I posted these thoughts over at Ducksnorts earlier today, but since I'm a total egoist and love a captive audience, I thought I would share my notions on the NL West and the Padres for next year.
I want to preface my analysis by saying I was pretty dejected after Holliday conspicuosly managed to miss home plate and still be safe. I thought that the Rox were an unstobbale force (powered by Jesus, as some have suggested) and that the D'backs were on the cusp of greatness.
And then I read an article by Nate Silver over at SI. You can read it too. It really made me re-think my concern about this coming season. Here is the article, I apologize for sucking at HTML and not being able to embed quotes yet: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2007/baseball/mlb/10/31/bp.nlwest/index.html?eref=T1
Without further ado, I give you my thoughts on next year. What do you guys think?
D-backs: I don't care what people say, this year was flat-out statistically flukey. The "kids" didn't compete at nearly the level they were supposed to, and I think it's pretty safe to assume that 07 was Byrnes' career year. As Silver points out in the BP/SI article, the bullpen performed much better than their peripherals. Whereas Heath Bell was a monster in both traditional stats like ERA and sabermetric stats like WHIP, K:BB, the D-backs' relievers were seriously outperforming their numbers. Nobody has any idea how Hudson's surgery will affect his game and its likely that Randy Johnson is not the savior they expect him to be.
Rockies: Aside from their unbelievable run at the end of the year, their pitching failed them pretty consistently. The Rox are probably going to let Fogg and parts of their 'pen walk, which complicates matters for them. Also, there's talk of trading Atkins, which would take another weapon out of their offense. Although they beat us season-record wise, the Rox weren't as dominant as our egos and hearts tell us they were.
Dodgers: Probably the best team in the division (talent-wise), and yet the most poorly managed (from the FO on down). Torre won't cause the Dodgers to play their uber-talented kids, and they'll likely over-react to this season's disappointing finish by throwing stupid money at the wrong people (see off-season, 2006), while allowing key kogs to escape via trade or FA (Kemp, Wolf). The Dodgers will continue to over-rate veterans and under-rate their home-grown talent, which will help us out.
Giants: Abysmal condition. There's no way around it. Even by jettisoning Bonds et al., the Giants have no organizational depth to fill the holes vacated by the mass exodus of their veterans. Barry Zito will continue to doom the team (his contract increases in cost every year) and despite their phenomenal young pitching, the Giants will have no offense to support it. Plus, Matt Cain is a douche.
Padres: Here are my expectations in terms of performance this year by position versus performance last year by position.
C: Bard will probably continue to post surprising OBP numbers, and hopefully some of his power re-appears. We can't expect his RISP numbers to stay at the same level, but he should be a solid piece of the puzzle that delivers similar performance to last year.
1B: By all signs, Adrian is just starting to come into his own. If he continues to drive the ball with authority and learns to hack less-often at pitches above his shoulders, he could put up a very good to great year.
2B: I can't see production out of this position being any worse than last year. By default, we almost have to get better here.
SS: Khalil finally showed what he can do when he's healthy for a full year, and the results were pretty good. His defense is still rock-solid, and his 27 jacks were second on the team. I'd love to see him learn to recognize bad pitches, but I'll take Khalil for what he is. A fantastic defensive short stop that slugs and Ks a bunch (in addition to my hetero life-mate, of course). I anticipate similar production in 08.
3B: From May on, Kouz showed who he truly was. With any luck, he'll continue to grow his confidence and continue to mash. His defense should also improve in his second year, so I anticipate we'll improve our production at this position as well.
LF: Almost like 2B, whatever we run in LF should perform better than last year. I think a Hairston/Bradley combo could be extremely potent, and it will be interesting to see if Headley factors into this discussion.
CF: The black hole/question mark for 08. CF shouldn't make or break us, as Cameron was not a huge part of the offensive equation in 07. I'm completely happy with great D in CF at the sacrifice of some offense. I'm predicting production will be the same or worse in 08.
RF: Giles did his thing despite being hurt all year. For a more thorough discussion, check out Geoff Young's analysis from yesterday (http://ducksnorts.com/blog/2007/10/did-giles-bounce-back-and-where-does-he-go-from-here.html). Either way, I think we can expect at least similar numbers from Giles next year.
SP 1: Jake had his best year ever, and I hope that another season with Maddux helps him mature a little more. I would love for 08 to be the year that Jake becomes the "big game" pitcher.
SP 2: CY had a great year pre-injury. Hopefully he can recuperate in the off-season, get healed, get his head right, and dominate.
SP 3: Maddux will probably decline slightly from last year (and I definitely see him staying a Padre), but he should still be reliable for a quality start every 5th day.
SP 4 & 5: These are the definite question marks. Germano/Hensley and Wells/Cassel/Tomko were league-average and below-average respectively last year in these spots. Hopefully we can at least maintain that status, if not improve.
Relief Corps: I don't think any Padre fan worries about our relief pitching anymore. Seriously, Kevin Towers has got to be one of the best evaluators of relief pitching in the past 30 years.
Overall, I see the Padres getting better at several positions, while only really experiencing potential drop-off in CF. Guys like Khalil and Bard will play their respective roles while people like Adrian, Kouz, and Hairston continue to improve.
With the right moves this off-season, we could certainly be in a great position for 08. Our situation is not nearly as dire as it may seem.