David Brown and Kevin Kaduk ('Duk at Big League Stew) preview the NL West in 2011. Their bottom line, the Rockies are possibly, maybe good enough to compete for a Wild Card, but the Giants are clearly ahead in the division. Yeah, about that...
What happened in 2010 isn't a viable predictor for what's going to happen in 2011.
- Aubrey Huff isn't going to be as good as he was (with some assistance from Buster Posey) last season, and we're not talking a small amount of drop-off here. Brandon Belt won't be nearly as good as Aubrey Huff was last season. Albert Pujols might be as good as Huff and Posey were last season, Joey Votto might, but after that the list gets quiet.
- Andres Torres, ditto. Actually the same thing is true of the entire Giants outfield. Mark Derosa's back and that will help them just fine, but he's not going to be as good as the guys that were out there last year.
- Buster Posey actually may be as good as he was last season, he's that talented, but chances are much more likely that he drops off in his rate of production. Pujols fell back his sophomore season, Tulo and Braun fell back in their sophomore seasons, it's not insulting to a player or not seeing their greatness to say that regression is likely to happen, it's just the safe bet. Because of this and the fact that he's going to need rest if San Francisco doesn't want him going Russell Martin on them, the Giants aren't likely to get as much in the line of added value from the catcher position in 2011 as their fans are suggesting.
- The Giants pitching staff is vulnerable. They've taken on this mythic quality, we're all supposed to marvel and bow to their greatness, but outside of Tim Lincecum, there's plenty to be dubious about. SABRmetrically, Matt Cain is equal to Jason Hammel (okay, I don't actually believe that, but it's a lot closer than most fans will think,) Jorge De La Rosa is equal to Jonathan Sanchez (this is true) and Jhoulys Chacin is equal or better (this) than Madison Bumgarner. Barry Zito is not better than Aaron Cook or Esmil Rogers, Jeff Suppan is considerably worse. Their bullpen is overrated and were at least as lucky as they were good last season and Brian Wilson really isn't that funny most of the time. There, I said it. Even assuming they get through another relatively injury free season (which is already in doubt with Wilson,) they're not as far ahead of the Rockies or Dodgers as people seem to believe.
- People talk about the gains the Giants will make at third base and at second, positions they were already average at last season, but Miguel Tejada. Miguel Tejada is the Giants friggin' starting shortstop. Juan Uribe was inexplicably worth three wins at the position last year, Tejada in 2011 will lose it all possibly more.
Look, I have no problem with people seeing the Giants as a better team than the Rockies right now, they're talented, they won enough last season and the Rockies lost enough, to justify this, but to see that clear a separation in talent shows too much fermented dough in the brain. About the Rockies, Brown says:
Well, here's the problem: They've gotten below-average production at first base, third base and right field.
Let me go on about this. In the same article that Brown can see how the Giants are going to automatically get better at second (with 1/3 of a season more of Freddy Sanchez), catcher (with 1/4 of a season more of Buster Posey) and third (with a skinny Pablo Sandoval,) and stay just as good elsewhere, he assumes that the Rockies are going to stay just as bad at their under-performing positions from 2010. So why does Sandoval magically bounce back to his productive self of two seasons ago, but not Seth Smith? How would a healthy Freddy Sanchez help the Giants more than a healthy Todd Helton help the Rockies? Why is Posey a lock to live up to his promise in 2011, but not Ian Stewart?
I don't know if Brown's really biased for the Giants or against the Rockies, but I'm guessing it's just winner goggles clouding his view. My point again is that the two teams are a lot closer than their records at the end of 2010 suggested and when the Rockies do win the division this year, it's not going to be because they got lucky, because it's an odd numbered year or because the Giants inexplicably faltered, it will be because the talent of the team is up the task.
Anyway, enough about the talent of the team, what about the value?
$414 million according to Forbes, up 8% from 2010.
In estimated value, the Rockies clearly are behind the Giants ($563 million), who are clearly behind the Dodgers ($800 million.) If the Monforts' rosy projections are to be believed about the coming few seasons, however, the team should gain in revenue and value at least on the Dodgers, not that there will be much chance for passing Los Angeles in the next 30 years, or ever, without substantial demographic/population shifts.
All that said, could Forbes be underestimating the Rockies as well? $28 million of the $30 million gain over 2010's estimate came from the league-wide sport category or "portion of franchise's value attributable to revenue shared among all teams" with the Rockies brand management remaining neutral and their market rising by $2 million. We've already noted the sharp increase in attendance in the Spring, we've noted the anticipated near double digit percentage increase in attendance for the regular season, it just seems to me that the Rockies brand has made solid inroads in their market over the last 12 months. Some numbers make me wonder if I'm too close and misreading things (for instance, no Rockies player was among the top twenty in jersey sales in 2010,) so we'll see. Again, the proof will be in the gate receipts.
Value and revenue are one thing, how the money gets spent is another, and efficiency is where the Rockies have been able to keep pace with LA and SF over the past few seasons. The Monforts are a lot more hands on with the Rockies than the general trend of owners seems to be going. In this, they've certainly had their missteps, but at least they haven't been Wilpon/McCourt type of missteps. I think they've learned to leave the baseball to their baseball people like General Manager Dan O'Dowd and take on more of the business responsibilities.