This Could Be Your Ad! Sponsor . . .
Don't Forget the West!
Advertise your business, or pay tribute to your favorite team!

Don't Forget the West
by Richard Van Zandt,
August 30, 2006

Don’t Forget the West

Hey Tony, don’t mean to disrupt your prediction mojo, especially seeing as you’re always right (Cincinnati 69-93 – last place).  But in your examination of the Wild Card contenders, you seem to have forgotten something.  THE NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST!


Ok, so it’s not the strongest division in baseball but what NL division is?  As a matter of fact, what NL team outside of the Mets (.623 winning percentage) is?  The Cardinals sit on top of the Central with a .531 winning percentage, 1 percentage point higher than the Dodgers who lead the West.  The Padres are second – 3 games back – with a .508 winning percentage, higher than any non-first place team in the league, which is fitting seeing as THEY LEAD THE WILD CARD RACE! 


That doesn’t even cover the Giants or Diamondbacks who as the sun rises on Wednesday August 30, trail the Padres by just 2 and 3 games respectively. 


I know the east coast world tends to forget us out here on the left coast, but that doesn’t mean these three teams won’t be a factor.  So I thought it’d be nice to also get a look at the Western division teams vying for the Wild Card.


Arizona Diamondbacks


By all rights this team should have been done when the Grimsley hit the fan.  But somehow they rebounded.  Not the likeliest contender but with a mix of veterans (Luis Gonzalez, Orlando Hudson, Brandon Webb and Livan Hernandez) and some exciting young players (Stephen Drew, Connor Jackson and Carlos Quintin), they will have to be contended with.  Their 4.63 team ERA is 9th in the NL, lower than both the Reds and Phillies, and their team batting average (.271) is 4th, higher than all but the Dodgers, Cardinals and Braves (another team – only 4 games back – that you’ve overlooked).  In the month of September, they’ll play six against Washington and three against Colorado, both last place teams.  They’ll also have their opportunities against teams that matter such as the Marlins (3 in Florida), the Giants (3 in SF) and Padres (7 total, 4 at home).  A good run against those teams could catapult this long shot.


San Francisco Giants


Their 3.87 team ERA for the month of August is fourth best in the NL and their pitchers’ .241 collective BAA is second.  Offensively, their .270 batting average is fourth in the league for the month.  They are an admittedly old team, but old necessarily means experienced.  They are a collection of players who know what it takes to get it done.  They have stumbled all year, yet remain just two games back.  The starting pitching has been strong all season (their 4.19 collective ERA is tops in the NL as are their 821.0 IP and 7 complete games) and is coming on even stronger of late (3.00 since Aug. 13 – 11-5 since then) and the offense, led by a recently resurgent Barry Bonds, is coming alive as well. 


As we get set to turn the calendar forward to September, Bonds has 11 hits in his last 22 at bats, including his first multi-home run game in two years.  Omar Vizquel is batting .308/.375/.403 and has committed just 3 errors all year.  Ray Durham has been having a career year (.295, 20 HR, 80 RBI) and Pedro Feliz, constantly hot and cold, has shown signs of maybe getting hot at the right time (8-for-his-last-24 - .625 SLG).  But perhaps most significantly, trade deadline pickup Shea Hillenbrand has suddenly caught fire, collecting 11 hits in his last 17 at bats including 3 HR. 


They’ll play three each on the road in September against the Reds, Cubs, Brewers and Rockies, as well as three at home versus the Rox.  They’ll also play San Diego, Los Angeles and Arizona just three times each, all at home.


San Diego Padres


I’m sure it’s easy to forget the team that’s leading the Wild Card chase, but let me refresh you on why they are: It’s the pitching.  Underrated as a pitching staff all season, the Padres have been at or near the top in team ERA all year long, and are currently tied with the Mets at 4.09 for the league lead.  Their starters are a collective 5th (4.36) and the bullpen is second (3.55).  More importantly, Jake Peavy has a 2.82 ERA over his last 7 starts.  They are also rumored to be chasing David Wells which would add to their pitching depth, stung by the loss of Chan Ho Park. 


Offensively is where they struggle, especially with Brian Giles suffering a down year.  But Mike Piazza has been solid and gives them a veteran presence in the lineup that is capable of lifting the team on his shoulders on any given night.  Adrian Gonzalez has had a breakthrough year and is a large reason why they are where they are.  Josh Barfield won’t be the NL rookie of the year, but his numbers (.281, 10 HR, 47 RBI) have been solid.  They’ll need Khalil Greene to come back healthy and hitting, though any team managed by Bruce Bochy you can rest assured will be playing hard down to the wire. 


They’ve got perhaps the toughest schedule among the Western contenders, playing all their games left against L.A. and S.F. on the road and then finishing on the road in Arizona.  They’ll also, however, have six games to put distance between themselves and the Reds, and they get to play last place teams Colorado (6) and Pittsburgh (3) a total of nine times. 


The St. Louis Factor


Thanks to this year’s quirky schedule, all three of these teams will have to face St. Louis in September (who equally oddly will not face the Cubs again in 2006).  The Giants and D’Backs are 1-2 against the Cards while the Padres are 2-1.  In fact, depending on how these teams do against St. Louis, there could just be another team to contend with in the Wild Card chase.  The Cardinals.




Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Richard lives in San Francisco and can be reached at

BaseballEvolution Features

2006 Team Previews
See where we think the teams will finish, and what we have to say about them

Hall of Fame
See who's in, who's out, and where we differ from Cooperstown

The Teams Page
Find about all about your favorite team including Stats Leaders, Awards, Playoff Teams, and More.

Join us as we sift through all kinds of split statistics and divulge what they mean (if anything)

Your source for stats, both conventional and otherwise.

Award Room
MVPs, Cy Youngs, Gonzalez's and Kingmans - all of your award info and analysis right here.

Top 100s
See where we rank'em, and how our lists compare to Bill James, Total Baseball, and others.

Test your baseball knowledge with our obscure knowledge quizzes!

As the season rolls along, check to see how accurate our 2005 predictions were.

See who's making a lot of money to embarrass themselves writing about baseball.

Heated Debates
We don't always agree with each other. In fact, we often don't!

Scorer's Corner
Join Keith in his Scorer's Corner as he shares scoring oddities that he has encountered while scoring Zephyr games.

Scouting Reports
In-depth analysis of various high-level prospects around baseball

Playoff Central
Previews and analysis of all of the exciting postseason action

Fun Stuff
Check out The Name Game, Ballpark Food, Player Nicknames, and More!

Yes, we have them. Check out these other fantastic sites.

Baseball Evolution Store
Books, Baseball Cards, and Memorabilia available here