Projecting NL West Defense 2009

The numbers below come from Tango's Fans scouting reports and Sean Smith's forecasts linked yesterday. For the Tango numbers, I'm pretty sure 50 represents an average defender.

Arizona:

  • Chris Young 69 (-1)
  • Chris Snyder 64
  • Stephen Drew 62 (-9)
  • Augie Ojeda 61 (-2)
  • Justin Upton 53 (0)
  • Mark Reynolds 41 (-8)
  • Chad Tracy 39 (-2)
  • Conor Jackson 34 (-1)

There seems to be a considerable disconnect between what D-backs fans are seeing their defenders do and what the objective analysis says they've been doing. I think it might be a situation where excellent pitching is making a below average D look better than it really is. Contrast that to Colorado, where poor defense made the pitching look worse in 2008, but projects to turn that around in 2009. At any rate, losing their one true plus defender (besides, perhaps Snyder) in Orlando Hudson is going to inflict a heavy toll on the Diamondbacks in 2009. You all know my bias against Snakes, so take what I say about them with a grain of salt, but I'm hopeful that a further hit on the defense combined with regression to the mean in their pitching staff bumps their runs allowed up to at least the 730 run range for the season (they allowed just 706 in 2008), preferably as much as 750. This would put a lot of pressure on an offense that's probably incapable of scoring 750 themselves, and leave a door open for the Rockies to step up as the main challengers to the Dodgers next year.

 

Colorado:

  • Troy Tulowitzki 77 (+11)
  • Carlos Gonzalez 76 (+9)
  • Ian Stewart 64 (+2)
  • Todd Helton 63 (+8)
  • Clint Barmes 59 (+7) 
  • Ryan Spilborghs 57 (0)
  • Chris Iannetta 54
  • Brad Hawpe 41 (-15)
  • Jeff Baker 41 (-4 2B, -6 OF)

I think Barmes is a little underrated here. Meanwhile, Hawpe could be getting a little too much credit for his arm by the voters, particularly in his accuracy, while for some reason there were too many who thought Willy Taveras threw like Juan Pierre. Tulowitzki is a major factor for the Rockies in 2009, as last season his offense wasn't the only part of his play to suffer through a sophomore slump. The Rockies absolutely need him to rebound to be the defender the fans and numbers say he will be. Without Gonzalez the Fans average score is 57, with him we obviously go up from there.

Los Angeles:

  • Matt Kemp 72 (0 corner, -10 CF)
  • Russell Martin 71
  • Andre Ethier 68 (0)
  • Andruw Jones 64 (+1 CF)
  • James Loney 62 (+1)
  • Blake DeWitt 61 (+5 2B)
  • Manny Ramirez 32 (-15)

Call LA the Lake Wobegone of defense, where everybody's above average, at least according to the fans. Their two dynamic young outfielders seem to be the only visible overrates, however. The bad news for the Dodgers is that without re-signing Rafael Furcal, their team defense will be taking a hit in 2009. Similarly to the Rockies 2007, defense was an important part of Los Angeles' run, albeit without as much publicity. There have been signs that Kemp and Ethier have been slipping, Orlando Cabrera projects as a +1 at short, Edgar Renteria as a -6. The Dodgers have been talking to the Pirates about Jack Wilson, who would be an asset (+7) on the field, but he'd be only a marginal player in the lineup. Similarly to the D-backs situation with Orlando Hudson, it seems like there's no way around a downgrade at this position for the Dodgers. Speaking of Hudson, the Dodgers aren't going after Furcal, it could probably be safely assumed that they'll forego the cost of an upgrade at second as well. I'm getting the sense that they're saving their pennies for Manny and a pitcher. Ramirez's bat still more than makes up for his inability to defend, by the way.

San Francisco:

  • Randy Winn 69 (+7)
  • Emmanuel Burriss 65 (-2 SS, +4 2B)
  • Aaron Rowand 65 (0)
  • Fred Lewis 52 (1)
  • Bengie Molina 51 
  • Eugenio Velez 38 (-12)
  • John Bowker 37 (-1)
  • Pablo Sandoval (-3 3B)

I'm starting to see the imperative for San Francisco to sign either Hudson or Furcal, as their projected middle infield's just ugly brutal both offensively and defensively, and you'll note that despite their minor league depth, there's just not a really high quality talent at second or short. They've got a quality defensive outfield, but given how far behind they are offensively from the other three clubs, they could have used a defensive advantage to make up ground. Unfortunately, that advantage is just not there.

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Right now, depending on LA's offseason moves and who wins the Rockies centerfield and second base jobs, it looks like the Rockies or Dodgers will project to be best defensively in the division in 2009. Both will be a good bit ahead of Arizona and San Francisco in this category, but currently neither has the starting pitching of those latter two clubs, so run prevention could still turn out to be very tight among these four. The Rockies actually need it to be, compare the last two seasons:

2008 Runs Allowed:

  1. Los Angeles 648
  2. Arizona 706
  3. San Francisco 759
  4. Colorado 822

2007 Runs Allowed:

  1. San Francisco 720
  2. Los Angeles 727
  3. Arizona 732
  4. Colorado 758

I think the recipe for a successful Rockies team in the current NL West is to be in that 750 RA range, while scoring about 850 or so on offense, much like the 2007 squad. If LA only allows 650 again, however, we could be in trouble. I think currently that the Dodgers are a 700 plus allowed team, but there's a lot of offseason left to change that.

 

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