MLB Betting: 2010 NL West Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 3/8/2010
You know, after a while you would think that someone in the National League West would try to mix it up and go “off script” in order to win the division. But not this year. Not any year. The same teams are following the same game plan and the result is the same unpredictable National League West.
It seems as if the story is the same for most of the clubs in the West: the starting pitching is elite at the top end but the rotation is not deep. The hitting is experienced but inconsistent and unreliable. The bullpen is solid and a source of strength. So whichever team can squeak out enough runs and avoid major injuries will come through and earn itself a ticket to October baseball. There. That’s the preview for all five teams in this wide-open division.
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Here is Doc's Sports National League West preview:
Los Angeles Dodgers
2009 Record: 95-67
2010 Wins Over/Under: 84.5
Odds To Win 2010 NL West: 2/1
Odds To Win 2010 NL Pennant: 9/1
Odds To Win 2010 World Series: 17/1
Manny came in like a lion and could be heading out like a lamb. After hitting Hollywood with so much promise I think that the entire population of Mannywood is wondering what they will get out of the formerly ‘roided up’ slugger. And therein lies the key to L.A.’s attempt to repeat as NL West champ.
Much like Philadelphia out East, the Dodgers have a core of young players that appear to be heading into their primes together. Andre Eithier, James Loney and Matt Kemp all start the year under the age of 27 and have each shown that they can not only play but also excel at this level. Without Manny’s fearsome bat they left too many men on base (No. 29) and didn’t produce enough home runs (No. 23). But this team was still No. 4 in the Majors in hitting and was extremely clutch, posting 12 walk-off wins last year. They did lose Orlando Hudson and Russell Martin is showing a lot of wear and tear, but this is still a very veteran group.
If Ramirez returns to his pre-suspension form then that completely settles a potent lineup around him. But if age, or the lack of PED’s, catches up to him then this team loses that X-factor that they desperately need. The young core has proven it can play but they aren’t enough to get to the next level.
Pitching has been the backbone of this organization and they enter the year with a similar group to the one that carried them last year. But there are some troubling signs. First and foremost, Chad Billingsley needs to bounce back from a horrendous last half of the year. And young buck Clayton Kershaw is on the Verducci List, which has been a death knell for promising young arms over the past half-decade. After that there isn’t much to get excited about: Hiroki Kuroda is streaky, Vincente Padilla is kind of a “last chance” guy, Russ Ortiz is awful, and Eric Stults is still very unproven. The bullpen is exceptional. But if Bills and/or Kershaw falter things could fall apart.
The Dodgers have averaged around 88 wins the last four years and Joe Torre has managed in the postseason in 14 straight seasons. That’s consistency. Their pitching has been their foundation for the last few years and as long as it holds up there may still be enough talent in the field to get this team back to October baseball – with or without Manny.
2009 Record: 70-92
2010 Wins Over/Under: 82.5
Odds To Win 2010 NL West: 3/1
Odds To Win 2010 NL Pennant: 15/1
Odds To Win 2010 World Series: 33/1
Preseason buzz suggests that Arizona is going to bounce back from what was really a season that was even worse than their record suggests. But I don’t know if there is a more unbalanced team than the D-Backs: with consistent, dominating pitchers on the mound and undisciplined, streaky hitters at the plate.
Arizona enters the season with perhaps the best 1-2-3 starters in the National League, if not the Majors. If recent past is any indicator than Edwin Jackson is primed for a killer season now that he’s in the N.L. Toss him in with a recovered Brandon Webb and dominating Dan Haren and you have a trio that’s set to sweep every time they line up to throw in the same series. After that is nothing but promise with Ian Kennedy and Bill Buckner looking to lock down the back end. If those first three arms can all top 200 innings that will take a load of pressure off of a bullpen that still isn’t quite up to snuff. I’m not a Chad Qualls believer and when I look around I don’t see much promise in the middle relief.
The best the D-Backs can hope for is that the pitching is contagious on the offense. By that I mean that hopefully a lot of zeros on the board will give their guys some confidence at the plate. Mark Reynolds and Justin Upton each had breakout years. Unfortunately that was balanced by Conor Jackson’s injury-riddled season, Stephen Drew’s bottoming out and a host of underachieving from other key guys (Chris Young, Eric Byrnes, Augie Ojeda, etc.) This team has zero plate discipline, batting just .253 for the year and striking out at a ridiculous rate. Unless they can start to be more efficient at the plate I am having a hard time seeing them vaulting up the standings. And since they don’t have any new blood in the lineup I don’t know if it’s going to happen.
The N.L. West is all about teams executing in close, low-scoring games. It’s been that way for decades. And while Arizona has the goods in their rotation they just aren’t built for that style of play. They are pathetic in the field, they strike out too much, and their young players A) play too undisciplined at the dish and in the field and B) haven’t had any veterans in the clubhouse to show them how to play the game the right way. In reality this team got hot for a few months in 2007 – led by a host of clutch hits and absurd late-inning luck – and has been in a free fall ever since.
2009 Record: 92-70
2010 Wins Over/Under: 84.5
Odds To Win 2010 NL West: 2.5/1
Odds To Win 2010 NL Pennant: 10/1
Odds To Win 2010 World Series: 30/1
Colorado bounced back strong from an injury-marred 2008 campaign to post 92 wins and get themselves back into the postseason. But a host of offseason decisions (see: losses) are going to make-or-break this year.
They lost Jason Marquis, who had a stellar season for them last year. But they may cancel that out with the return of staff ace Jeff Francis from a shoulder injury that wiped out his 2009. Aaron Cook has just been solid over the last two seasons and is still very undervalued. But the breakout studs for the Rockies last year were flamethrower Ubaldo Jimenez and Jorge De La Rosa. Both pitchers had been disasters in their previous seasons with Colorado. But something clicked with them last year. And after slow starts for the pair they managed to post a combined 31-21 record with nearly 400 strikeouts.
As for the offense, Colorado did sacrifice some of its depth in the offseason. They let Garrett Atkins, Jason Giambi and Yorvit Torrealba take a walk and are now banking that guys like Ian Stewart, Clint Barmes and Chris Ianetta can step up. They didn’t last year so we will see. The Rockies always find ways to score in Coors. They were No. 6 in runs scored and No. 9 in total bases. But if there is a knock I have on this offense its that they are relying a little too much on Todd Helton, who will be 37 this year. If he goes down I don’t think that Brad Hawpe and Troy Tulowitzki will be able to handle their own business as well as picking up Helton’s slack.
Are the Rockies starters for real? That’s it. That’s the determinant on this season. If Jiminez and De la Rosa have turned the corner and if Francis bounces back from shoulder surgery than the Rockies will have enough top-end pitching to stay in the mix. Each year the offense has moved further and further from the homer-heavy attack that they’re known for. But it’s left them a little light. If the starters do their thing they’ll keep rolling. But yo-yoing from 76 to 90 to 74 to 92 wins over the last four years makes me think twice about buying in too much to this team.
San Francisco Giants
2009 Record: 88-74
2010 Wins Over/Under: 82.5
Odds To Win 2010 NL West: 5/1
Odds To Win 2010 NL Pennant: 12/1
Odds To Win 2010 World Series: 26/1
The Giants enjoyed a banner season and were just a few games out of the Wild Card last year. But gauging how Las Vegas and the bobblehead media are treating this team heading into this year it looks like there isn’t anywhere near a general consensus on how this team will perform in 2010. It looks like it could be boom or bust for Giants.
The top of the Giants rotation needs no introduction. Two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum is the best young arm in the game and workhorse Matt Cain has finally started to get some support from his mates. Unfortunately the drop-off after that pair is severe. Barry Zito had a nice season after being left for dead in 2008. Jonathan Sanchez managed to throw a no-hitter, but other than that I’d have to say that the lefty regressed a bit. There is nothing in the back end that inspires confidence on a team that’s supposed to compete now. Brian Wilson keeps it interesting as the closer but was solid and overall the middle relief is solid.
San Francisco’s offense was pathetic last year. They won 22 of their 88 games despite scoring three runs or less. They were in the bottom five in the league in batting (No. 25), runs (No. 26), on-base percentage (No. 30), slugging (No. 28) and homer (No. 29). Other than that they were great. Their infield core of Pablo “Kung-Fu Panda” Sandoval, Freddy Sanchez, Mark DeRosa, Edgar Renteria and Bengie Molina (until Buster Posey is ready) is solid. But their outfield is absolutely pathetic and those more established infield guys aren’t top-end enough to carry a lineup. And overall this team is too impatient at the plate to work themselves into favorable situations.
It should be more of the same in San Francisco: plenty of pitching and light hitting. But I can see a regression out of this group. I think a full year in San Fran out of Sanchez and DeRosa will help. But not enough. I don’t like the back of their rotation and I don’t see enough pop. This team was killer at home (52-29), had a bunch of comeback wins (28), and won its share of one-run games. Those things usually don’t carry over. This could be a step back year before a nice bounce forward in 2011.
San Diego Padres
2009 Record: 75-87
2010 Wins Over/Under: 71.5
Odds To Win 2010 NL West: 12/1
Odds To Win 2010 NL Pennant: 60/1
Odds To Win 2010 World Series: 850/1
San Diego was able to mask a potentially putrid season with a solid two-month push in which their youngsters broke out and they posted a solid 37-28 mark. However, while it was fun that they went wild in the silly season with their call-ups, making a jump using their hodgepodge roster through a full year is something else. San Diego rolled out 24 rookies in the 2009 season, with 15 players making their Major League debut. So as much as I hate to say this – I have very little idea what to make of this team heading into this year.
The pitching staff enters its first regular season in seven seasons without Jake Peavy penciled in for about 25 quality starts per year. Who is going to pick up the slack? Chris Young is the only proven arm on this roster but he battled injuries on his way to a weak 4-6 showing with a 5.21 ERA last year. He needs to get it figured out in a hurry because it’s pretty sparse after him. Kevin Correia had what we in the business call a “career year” and he won’t duplicate. Clayton Richard showed real nice promise with the White Sox and Padres (he was involved in the Peavy deal), but he’s far from a sure thing. The bullpen was elite last year and they always seem to be solid there. But that matters very little if you never have a lead.
As for the lineup, seriously, your guess is as good as mine. They ended last year with a bunch of call-ups playing hard to make an impression and playing with nothing to lose. But whom they are going to rely on – other than amazing Adrian Gonzalez – heading into April is anyone’s guess. You’d think it would be an improvement on a team that was dead last – by a lot – in the Majors in hitting, slugging and RBI, and No. 29 in runs. But with a lineup full of random dudes named Everth Cabrera, Kyle Blanks, Nick Hundley, and Will Venable it’s far from a guarantee.
Here’s how I am approaching the Padres: they suck until they prove that they don’t suck. This team may be restocked with top young talent and could come out of nowhere to make some serious strides. But I’m betting the other way. I look at this roster and I see a Triple-A lineup with weak starting staff, overachieving bullpen and a new front office that could be in conflict with what has been going on. Oh, and when you stack them up against a highly competitive, veteran, professional division this group is in trouble.
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