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NL West Projects as Two Horse Race

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Diamondbacks lagging in 4th place projection

STORY EDIT AND UPDATE

Fangraphs published their standings today, a day after I wrote below. LINK. My calculations were off a bit, but the overall gist remains the same. Per their updated standing projection

LAD 97-65

SD. 95-67

SFO 78-84

AZ 74-88

COL 67-95

Taking a quick look at Fangraphs depth chart projections for each team in the NL West, I added up the Pitching and Hitting fWAR for each team. (As always, it’s best to open links in this article in another tab or window to better understand). There are drop down files at that link above that allow you to go to each team and select either hitters or pitchers once you get to that team’s page. You can also select by position,

Here is a recap of exactly what Depth Chart Projections are. Fangraphs starts with the average rate of production from ZIPS, which are created by Dan Szymborski and STEAMER, which are created by Jared Cross, Dash Davidson, and Peter Rosenbloom. ( Website )

They then create depth charts based on publicly available information and make playing time projections. The rates are then applied to the playing time projection. FG will update as trades and signings happen prior to and throughout the season. As the season progresses, they also will have a link for Rest of Season, or ROS. The Fangraphs standings projections are then based on these depth chart projections.

So What follows is a quick summary of where things stand at the moment, presumably a week out from Pitchers and Catchers reporting.

I simply take the total projected Pitching and Hitting WAR, add that to 48 Replacement Wins, and come up with a rough estimate. This isn’t exactly what FG will publish soon when they roll out standings projections. They will have tweaks, and I am probably missing out on some details of their methodology. And of course there are still roster moves to be made before the season starts. Injuries will happen as well, and FG Depth Chart projections will reflect all of that.

But for now, this is what it looks like:

Notes:

1.) The Dodgers pitching Projections don’t yet include Trevor Bauer on the Page. But there is a 3.8 WAR projection for him on his player page. I simply added his 3.8 to the team total and then deduced 1.0 WAR to allow for the innings/starts he takes away from other presumably lesser pitchers. i.e. , I fudged it. But they’ll end up within 0.5 WAR once they update it.

2.) Padres pitching projects to be on par with Dodgers, even with the Bauer addition. Surprising perhaps, but both staffs have plenty of guys with durability/injury question marks.

3.) Despite having several big stars, the Padres don’t quite have the depth that the Dodgers do at the major league level, and this is reflected in the projections further down the position player tables. But if there are a lot of injuries, the Padres may have the better farm system at the moment to bring in re enforcements.

4.) The Giants and Diamondbacks are in a dead heat for 3rd place. The Giants project to hit a little better and D-backs project to field a little better, and it’s a wash at the position players table. But Giants appear to have a slight edge in pitching. Clearly this kind of difference is well within the “margin of error”. It’s a coin flip for 3rd place.

5.) The Rockies pitching actually projects to be about the same value as the Diamondbacks. But their position player projection, already weak, was gutted by the Nolan Arenado trade. They always seem to come up with a couple of young guys that hit, at least in Coors field though.

6.) With the way projections are regressed to the mean, especially by averaging the two systems, the extremes here, 95 for LA and 61 for COL are actually quite high and low respectively. This is also the lowest projection for a Mike Hazen team I’ve seen. Usually the Dbacks have projected anywhere from 76-84 wins since Hazen took over.

Scheduling note:

The D-backs open with a 4 games series in San Diego, and then play them 2 more times at home on April 27-28. They don’t see the Padres again though until June 25th. Meanwhile they don’t play the Dodgers at all before May 17th, also a 4 game set on the road. Then the next time they see LA is June 18th for three games at Chase.

Opinion:

I believe the D-backs need to take advantage of the SOFT first 6 weeks of the season, when they have a lot of games against the Rockies, Reds, and Marlins. Prior to the 4 game series in LA in Mid May they’ll have played 41 games. If they can get well above .500 in those first 41, and establish themselves as a contender prior to facing LA, that will give them confidence and perhaps it can carry forward. But if they get off to a slow start, or are already struggling just to stay around .500, the 6 week stretch between Mid May to end of June is going to be very tough.

It could very well be apparent that the D-backs will be a long shot to take a Wild Card Spot. Presumably one of the two Wild Cards will come from the loser of the division race between LA and SD. One of the stronger teams from the NL Central or NL East is likely to take the other.

If that’s looking like the case, Mike Hazen will want to consider having a quick trigger on mid season trades should the opportunity arise. A lot of times potential buyers aren’t ready to deal much before July 15th. But sometimes a veteran having a good first 2-3 months can have a lot more trade value if the other team can get more games out of them, (as opposed to just 50-60 games after July 31st). The opportunity isn’t always there. But if the DBacks aren’t on pace for at least 86+ wins by Mid-late June, and there is a chance to cash in some trade chips a few weeks ahead of the trade deadline, they should seriously consider.