2012 MLB Predictions: NL West Outlook and Betting Odds
by Robert Ferringo - 3/26/2012
With 14 unique division winners in the last 17 seasons, the National League West is one of the most competitive divisions in all of baseball. Last year the Arizona Diamondbacks pulled off a stunning worst-to-first finish – the third time they have done that in their 14-year existence – and the West has only seen four back-to-back division title winners over the past 20 years.
Here is Doc's Sports National League West MLB predictions with outlook and betting odds:
Los Angeles Dodgers
2011 Record: 82-79
2012 Wins Over/Under: 82.5
Odds To Win 2012 NL West: 5.5/1
Odds To Win 2012 NL Pennant: 18/1
2012 Los Angeles Dodgers Odds To Win World Series: 17/1
Outlook: The 2011 Dodgers endured a season from hell. From the Opening Day fan controversy (when their fans beat a Giants fan into a coma) to the Frank McCourt debacle, this team was besieged by drama on all sides last season. But they still managed to finish over .500 and I think they could be a team on the rise in 2012.
It starts and ends with Matt Kemp. He was the best player in the National League last year and should have been the MVP. If he can match last season’s numbers (.324-39-126) the Dodgers will be a threat. But the key is Andre Ethier, who was a bit of a malcontent in the locker room last season. He was dominating in 2009 and very good in 2010 before taking a step back. They need him to revert to all-star form. Juan Rivera still has some pop, Juan Uribe is as clutch as they come, Marc Ellis is a pro’s pro and Dee Gordon is the spark. If James Loney can step up this team could top last year’s No. 12 ranking in team batting.
Clayton Kershaw is the reigning Cy Young and anchors a veteran staff. Chad Billingsley has the stuff but is always a wild card because of his inconsistencies. After those young guns are Ted Lilly, Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano. Lilly and Capuano have been all stars and Harang finished fourth in Cy Young voting in 2007. They have the stuff. Now they just need to stay healthy (Lilly may miss his first start) and put it all together.
I don’t know how they do it but the Dodgers always seem to stack their bullpen. They are leaning on Javy Guerra as their closer but stud setup man Kenley Jansen is a solid option if the Dodgers need to change course.
I am bullish on the Dodgers this year. They went through hell last year and still managed to win 82 games. I feel like they have all of the talent and tools in place and now it is simply a matter of performance. And the Dodgers play well they can definitely win this division.
2011 Record: 94-68
2012 Wins Over/Under: 86.5
Odds To Win 2012 NL West: 2/1
Odds To Win 2012 NL Pennant: 14/1
2012 Arizona Diamondbacks Odds To Win World Series: 28/1
Outlook: The Diamondbacks were the biggest surprise in baseball last year. Kirk Gibson did an incredible job turning around one of the worst teams in baseball and now the D-Backs look like they are poised to stay in the upper echelon of this topsy-turvy division for years to come.
The single biggest reason for Arizona’s turnaround last year was their bullpen. After fielding one of the worst bullpens in Major League history in 2010 (and that’s not an exaggeration), the Diamondbacks shaved over two full runs off their bullpen ERA (from 5.74 to 3.71) last year. J.J. Putz is set to close once again and several former Oakland setup men will try to keep this pen in the league’s top half.
Of course, Arizona’s bullpen was buoyed by the fact that they threw the seventh-fewest innings in the Majors. That is a testament to their excellent young starting pitching staff that may have gotten better with the addition of Trevor Cahill. Ian Kennedy was a perfect 10-0 against division opponents last year and was a revelation. Daniel Hudson showed some nasty stuff and Joe Saunders flashed some of the talent that helped him go 33-14 in 2008-09 with the Angels.
Gibson’s approach with the Diamondback hitters went a long way in settling this team down. Justin Upton was more consistent than he had been in years past and guys like Ryan Roberts and Miguel Montero really had breakout years. Arizona picked up pro Jason Kubel and they will get a full season from Aaron Hill. There are still too many strikeouts in this lineup. But they have more power and more breakout potential than any other lineup in the West.
Arizona definitely played over its head last year, pulling off 48 comeback wins. And they will not have the benefit of sneaking up on anyone this year. I think this team will come back down to Earth and will miss the playoffs. But I don’t expect them to fall of the map because they have such a strong all-around roster.
San Francisco Giants
2011 Record: 88-74
2012 Wins Over/Under: 87.5
Odds To Win 2012 NL West: 1.4/1
Odds To Win 2012 NL Pennant: 7/1
2012 San Francisco Giants Odds To Win World Series: 14/1
Outlook: The Giants couldn’t follow up their 2010 World Series title with a return trip to the playoffs. And while it may still seem like just yesterday that they were celebrating their banner this team has seen a lot of roster turnover in the last 18 months and I think they are poised for a step back.
San Francisco’s pitching staff is still among the elite in baseball. Tim Lincecum is a Cy Young ace and Matt Cain isn’t far behind. I am a little worried about the guys following them up (Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong) because even though Bumgarner and Vogelsong have been brilliant at times, we still haven’t seen enough of them to consider the duo reliable.
The Giants bullpen is also among the best in baseball. Brian Wilson is coming back from injury and hoping to regain his dominating 2010 form. But he also benefits from the best crop of setup men in the National League. Injury is the only thing that can derail this group from again being a considerable strength.
San Francisco is all pitching and no hitting. They score the second-fewest runs in baseball in 2011 and they may be even worse this year. They are still leaning on Aubrey Huff and Pablo Sandoval. But beyond that I’m not sure where the runs are going to come from. They restocked their outfield with Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan. But neither of them is going to bring much pop. Buster Posey’s return is huge. But as good as he is I don’t know that he is good for more than 25 home runs and 80 RBI.
The Giants were actually outscored on the season last year. And their 33 one-run wins were the highest totals in the Majors. They head into the season as the favorites out West and that always seems like the kiss of death. Also, it has been seven straight years that team that has finished in second place in the West has had a worse record the following season.
2011 Record: 73-89
2012 Wins Over/Under: 80.5
Odds To Win 2012 NL West: 18/1
Odds To Win 2012 NL Pennant: 18/1
2012 Colorado Rockies Odds To Win World Series: 35/1
Outlook: Colorado was a bust last year. They entered the season as one of the favorites to win the West but were never really in the competition. They still have some top-end talents. But this franchise has been overrated for the better part of a decade and I don’t expect much out of them this year.
The Rockies seem to have a never-ending train of starters running through their system. Former ace Ubaldo Jiminez was shipped to the AL last year and Colorado heads into this season with Baltimore castoff Jeremy Guthrie penciled in as their top arm. Behind him are a bunch of “Who?” arms that no one can feel too comfortable about. Their pitching uncertainty is going to make this a tough team to bet on or against early in the year.
Colorado was No. 23 in the league in bullpen ERA last year and I don’t see a lot of reasons for optimism that this year’s group will be better. And in the West, where there are so many games decided in the last two innings, that puts the Rockies at a big disadvantage.
Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki sure get a lot of hype because of how their play translates fantasy baseball. But to this point they haven’t proven that they can dominate and they still need to get help from the rest of the lineup. Colorado added some really nice pieces – Casey Blake, Michael Cuddyer, Marco Scutaro and Ramon Hernandez. If they can keep those vets, as well as venerable first baseman Todd Helton, healthy then this is by far the best lineup in the division and one of the better ones in the NL.
The Rockies were No. 7 in baseball in runs scored last year and their lineup could be even better this season. But unless their pitching gets markedly better – and I don’t see anything to make me think that will be the case – they are still the proverbial square peg trying to fit into the round hole in the pitching-heavy NL West.
San Diego Padres
2011 Record: 71-91
2012 Wins Over/Under: 73.5
Odds To Win 2012 NL West: 15/1
Odds To Win 2012 NL Pennant: 60/1
2012 San Diego Padres Odds To Win World Series: 100/1
Outlook: The Padres knew it was going to be a rough year after losing star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. But they didn’t know just how long and how ugly it was going to be as one of only three lineups in baseball that scored under 600 runs last year.
I would like to say that things are going to be better on the offensive front this season. But they just won’t be. San Diego will again have to win with pitching and defense and they will have to hope that guys like Orlando Hudson, Jason Bartlett and Chase Headley can come through with some clutch hitting. They are also desperate for a breakout year from physically gifted center fielder Cameron Maybin. But I wouldn’t hold my breath. Carlos Quentin was supposed to be a difference-maker. But he is already injured and I’d be stunned if they got more than 50 inconsistent games out of him.
The good news is that Petco Park can take even the most mediocre starter and turn then into a viable pitching option. They are hoping that’s the case again this year with guys like Tim Stauffer, Dustin Moseley, Clayton Richard and Cory Luebke. All four of those pitchers finished with ERAs under 4.00 despite combining to go just 23-39 last year. I am really not impressed with a single one of them. But if Edison Volquez can get healthy I think he could dominate out West. We will see.
There really isn’t anything to like about this San Diego team. They don’t have the high-end starting pitching talent that they have had in the past. They don’t have a single difference-maker in their lineup. They basically have to pray that every game they play is 2-1 or 3-2 and that they can find enough clutch (see: fluke) hits and make enough big (see: lucky) plays to stay competitive out West. This has been a worst-to-first division since its inception. But I wouldn’t be holding my breath that this team will be able to catch a rush.
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