year and then over the winter it's as if the Padres had absolutely no intention of trying to improve themselves. In fact, they may have gotten worse, trading Khalil Greene, losing both catchers, and working to deal Jake Peavy.
The Padres had a .317 on-base percentage last year, by far the lowest in the league. They are clearly committed to developing their young players and letting Adrian Gonzalez toil in futility. Their youngsters may eventually become good players, but right now the Dads are simply one of the worst teams in the Majors.