The NL West Race Is Over

Congratulations to the Los Angeles Dodgers for clinching the first playoff spot of the 2009 season.

Okay, fine, it’s only May 6th. The Dogers have another 134 games to play. Things could go wrong. The whole team might get the swine flu. Short of that, however, this division race is over.

Heading into the season, the Dodgers and Diamondbacks were the two leading contenders for the division, with the Giants kind of lurking as an interesting team if they can find a couple of hitters. The Rockies and Padres were also-rans. The Dodgers looked like a better team than Arizona, but injuries to guys like Hiroki Kuroda threatened to potentially leave the door open for the D’Backs if they could get some production from their young hitters and All-Star seasons from Webb/Haren/Scherzer.

That’s out the window, though. Brandon Webb is on the DL, the D’Backs offense is a mess, and they are now 8.5 games behind the surging Dodgers, who are playing like the best team in baseball despite using Eric Stults and Jeff Weaver in the rotation. The Giants stand as the only team within seven games of LA in the division, and they’re struggling to stay above .500 because they have the worst offense in the National League.

Quite simply, there just aren’t any challengers to the Dodgers throne. At 20-8, they could play .500 ball the rest of the year and finish with 87 wins. The Giants would have to play .548 baseball (75-62) to finish with 88 wins and nip LA by a game. The Diamondbacks would have to play .570 baseball (77-58) to finish with 88 wins and squeak past the Dodgers. And that’s assuming that the LA falls apart and plays .500 baseball the rest of the year.

In reality, we should probably expect the Dodgers to play something like .550 baseball for the remainder of the season. They aren’t 20-8 good, but they’re an above average baseball team, and their +48 run differential is easily the best in baseball. If the Dodgers play .550 ball the rest of the way, they’ll win 94 games. I’m not sure anyone else in the rest of the division will win 84 games, much less 94.

It’s early, yes. Baseball is a crazy sport where all kinds of unexpected things can happen. The D’backs went 20-7 last year to start the year and didn’t win the division. That’s okay – I’m still more than willing to say that the NL West race is over and done with. Thanks for playing, everyone. We’ll see you in October, Dodger fans.





Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

77 Comments
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Tom B
13 years ago

i’m willing to say this even though last year the same exact situation was proven wrong? what??

Tom B
13 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

heh i’m not saying you’re wrong, it just sounds funny 🙂 they do suck without webb thats for sure. hearing mid june at the earliest now, and that’s just not enough time for them to make it up.

Nick
13 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

The Giants seem like last years Dodgers. They have a great pitching staff, but lack that big bat. If Sabean is able to pull off a Manny Ramirez trade, they might be able to make it close.

Phillip Andelson
13 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

How do you figure that Sabean would be able to trade for Manny Ramirez? Most teams don’t trade within the division, and Sabean hasn’t exactly shown a propensity to pull of brilliant trades or signings.

And last year, even without Manny the Dodgers had a better offense than the Giants do this year. I gotta agree with Dave here that this division is pretty much settled.

B
13 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

I read Nick’s comment as a Manny-like impact trade, not trading for Manny Ramirez. “Sabean hasn’t exactly shown a propensity to pull of brilliant trades or signings.” I take it trading for Jeff Kent and Jason Schmidt don’t count…

Not that Sabean’s a good GM, but you should know your facts before you say something like that.

Phillip Andelson
13 years ago
Reply to  Dave Cameron

I see I read that wrong now about the “Manny impact” sort of trade. However, I still stand by what I said about Sabean: you’re telling me that Joe Nathan, Boof Bonser and Francisco Liriano for AJ Pierzynski was a good move? Jeremy Accardo for Shay Hillenbrand?

And how about his signings? Barry Zito? Armando Benitez? Aaron Rowand? Steve Finley? Ray Durham? A couple good signings a while back, but nothing notable at all recently. Their player development hasn’t been good under Sabean; they can develop pitchers, but here’s the only hitters their farm system has developed in the past fifteen years: Pedro Feliz and Fred Lewis. These would be my facts.

Ermanno
13 years ago
Reply to  Tom B

The site http://www.baseballrace.com can help to see how was the situation last year and obviously all along the past years.
The same day in 2008 Arizona (22-11) was first in the division and the Dogers were second (19-14) 3 games behind. Without the WBC last year at the same date there were more games played
In 2007 the Dogers (18-13) were first in NL West and the Padres (17-14) one game behind.
A big hello from Italy!

Ermanno
13 years ago
Reply to  Ermanno

I was losing the d … dodgers