November 30, 2022

Laying Odds Part 2: National League

August 1, 2008 by · 12 Comments 

Josh Deitch follows up with a look at the divisional races in the N.L. and sets odds for the division winners.  How much did the Manny Ramirez trade shake up the balance of power in the league?  Find out inside…

As I wrote part one of my analysis, one thought continued to run through my head, This is a long column…I’ll probably have to break it into two.  So, even while I finished up my look at the A.L. East, I happened to be planning my breakdowns for the National League.  In all honesty, I did not plan on spending a lot of time in the N.L. West.  It was a bad division.  A team one or two games over .500 could have won it.  I was basically going to quickly lay odds, suggest that the last place finisher in the division trade places with the best team in Triple-A, and move on.  Then Boston traded Manny Ramirez to the Dodgers.

N.L. WEST:  Diamondbacks, Dodgers, and Rockies? 

Los Angeles Dodgers 

There was a scene in the last season of Deadwood that inexorably changed the way I looked at the show.  George Hearst (Gerald McRaney), a business man looking to gain control of the camp on the eve of its inclusion into the United States, meets with Alma Garret (Molly Parker), a widow that owns one of the most lucrative gold claims in the black hills.  Hearst menacingly asks Alma to sell her claim and leave Deadwood.  Alma refuses.  Hearst listens coolly to her rejection, calmly walks her to the door, and sees her out.  When he closes the door, he soliloquizes that he ardently had to restrain himself from raping and killing the widow.  At this point, I had to hit pause on my DVR.  Two thoughts raced through my mind:  Did he just say that? and Wow, that’s f—ed up!  Hearst transformed from morally ambiguous businessman to ethically bankrupt villain.  I could never look at him the same way again.

This past week-and-a-half acted as Manny Ramirez’s soliloquy.  Many people out there will never be able to observe his play without thinking of his recent shenanigans.  While he has never been the picture of hustle or sanity, he took his act to a whole new level this past week.  Multiple times, he took almost six seconds to run to first base.  Then, when the Fenway faithful responded by booing the lackluster effort, Manny blamed the Red Sox organization for turning the crowd against him.  For eight years, Boston fans put up and even accepted Manny’s routine, but as the specter of a new contract loomed on the horizon, he managed to poison that dirty water.  If a player on one of my teams had acted like Ramirez, he would not have seen a field until he apologized to every single one of his teammates.  Instead, Manny’s behavior will be rewarded with a multi-year, multi-million dollar contract.  This past week, he transformed from an awesome hitter with personality quirks that could be entertaining into a remorselessly selfish businessman with inexplicably quick hands.  I will never look at him the same way again.

That being said, the Dodgers outfield now consists of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Manny Ramirez.  In a division where there hasn’t been a clear cut favorite since mid-June, a hitter like Ramirez pushes the Dodgers into another stratosphere.  Manny will behave under Joe Torre, continue to produce, and drive L.A. to first place by September 1st.  Despite the fact that the keystone combination of Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra borders on 230 years old, the Dodgers have some serious young talent in Russell Martin, Kemp, Ethier, Loney, and pitchers Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda, and closer Jonathan Broxton.  Ultimately, Ramirez will have an immediate impact on a team that ranks thirteenth in the N.L. in runs scored and fifteenth in slugging.  This was a no-brainer of a move for the Dodgers.

ODDS: 5-1 

Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks have been one of the most exciting stories of the year.  Just like the Rays, Arizona has proven that teams can compete with young talent, as long as that talent is really good.  With Brandon Webb and Dan Haren at the front end of the Arizona rotation, they are a force rolling into August.  The Diamondbacks’ staff ranks first in the N.L. in WHIP and quality starts, second in opponent batting average, and third in ERA.

However, their lineup is young and inconsistent.  Conor Jackson, in his fourth year of service, leads the team in batting average and OPS, while rookie Mark Reynolds leads spearheads Arizona’s offense in homers, RBI, and runs scored.  If Stephen Drew or Chris Young struggle for a stretch, so does the offense.  The Diamondbacks made no significant moves at the deadline, and now find themselves in direct competition with a Dodgers team that has notably upgraded its offense.  Every single L.A. hitter will be better with Ramirez hitting in the middle of their lineup.  These next three games against the Dodgers will be very interesting to watch.

ODDS: 10-1 

Colorado Rockies

The Rockies are done.  The only reason I included them on this list is in appreciation of the run they went on to finish last season.  Before the end of the month, Brian Fuentes will be sent somewhere on a waiver trade, and lots of young players will see more substantial playing time.  In a summer movie season that saw the release of blockbusters such as the Dark Knight and Iron Man, the Colorado Rockies are The Wackness.  Denver residents, time to start quoting Dumb and Dumber: “So, you’re saying there’s a chance…”

ODDS:  1,000-1

N.L. CENTRAL:  Cubs, Brewers, Cardinals 

Chicago Cubs 

In a series against the rival Brewers that experts described as too close to call and carrying playoff implications, the Cubs just laid the smack down.  After squeaking out the first win with a late inning rally, the Cubs went on to sweep the series, outscoring Milwaukee in those final three games 25-7.  With the return of Alfonso Soriano and the surprising success of Ryan Dempster as a starter, the Cubs may be the most talented team in the National League.  Their offense ranks first in batting average, runs scored, on-base percentage, and OPS.  Their pitching allows a National League leading .243 opponent batting average, and ranks second in ERA, saves, WHIP, and quality starts.  On top of all that, the Cubs have a run differential of +130!  The team that ranks second in that department has a run differential of +82.  Umm, wow! 

Perhaps the only weakness that the Cubs have, besides Jason Marquis in their starting rotation, is the bullpen.  Kerry Wood has been shaky at best as a closer, and now has been sidelined by a blister.  Carlos Marmol has run hot and cold.  But since allowing four earned runs to the San Francisco Giants on July 12th, he has not allowed a run in five outings and has struck out nine.  The Cubs have also called up Jeff Samardzija.  For whatever reason, like Joba Chamberlain last season, whenever this ex-Notre Dame wide receiver enters the game, everyone in Wrigley seems to receive an intravenous supply of Red Bull.  Between Samardzija and Marmol, the Cubs may have a better bullpen without Kerry Wood.

By the way, with the inclusion of Samardzija to the Cubs’ Major League roster, the Wrigley media guy has the easiest slam dunk of a JumboTron montage ever.  Every time this kid enters the game, if Wrigley doesn’t play the scene from Rudy where Ned Beatty says, “This is the most beautiful sight these two eyes have ever seen,” and then play the Rudy music, the Cubs don’t deserve to make the playoffs.  A mid-eighth inning clip of Charles S. Dutton belting out, “In this life, you don’t have to prove nothin’ to nobody but yourself.  And after all you’ve gone through, if you haven’t done that by now, it ain’t gonna happen,” would bring the house down.

ODDS: 2-1 

Milwaukee Brewers

Between Ben Sheets and CC Sabathia, the Brewers have one of the best one-two pitching combinations in the league.  They went all-in with the Sabathia trade, and have shown dividends from the move for a while now.  However, this past series against the Cubs provides us with an interesting touchstone.  On August 1st, the Brewers find themselves five games out of first, having just been swept at home by their divisional rival.  The big test for this team occurs right now.  How will the Brewers respond to this setback?  Will they step up and take at least four of six from the Braves and Reds, or will they simply lay back and claim defeat?

Look, Ryan Braun has put up MVP-type numbers and both Sheets and Sabathia could be in contention for the Cy Young, but if the Brewers do not respond here, their season could be over.  Players like Braun, Prince Fielder, and J.J. Hardy may just be one year too young to bounce back from a serious body blow like this.  It’s a possibility that both Fielder and Hardy could fall into devastating slumps for the next two weeks, and Ryan Braun will be forced to carry the team.  If the Cubs were able to just roll into Milwaukee like the Germans into Paris, what happens when they come back in late September?  Will those three games to end the season even mean anything?  Only time will tell.

ODDS: 20-1 

St. Louis Cardinals

Did anyone expect the Cardinals to be eleven games over .500 by the end of July?  Anyone?  Bueller?  Remember the sequel to Get Shorty, Be Cool?  Be Cool was one of those ensemble movies that packed in some serious heavy-hitters, such as John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, and Vince Vaughn.  But as I left the theater, I realized that The Rock, as a gay country singing bodyguard, and Cedric the Entertainer, as a throwback wearing mini-van driving rap tycoon, stole the show.  My immediate thoughts after viewing were, Where in the world did that come from?

The same goes for the Cardinals.  Besides Pujols, what do the Cardinals have?  Kyle Lohse, Braden Looper, and Todd Wellemeyer have thirty wins between them.  Ryan Ludwick and Rick Ankiel have a combined 45 homers and 133 RBI.  Yadier Molina and Troy Glaus have been surprisingly productive.  As a result, the Cardinals are 61-50.  Where in the world did that come from?

ODDS: 115-1

N.L. EAST: Phillies, Mets, Marlins

New York Mets

Heading towards the trade deadline, the Mets needed a bat in the outfield, a bat behind the plate, and at least one more arm in the bullpen.  Damaso Marte and Ivan Rodriguez went to the Yankees (I could not be happier about the end of the Kyle Farnsworth era in New York), Manny Ramirez went to the Dodgers, Ken Griffey Jr. ended up in Chicago, and Jason Bay found his way to the Red Sox.  This leaves the Mets with the same holes to plug as they head down the stretch.  On top of all that, besides the inclusion of Johan Santana, the core members of this team are the same players that took part in one of the biggest collapses in baseball history.  This year, instead of leading by seven games, they trail by one.  Does anyone else see a problem here?

That being said, I think the Mets have enough to finish the job this year.  Two weeks ago, when Billy Wagner was not available to close and the Mets lost to the Phillies by giving up six runs in the ninth, Jerry Manuel had his team back on the field the next night ready to win.  The Mets came back to win the series in two tight, tense ballgames.  Last year, after receiving a blow to the body like the July 22nd loss to the Phillies, the Mets would have folded.  Randolph would have panicked, Minaya would have made some undesirable trade, and Wright, Beltran, Reyes, and Delgado would have lost confidence.

Manuel brings something different to this Mets team.  Somewhere, in the mire of the Willie Randolph controversy and the constant threat of Queens’s residents standing on a ledge, this team galvanized.  They came together and found a resiliency that I never expected to see from this group of players.  The Mets have amassed a 9-4 record against the Phillies.  When the dust clears in this division, I expect the Mets to be the last ones standing.

ODDS: 4-1 

Philadelphia Phillies

Perhaps the best thing to come out of the past few seasons has been the growing rivalry between the Mets and Phillies.  These teams simply do not like each other.  Both teams have potent offenses, holes in their pitching staff, and gaping chasms in their bullpens.  The Mets play a flashy, self-publicizing style of baseball, where every positive occurrence gets punctuated by a complicated multi-step handshake.  The Phillies play a more reserved style, letting the accomplishments of Howard, Rollins, and Utley speak for themselves.  Most importantly, while New York possesses a run differential of +46, the Phillies almost double that total, outscoring their opponents by 77 runs.

The Phillies’ main problem resides in their pitching staff.  Beyond Cole Hamels, who despite the impressive numbers has been streaky, and Jamie Moyer, who remains incredibly old, there isn’t much else.  Kyle Kendrick has a 4.59 ERA.  Brett Myers possesses an ERA over five.  Furthermore, as the pressure mounts down the stretch, would you ever rely on Brad Lidge to get a big out?  I’m giddy with anticipation over the prospect of Lidge facing David Wright with a one run lead and a man on second.  Will he experience a Ricky Bobby-like flashback of Albert Pujols?  Don’t be surprised to see him sprint off the mound in his tightie-whiteys, shrieking that his clothes are on fire.

ODDS: 8-1 

Florida Marlins

Simply stated, the Marlins are the most exciting team in baseball.  They can’t pitch (they rank 14th in the N.L. in ERA, 15th in quality starts), can’t field (they lead the N.L. with 86 errors and a league-worst .979 fielding percentage), possess a run-differential of -21, and inexplicably are 1.5 games behind the Phillies.  Let me repeat that.  The Marlins have been outscored this season by 21 runs, and yet have won 53% of their games and could end up winning their division.  At the end of the day, the Marlins either win by bludgeoning their opponents to death or getting shut out.  Apparently, they bludgeon well.

For this entire season, Florida has played beer league softball.  They refuse to consistently pick up the baseball, their pitchers lay the ball over the middle of the plate, but their hitters swing as hard as they can every time up.  Every time I see a Marlins highlight, I half expect to see catcher John Baker taking warm ups with a cigarette dangling from his lips and a half-empty tallboy of Miller High-Life perched in the dirt next to him.  I am eagerly awaiting the situation when a Marlins hitter gruesomely tears both hamstrings trying to beat a throw to first.  Then my analogy will be complete.

As fun as it may be to watch this team, you can’t win a division without pitching or defense.  However, if they hedged their bets and hired Jenny Finch and Artie Lange to finish out the season at pitcher and first base, I would watch every game.

ODDS: 500-1


12 Responses to “Laying Odds Part 2: National League”
  1. Brian J. says:

    Phillies 8-1? Mets 4-1? After Santana, who on the Mets is a consistent starter historically? And what about that corner outfield deficiency they failed to address? Or their sketchy bullpen?

    Or the fact they still haven’t overcome that collapse in September?

    I think to make the Phillies double the odds of the Mets might be a little off.

  2. Tim says:

    Congratulations to the Giants and the Padres! They have a combined 83% chance of winning the division.

    I never know what to think of articles like this. half the time I just think they’re bait. No professional writer should have such a complete lack of a grasp on basic math.

  3. Adam says:

    I know you were probably joking around, but you don’t seriously think that Wrigley has a Jumbotron, do you?

    Also, you realize that when laying odds, you have to create something that adds up to 100%, right? You’ve given the Padres and Giants well over a 50% combined chance of winning the NL West simply by virtue of not including them in this list.

  4. Tim says:

    I’d like to clarify, I meant 75% chance to win the NL West. The 83% chance represents the odds that the “favorite” doesn’t win the division.

  5. trajan says:

    wood shaky at best? look at his numbers bud…wood’s been pretty solid as a closer, his whip is just over 1.00 and his K/BB ratio is a superb 55/13. He’s been a damn good closer this year.

  6. Josh Deitch says:

    OK, first of all, I really appreciate the fact that you guys are reading. Second, I was really using this column to order the contenders in my mind. I was not setting realistic odds, but trying to illustrate the chance I felt teams had in winning their division. I looked at the odds gimmick as a betting line: if I put down a dollar, how much did I expect in return if the team I bet on won. I was not offering my numbers as gospel and pure percentages but more as a guideline to show where I felt these teams stand. Just like I put a JumboTron in Wrigley Field (obviously false), the numbers were meant as entertainment.
    Again, thanks for reading. It means a lot, and I will try to be more clear with ideas like this in the future.

  7. Tim says:

    That’s not an excuse. If you want to write a column about “laying odds” on contenders, then actually do it. At least make them close. I don’t care if you’re 5% off in your totals, but how hard is it to look at Baseball Prospectus and take a look at their projected odds to see how yours match up?

    Professionalism is an important thing in journalism. If you want to be taken seriously, do some research. Kerry Wood has been a BEAST as a closer this year. There are maybe 3 closers in the entire league who are pitching better than him, and you think he’s shaky?

    Lidge is better than Wood this year. He has made countless outs in pressure situations. As long as he isn’t facing Albert Pujols in the NLCS, you can pretty safely rely on him. 28/28 in SV opportunities with about a 12 K/9 rate.

  8. Mike Lynch says:

    “Professionalism is an important thing in journalism. If you want to be taken seriously, do some research. Kerry Wood has been a BEAST as a closer this year. There are maybe 3 closers in the entire league who are pitching better than him, and you think he’s shaky?”

    Wood has blown five saves in 29 opportunities and has a 9.00 ERA in his last five appearances. If you want to chalk that up to one poor outing (July 5 at St. Louis) that’s fine, but he also has a 5.40 ERA and a 1.92 WHIP dating back to June 15 (10 appearances). The five blown saves are nothing out of the ordinary, but he’s far from being a sure thing (few closers are). He ranks among the top five N.L. closers in at least six categories by my count, but is eighth in ERA and his 3.02 is nothing special for a closer. If you want to call him a top five N.L. closer, that’s fine, but he’s not quite as BEASTLY as you think, and I don’t think calling him “shaky”, at least since June 15, is much of a stretch. Try doing a little research of your own before coming here and blasting others’ opinions.

  9. Tim says:

    BP has Kerry Wood’s VoRP at 14.3, good for 5th overall on closers. There was one closer who’s having a good season that I completely forgot about: Kevin Gregg.

    Anyhow, Kerry Wood is sporting a 4.12/1 K/BB ratio, with a 1.01 WHIP and a .301 BABIP, which is significantly higher than other closers. Cherry picking his last 5 appearances when he’s made 44 on the year is hardly a good argument if you’re going to talk about a reliever. If he has a 5.4 ERA in his last 10 and a 9 ERA in his last 5, then what’s his ERA for the 5 before that? ~1.80

    Now, if you want to talk about relievers in general, then yes, Kerry Wood is no longer a top 5 pitcher. Okajima, Morrow, Marmol, Shields, Balfour, etc have been amazing this year as well. Sadly, the bullpen ace isn’t the person who gets paid the most, the one with the highest SV total is.

  10. ER says:

    I appreciate good humor and even more than that, I appreciate a Yankees fan believing in the Mets (even when some of us Mets fans want to forget that it’s still baseball season).

    Keep up the great work, Josh!

  11. Mike Lynch says:

    “Cherry picking his last 5 appearances when he’s made 44 on the year is hardly a good argument if you’re going to talk about a reliever. If he has a 5.4 ERA in his last 10 and a 9 ERA in his last 5, then what’s his ERA for the 5 before that? ~1.80”

    I agree. I didn’t say Wood wasn’t fantastic over most of the first half of the season (he was), and it’s hardly fair to judge his entire body of work on a couple of bad outings. All I said was that it wasn’t much of a stretch to call Wood “shaky” considering his ERA and WHIP since June 15.

  12. Grace says:

    Do you really think that HEARST would have raped and killed Alma??
    I don’t think he would have.

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