Baseball fans love predictions. They look at ZiPS, Fangraphs, and all kinds of sources to see what people are predicting about the upcoming season. While most of these predictions are based on mathematical algorithms, few are based on good old fashioned gut feelings. Of course, there needs to be a mix of statistics and actually watching these players, but this series of articles will make one prediction about each MLB team.
This article will look at the NL West, making one prediction about each team. The order in which they are listed is what I believe the final standings will be this season.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Clayton Kershaw will have one of the best seasons for a starting pitcher in history. That entails a combination of a few of his season totals. He will win at least 21 games, which he has done twice before. He will finish the season with a sub 2.00 ERA, which he has done three times before, and he will finish with a sub 1.000 WHIP which he has done five of the last six seasons. He will pitch at least 230 innings which he has done three times, and he will strike out 300 batters as he did in 2015. He is a Hall Of Famer and if it weren’t for an injury in 2016, he probably would have won his fourth Cy Young award at the age of 28. He finished 5th in voting and received two first place votes despite making only 21 starts, pitching 149 innings and striking out 172 batters. He posted a 1.69 ERA, 1.80 FIP, and 0.725 WHIP. He is the best pitcher on the planet and he will win his fourth Cy Young award this season.
The Rockies will make the playoffs, but they will lose to either the Mets or Nationals in the NL Wild Card game. They have the offense and defense to carry them through the regular season, however their pitching is nowhere close to good enough to take them through the playoffs. They’ve acquired Ian Desmond to play first base, giving them an above-average hitter at each of their starting positions besides catcher (until they go out and sign Matt Wieters). They also signed Greg Holland to be their closer, who I believe will be outstanding as he has always been. Their bullpen is strong overall as it also includes former closers Adam Ottavino, Jason Motte, and Chad Qualls, as well as Mike Dunn and long man Jordan Lyles. They will win a lot of high-scoring games this year, but their obvious lack of starting pitching (with the exception of Jon Gray) will be their downfall.
San Fransisco Giants
The Giants will not make the playoffs in 2017 for the same reason they lost a lot of games in 2016: their bullpen. Yes, they did sign Mark Melancon who has emerged as a reliable closer. However, they lost Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo, two consistently effective relievers with closing experience. They are down two and up one, and while that one is better than each of those two, they have yet to address bullpen depth. Fireballer Hunter Strickland should end up being pretty good for them as an 8th inning man, and while youngster Derek Law had a good year for them, he could still be regarded as unproven. They got lefty Will Smith from the Brewers late last season who can get lefties out, but other than them, they don’t have much. With all those pitchers last season (except Melancon), the Giants blew a franchise record 32 saves. One man does not make a bullpen, and while acquiring Melancon was a good first step, the Giants’ bullpen as it stands will not get the job done.
Shelby Miller will continue to be a bust. After an All Star season in 2015 with the Braves in which he pitched 205.1 innings, striking out 171 batters and posting a 3.02 ERA, the Diamondbacks traded for him in the hope that he would be a strong #2 starter behind Zack Greinke. Instead he was horrible, going 3-12 with a 6.15 ERA (4.87 FIP) striking out 70 batters in 101 innings. Many were surprised, however from 2012-2015, Miller had a career 3.82 FIP, 1.236 WHIP, and 7.6 K/9. Even in his All Star season, he had a very high 1.247 WHIP. The fluke is not that he was bad last season in hitter-friendly Arizona, but that he was overrated with a career 3.22 ERA, much lower than a more telling 3.82 FIP.
San Diego Padres
Of you’re a Padres fan, look away. Not just at this article, but the entire season. They will lose 100 games this season and trade one of their two good players, Yangervis Solarte, before the trade deadline. They just locked up first baseman Wil Meyers through the 2023 season in a smart move, but other than him and Solarte, the Padres quite frankly have nobody remotely capable of even making an All Star team. Each position, excepting the corner infield spots, are manned by below-average players. Their rotation and bullpen are both very weak, and their closer has a career 4.80 ERA (3.84 as a reliever).