N.L. West Head to Head, Part 4: The Evil Dead 

Before we jump into the details, I have to say this: The Dodgers will suck this year, even if they [*biting tongue*] finish ahead of the Giants, even if they [*flagellating self with red-hot electric cables*] win the World Series. In the small print of Grigori Perelman's proof of the Poincaré Conjecture was this note: Sunt Dodgeri, ergo horribili. The formula, boiled down for lesser minds, goes something like this: [[AB+OPS/81]/.300x - 35(team ERA)/Kgs of Lasorda]]. You could look it up.

Finally proven after a century of brain-sweat, this postulate will always trump the possibility that, say, Chad Billingsley might already be better than Matt Cain. Remember, it doesn't matter what you or I think. Do the math.

The projected lineups


SS Furcal
CF Pierre
1B Nomah
2B Kent
LF Gonzo
RF Ethier
C Martin
3B Betemit


CF Roberts
SS Vizquel
1B Aurilia/Klesko
LF Bonds
2B Durham
RF Winn
C Molina
3B Feliz

Comments: Juan Pierre? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA -- oops, bunt single. I hate that guy. Still, Pierre was the most ridiculed free agent signing this winter until, um, well, someguywhogot$126million. Both Pierre and Furcal are career .350 OBP guys, but Pierre hasn't cracked .330 since 2004. Still the Furcal/Pierre combo is younger and thanks to Furcal has a lot more power than the Giants' 1-2 punch. What's more, against LHP Dave Roberts won't (or shouldn't) be in the lineup. In the middle of the lineup, L.A. is relying on health above all else. Any of the Nomah-Kent-Gonzo trio could miss significant stretches of time, though the same is true of the Giants middle. Health aside, the Bonds advantage is neutralized by Nomah's advantage over the Aurilesko combo. Call it a wash. Back end of the order: Martin at 23 already better than Molina, Ethier at 24 better than Winn, Betemit at 26 has upside beyond Feliz's proven mediocrity. (And he's simply keeping the spot warm for Andy LaRoche, who raked in AAA last year as a 22-year-old.)

Rating: O at SF, O at LA.

The projected rotations





Comments: I argued strongly last year the Giants should beware of paying Schmidt big money over multiple years. But the way the winter orgy proceeded, I would've been happy if the Giants gave him the contract he signed with L.A. Here's his ZIPS projection:

192 IP / 172 H / 22 HR / 77 BB / 183 K / 3.94 ERA

His projected ERA is better than any Giant starter. Will he outperform Zito? It will come down to his health. Over 35 healthy starts, yes. With nagging injuries like those that hampered him in '05 and somewhat last year, no. Penny and Lowe will be good to very good -- if Matt Morris strains real hard, he could have a Derek Lowe-ish season. Penny has Cy Young stuff and Delmon Young maturity; I'll still pick him to have a better season than Morris or Lowry. Post-TJ surgery Randy Wolf could be a great pick-up, but ZIPS isn't optimistic (92 IP, 4.89 ERA). The Dodgers have enough pitching depth to replace him in May if need be, but for now let's assume they let him and his $8 M salary go as far as possible. Part of L.A.'s depth is Billingsley, whose half-year in '06 excited L.A. fans as much as Cain's '05 tickled us up north. BP prospect guru Kevin Goldstein wrote this recently: "Billingsley had an up-and-down rookie campaign, but the pitcher you saw in August, when he went 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in five starts, is the real deal and he's poised for a breakout with his No. 1 starter potential."

So, Zito over Schmidt (barely), Cain even with Penny, Lowe over Morris, Lowry over Wolf, and LA's fifths over SF's.

Rating: N at SF, N at LA.

Projected Bullpens: Saito did his best Aki Otsuka impression last year, coming out of nowhere to close with emphasis, striking out 12 batters per 9 innings. Right behind him is the massive Jonathan Broxton (6'3", 288 lbs.), closer-in-waiting and only 22 years old. The rest of their bullpen is Beimelish and Tomkovian, but the Giants have no answer for L.A.'s late-inning combo. Unless Benitez makes a remarkable comeback and the youngsters step up, the Giants will have the worst bullpen in the division.

Rating: OO at LA and SF.

Outfield defense: Pierre and Roberts are carbon-copy, fleet of foot with arms of rag. Gonzo in left -- I'm stunned, but BP's "Rate2" metric says he's been above-average five of the past six years. As a mere 39-year-old pup, Gonzo merits a leg up on Bonds. I'll give Winn the nod in RF until we see Ethier play more. Slight ADV: SF. Infield: BP says Kent is about average and Durham well below. Nomah not so good, but Aurilesko will not be so good, either. Furcal is better than Omar, and Feliz better than Betemit. Slight ADV: LA. Bench: Gonzo's heir apparent, Matt Kemp, is the key. He could platoon against lefties and force Gonzo to the bench. His ceiling is higher than Todd Linden, but he's only 22 and may not be ready. Also: Jason Repko, Ramon Martinez, Marlon Anderson, James Loney, Olmedo Saenz.

Final comment: The Dodgers clearly have a better lineup than the Giants, with young prospects Kemp and LaRoche waiting in the wings, a much better bullpen, and can at least match the Giants' strong rotation. Their defense won't be any worse, and they have a decent bench. Adjusting for the Poincaré postulate, the Giants will win 15 of 18.


SMALL PRINT UPDATE: I regret to inform the readership that MC Hammer's Baseball Time! is no longer on the blogroll. His last update was June 2006. If you can't update your blog at least as often as "Can't Touch This" is played at someone's Bar Mitzvah, you don't deserve a link. What you gonna do about that, Hammer?!


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