Today, I’ve decided to focus on the final remaining division in my 2012 MLB Predictions series. In case you missed my division previews, you can read my AL East Preview, AL Central Preview, AL West, NL East and NL Central preview by clicking on the links provided.
I’ve used the Major League Baseball Yearbook magazine to provide the statistical projects.
Here’s how I think the NL West will end up:
1st Place: San Francisco Giants. (My prediction 88-74)
The Giants finished in second place to the Diamondbacks last season, but I think that they’ll win a few more games in 2012 with the return of Buster Posey to the lineup. I had trouble picking a winner for the NL West, because I love the Giants starters, the Diamondbacks are solid offensively and pitching wise, and the Rockies offense looks great. Ultimately, I had to go with the starting pitching.
Posey suffered a gruesome injury on a home plate collision that cut short his 2012 campaign. The former Rookie of the Year is healthy now, which should help an otherwise below average offense.
Aubrey Huff struggled a bit last year, hitting just .246 with 12 homers. At age 35, you have to wonder how much he has left in his declining skill set. Ideally, you’d like to see more production from your first baseman than Huff offered last season.
Freddy Sanchez dealt with shoulder issues last year and hopes to be ready for opening day. The former NL batting champ gives the Giants good defense and a solid average year in a year out.
“The Kung Fu Panda” Pablo Sandoval should provide the most pop in the lineup. He walloped 24 dingers last year. Sandoval just needs to keep his weight in check so it doesn’t hinder him defensively.
The Giants outfield is sub par. There’s Melky Cabrera, who has bounced around in recent seasons and would classify as an above average outfielder,
but then there’s Angel Pagan, who doesn’t offer much of anything offensively,
and Nate Schierholtz, who doesn’t offer much either.
The Giants playoff aspirations will hinge on Tim Lincecum and the starting staff. Lincecum has arguably been the best pitcher in the National League since his debut several seasons ago.
Matt Cain, who becomes a free agent at the end of the season, should be motivated to put up huge numbers in his ‘contract’ year. Cain would be the ace of most staffs, but fits in nicely behind Lincecum as the #2 of this staff.
Is it just me, or does Cain look eerily similar to this guy in that picture:
Actor John C Reilly.
Madison Bumgarner had a 3.21 ERA last season. That’s amazing for a #3 starter.
Ryan Vogelsong had the comeback of the decade, rebuilding his career and posting a 2.71 ERA while becoming an All Star at age 34. Vogelsong struggled mightly in Pittsburgh when he was the centerpiece of the Jason Schmidt deal that sent Schmidt off to the Giants. After a couple seasons as a mop up man in the Pirates bullpen, Vogelsong disappeared – he went and played in Japan for awhile – before resurfacing last year to baffle NL batters. What a story.
The 5th man of the rotation will be Barry Zito, who will make 19 million dollars in 2012, and still hasn’t posted a winning record or sub 4.00 ERA in his 5 seasons with the Giants. His contract has really hurt the Giants, who could’ve used those millions and millions of dollars to add more offense. Maybe he should focus more on pitching and less on guitar and destroying his liver:
The closer will be the crazy Brian Wilson. I vote for his 2013 Topps Card to be a landscape of this shot: Nothing more:
Wilson surely will look creepier and creepier as the season progresses. What’s he planning on doing with his beard? Will he ever cut or trim it?
2012 Statistical Projections:
C Buster Posey .297-18-75
1B Aubrey Huff .258-15-63
2B Freddy Sanchez .291-8-56
3B Pablo Sandoval .306-24-77
SS Brandon Crawford .243-6-38
LF Angel Pagan .272-10-73
CF Melky Cabrera .314-11-65
RF Nate Schierholtz .273-11-53
SP Tim Lincecum 14-12, 2.91 ERA, 213 IP, 223 K
SP Matt Cain 12-11, 2.97 ERA, 218 IP, 174 K
SP Madison Bumgarner 13-11, 3.05 ERA, 195 IP, 176 K
SP Ryan Vogelsong 11-10, 3.89 ERA, 204 IP, 174 K
SP Barry Zito 5-9, 4.73 ERA, 116 IP, 85 K
RP Brian Wilson 2.85 ERA, 35 SV, 60 IP, 67 K
RP Sergio Romo 1.99 ERA, 1 SV, 50 IP, 65 K
2nd place: Arizona Diamondbacks (My prediction 85-77)
The Diamondbacks won the division last season with 94 wins, which shocked baseball, especially since they had only won 69 games the year before. 25 win improvements are very rare. Nearly the same team returns in 2012, with new additions Trevor Cahill and Jason Kubel. However, I think that the Diamondbacks greatly overachieved in 2011, and probably won’t quite duplicate their success.
Miguel Montero is one of the better young catchers in the game. He’ll also be a free agent soon and may look for Yadier Molina type money.
Paul Goldschmidt will man first base. He’s some power, but he’s a young player who could face difficulty. He’ll be one to watch.
Aaron Hill used to be really good with the Blue Jays, but lost his way last year when he only hit 8 homers. He hit 36 homers in 2009. What happened?
Ryan Roberts is a defensive liability, but has some power to go along with all of those crazy tattoos.
Stephen Drew had a down year in 2011 and could bounce back after only hitting .252-5-45 in 2011.
The outfield of the Diamondbacks is solid – way better than the Giants. They’ve got Justin Upton, who hit 31 homers last year,
Chris Young, who also has pop – 20 homers in 2011, but has struggled with his batting average and on base percentage,
and Jason Kubel, who only hit 12 bombs in 2011 with the Twins, but hit at least 20 in his previous three seasons.
The starting rotation is anchored by Ian Kennedy, who had the best record in Major League baseball last year at 21-4. Can he duplicate it? I say not likely.
Daniel Hudson will be the #2 starter, who posted a record of 16-12 last year.
Trevor Cahill, and Josh Collmenter are slightly above average and round out the rest of the rotation. The #5 job could go to Barry Enright or Wade Miley.
The Diamondbacks were extremely strong in the bullpen last year. Their weakest link was Craig Breslow, and his ERA was a decent 3.79. JJ Putz had the second best season of his 9 year career when he posted a 2.17 ERA with 45 saves.
Bullpen pitchers are tough to predict though from season to season. I think the Diamondbacks may see a bit of a regression in the later innings this year.
2012 Statistical Projections:
C Miguel Montero .292-17-80
1B Paul Goldschmidt .275-24-78
2B Aaron Hill .265-15-76
3B Ryan Roberts .247-16-57
SS Stephen Drew .261-11-68
LF Jason Kubel .264-20-87
CF Chris Young .235-19-69
RF Justin Upton .286-30-90
SP Daniel Hudson 17-12, 3.23 ERA, 231 IP, 180 K
SP Ian Kennedy 17-8, 3.13 ERA, 207 IP, 185 K
SP Trevor Cahill 15-13, 3.86 ERA, 200 IP, 143 K
SP Josh Collmenter 13-13, 3.50 ERA, 193 IP, 125 K
SP Wade Miley 10-10, 4.32 ERA, 154 IP, 127 K
RP JJ Putz 2.41 ERA, 40 SV, 52 IP, 57 K
RP David Hernandez 3.98 ERA, 6 SV, 75 IP, 72 K
3rd place place: Colorado Rockies. (My prediction 82-80)
Even though the Rockies have used the humidor for a few years to negate the effects of high altitude offense, the Rockies look to have a potent lineup for the coming year.
Ramon Hernandez, formerly of the Cincinnati Reds replaces Chris Iannetta at catcher.
Todd Helton, who once put up ridiculous stats, hasn’t hit 20 homers since 2005, but still can deliver a decent batting average.
Second base could feature Eric Young Jr, Jonathan Herrera or Chris Nelson
I’m not a fan of Casey Blake as the team’s third baseman. He’s 38, and the Rockies should be nervous that this is the season where everything kind of falls apart for him and he needs to be a backup or retire.
Troy Tulowitzki is the Rockies best player, and could possibly win the NL MVP award if the Rockies have a decent year. Not too many shortstops in the game can provide 30 homers and 100+ RBIs anymore.
The outfield looks great. The speedy Dexter Fowler, rumored to have increased his muscle mass, will roam center field.
At the corners, the Rockies have a star in Carlos Gonzalez – who belted 26 homers last year,
and free agent acquisition Michael Cuddyer. Cuddyer hit 20 bombs for the Twins and has been a consistently solid performer.
The Rockies rotation looks iffy. Without Ubaldo Jimenez, there is no clear ace. Possibly Jhoulys Chacin could fill that role. He pitched well at just 23 years old last year.
There’s also Jorge De La Rosa. He was injured last season, but went 5-2 with a 3.51 ERA when he did pitch.
Who will be the closer this year? Rafael Betancourt? He’s got good stuff, but his career high in saves is 8. How will he handle the pressure? I guess we’ll find out.
2012 Statistical Projections:
C Ramon Hernandez .278-13-42
1B Todd Helton .292-13-66
2B Chris Nelson .263-7-32
3B Casey Blake .281-15-73
SS Troy Tulowitzki .311-34-117
LF Michael Cuddyer .301-26-101
CF Dexter Fowler .268-7-51
RF Carlos Gonzalez .307-32-110
SP Jorge De La Rosa 10-4, 3.33 ERA, 127 IP, 126 K
SP Jhoulys Chacin 13-13, 3.58 ERA, 193 IP, 161 K
SP Juan Nicasio 9-10, 3.95 ERA, 171 IP, 140 K
SP Tyler Chatwood 8-13, 4.54 ERA, 157 IP, 86 K
SP Esmil Rogers 9-11, 5.35 ERA, 168 IP, 137 K
RP Rafael Betancourt 2.82 ERA, 27 SV, 61 IP, 78 K
RP Matt Belisle 3.16 ERA, 0 SV, 83 IP, 72 K
4th place: Los Angeles Dodgers (My prediction 76-86)
The Dodgers went 81-81 last year thanks mostly to the MVP caliber season of Matt Kemp and the Cy Young season of Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw was valued at 7 wins above a replacement starter,
and Matt Kemp, a whopping 10 WaR. That’s 17 wins.
Without those 2 guys, the Dodgers might have been 64-98 last year. The fact of the matter is, that they have those two guys, and although I think Kershaw and Kemp will do great in 2012, I don’t think they’ll match their 2011 campaigns.
Matt Kemp however, disagrees. He’s projecting a 50 homer, 50 steal season from himself. For the Dodgers sake, hopefully he can, because the rest of their team is very average.
AJ Ellis as the starter? Replacement level player.
James Loney hasn’t nearly done anything close to what he’s capable of doing. As a youngster in 2007 he hit 15 homers with a .331 average. He’s never bettered either of those numbers since.
Mark Ellis is average at best. He had some good seasons in Oakland years ago, but he’s 35 years old now.
Dee Gordon brings blazing speed to the top of the lineup. He has no power whatsoever, but will make pitchers sweat a little extra when he takes his lead off of first base.
Juan Uribe was horrendous in 2011, hitting just .204 with 4 homers. Ugh.
Andre Ethier didn’t contribute much last year, hitting only 11 homers in 135 games. Where did his power go?
Juan Rivera could take the other outfield spot, hitting 11 homers last year, although personally, I’d rather see Jerry Sands there. Sands hit 35 homers in 2010 and 33 in 2011 between AAA and the bigs. Big power.
Besides Kershaw, the Dodgers also have Ted Lilly – who is a class A jerk during batting practice. Lilly is a soft tossing lefty who has been moderately successful in the major leagues.
Chad Billingsley has had some decent seasons in the past, and is young enough that he could return to the Billingsley of 2007-2008.
The other starters, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang, are just average at best.
2012 Statistical Projections:
C AJ Ellis .279-8-54
1B James Loney .287-12-72
2B Mark Ellis .260-7-43
3B Juan Uribe .227-8-36
SS Dee Gordon .285-0-29
LF Juan Rivera .261-13-73
CF Matt Kemp .308-35-115
RF Andre Ethier .287-14-66
SP Clayton Kershaw 18-7, 2.41 ERA, 224 IP, 234 K
SP Ted Lilly 11-12, 3.67 ERA, 189 IP, 160 K
SP Chad Billingsley 11-11, 4.03 ERA, 185 IP, 156 K
SP Aaron Harang 13-9, 3.80 ERA, 211 IP, 168 K
SP Chris Capuano 9-10, 4.65 ERA, 163 IP, 149 K
RP Javy Guerra 3.11 ERA, 30 SV, 64 IP, 55 K
RP Kenley Jansen 3.69 ERA, 9 SV, 63 IP, 69 K
5th place: San Diego Padres (My prediction 65-97)
The Padres are in rebuilding mode and went 71-91 last season, quite a disappointment after winning 90 games in 2010. I expect things to get a little worse before they start to get better in San Diego.
Of all five players in the infield, none hit more than 9 home runs in 2011. That’s a major offensive power outage. Granted, the Padres play their home games at the cavernous Petco Park – but they also get to play 81 games on the road.
Nick Hundley looks to be the starter until top prospect Yasmani Grandal, acquired in the Mat Latos deal, is ready.
Yonder Alonso, also acquired in the same deal, will man first.
The O-Dog, Orlando Hudson, has had a nice career as a middle infielder, and will hope to rebound from a .246 avg from last year.
Remember when Jason Bartlett was an All Star and getting votes in the MVP award race as a Rays shortstop? Well he’s far from that now, hitting just 2 homers last year to go along with a .245 average. His WaR last year was a 0.1, meaning he was basically a scrap heap replacement level player. He definitely needs to improve or the Padres could give at bats to Everth Cabrera.
Chase Headley was once a top prospect, ranked #32 overall in the pre-2008 season. It’s four years later, and he only has 36 homers in 2,114 plate appearances to go with a .269 average. He needs to produce, or could risk being non-tendered after the season.
The outfield features Carlos Quentin, Kyle Blanks, and Cameron Maybin. They all possess the potential to put up power numbers and should make for interesting batting practices.
Quentin is still only 29 and may have some good years left in him.
Maybin is the face of the franchise now, signing a five year, $25 million contract in the offseason.
There’s also big Kyle Blanks, who could potentially hit 20 homers.
The rotation features Edinson Volquez, acquired for Mat Latos. Volquez needs a bounce back season after posting a 5.71 ERA in 20 starts last year.
Tim Stauffer could be the ace, posting a 3.73 ERA last season.
The closer this year will be Huston Street, brought in to replace Heath Bell.
It’s going to be another long year for the Padres.
2012 Statistical Projections:
C Nick Hundley .286-13-45
1B Yonder Alonso .285-13-67
2B Orlando Hudson .256-8-53
3B Chase Headley .276-6-46
SS Jason Bartlett .254-3-38
LF Carlos Quentin .251-19-74
CF Cameron Maybin .260-11-42
RF Will Veneable .248-11-47
SP Tim Stauffer 9-12, 3.47 ERA, 171 IP, 118 K
SP Edinson Volquez 7-9, 4.32 ERA, 144 IP, 140 K
SP Clayton Richard 12-11, 4.00 ERA, 191 IP, 130 K
SP Cory Luebke 12-10, 3.64 ERA, 195 IP, 184 K
SP Dustin Moseley 8-11, 3.46 ERA, 182 IP, 106 K
RP Huston Street 3.99 ERA, 27 SV, 56 IP, 51 K
RP Luke Gregorson 3.06 ERA, 4 SV, 65 IP, 59
So there you have it.
How do you think they’ll finish?
There’s only 19 more days. NineTEEN – we are officially in the teens. It won’t be long now. Also, you could win this CC Sabathia shirt tomorrow, so check back for that.