Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Home Stretch- NL West

The San Diego Padres may be the most surprising team in baseball this season (though the Reds might have something to say about that statement). Perennial cellar-dwellers, the Padres have used a combination of strong (if a little lucky) young pitching, outstanding glovework, and a world-class bullpen to take 5-game division lead into the final month and a half of the season.

The San Francisco Giants are now the only team with a real chance at catching them. The Padres have to feel fairly comfortable, however, especially in light of the fact that the Padres are 9-2 against the Giants this season.

PECOTA has the Padres taking the division in 63% of simulations. The model currently gives the Giants a 36% chance to overtake the Padres and win the division, as well as a 18% chance at the Wild Card, meaning that San Francisco is hovering around a roughly 50% shot at October baseball, as they have been for much of the season.

These teams have seven remaining games with which to potentially swing the division race in their favor. First, the Padres will attempt to solidify their position in a four-game series at Petco from September 9th to the 12th. Then, this series could come down to the final day of the season as the teams play a 3-game set in San Francisco to close out the season from October 1st to the 3rd. Either series has the chance to define the fate of this race.

That’s not the only chance each team has had to shift the balance of this division race. Both teams were active during and after the trade deadline, making several additions they hope can win them the division. The Padres added Ryan Ludwick and Miguel Tejada, bats they hope can provide some help for Adrian Gonzalez in a light-hitting lineup. On deadline day, the Giants added two bullpen arms in righty Ramon Ramirez and lefty specialist Javier Lopez. Since the deadline, the Giants have acquired Mike Fontenot from the Cubs and Jose Guillen from the Royals. They are also reported to be interested in Brad Hawpe and Cody Ross at this time, so San Francisco may not be done adding bats.

I’m going to say the Padres go on to take this division, as much as it pains me. The Giants have been bad against their own division all season, and the Padres will take advantage of this down the stretch. The Giants’ only real chance to take the division is to win a large majority of their remaining games against the Pads, and they haven’t given me any sort of confidence that they have the ability to do that. That said, the Giants should be in the thick of the Wild Card race, along with other teams from every division in the NL. The abundance of close NL races means that this year’s September baseball should be as entertaining as any we’ve seen in years.

Check back tomorrow, when I'll be looking at teams whose 2010 outlook isn't quite as rosy (but for whom 2011 might be better).

1 comment:

  1. Nice blog, though your Giants-slant hasn't been showing much so far. :^)

    I totally agree with your assessment of the Padres rotation, which you did in another post. I had not thought of checking their FIP and xFIP, though I would note that I've been suspicious of that for players in homeparks where HR's are depressed, like Petco and AT&T, so thanks for that.

    What I did was look back into my prospect books on how good they should be, plus look at how they did in the minors. Latos, like most pitchers with a 2 ERA, is not as good as that and should regress some, but most commentary had him as a top of the line starter, definite #2 stuff, so I accepted their good fortune there, and didn't account for any regression on his part, but given your analysis, I see that he probably should.

    I focused more on Richards and LeBlanc, two classic middle to back of rotation starters who are performing like top of the rotation starters. At some point the carriage will turn back into a pumpkin for them.

    Also, for the three of them, Latos, Richards, and LeBlanc have never pitched so many innings in a season before. That does not automatically mean problems for them - see Lincecum and Cain - but what are the odds that three young pitchers going deep beyond their prior innings totals, plus were pitching above their heads to some extent, continue to do so, which was the linchpin of their success so far? I would say pretty low, one or more will succumb to the innings (like Sanchez did in 2008) and not pitch well at all to end the season.

    For me, I liked Correia and would have preferred the Giants kept him. He wasn't like the others, but I would have rather had him, for example, than Wellemeyer in the 5th spot of the rotation this season. Unfortunately, from what I understand, he is a die-hard Padres fan, and was kind of dogging it when playing for us. Not purposefully, else I would not like him, and I think he really wanted to start, and the Giants had him relieving, so that affected him too. At minimum, I would have tried to get some prospect from the Padres in exchange, because you knew where he was going to end up.