Wednesday May 27, 2009
Why the San Diego Padres CAN win the NL West in 2009.
I keep hearing people saying that the Dodgers have the NL West won and no one else has a chance of winning the division.
I want to present one counter argument to that misplaced thought.
(Note: I starting writing this article several days ago and am just getting around to posting it so, even though I have adjusted several of them some of the stats may be off just a bit, but the general idea is still as sound today as it was Tuesday.)
Before I give you any more commentary let me post a few stats.
Can you figure out why these stats show the Padres CAN still win the NL West?
Brian Giles – .175
Kevin Kouzmanoff – .231
David Eckstein – .225
Edgar Gonzalez – .190
Chase Headley – .234
Chris Young – 4.76
Juan Pierre – .395
Casey Blake – .309
Orlando Hudson – .349
Brad Ausmus – .355
Randy Wolf – 3.02
Jonathan Broxton – 1.17
So what do all these players and their stats have in common?
They are all far off their career norms.
One of the most accurate predictors of human performance is called “Regression (or progression) Towards the Mean”.
What that means is athletes tend to move from where they are currently towards their career averages during the course of a season, whether that is regressing or progressing.
In real simple terms, if a player has hit .250 for the first 7 years of his career and is currently hitting .350, he will almost certainly slump from .350 towards .250 as the season goes on.
There are occasional career years or break out years in which a player hits substantially more than his career averages, but in subsequent years they almost always regress towards the career average.
So the players listed above are far off their career norms, and only one, Kouzmanoff is in the age group most likely to have a break out year, so all should regress or progress towards their career averages.
All but one of the batters are more than 40 points off their career averages coming into 2009.
So why does this mean the Padres CAN contend in the NL West?
Brian Giles is hitting more than 120 points below his career average. Considering his age, if he only regresses to f his relatively low combined batting average for the last 3 years, he still will improve by 100 points.
Kevin Kouzmanoff is hitting 35 points below his career average of .266 coming into this season. Kouzmanoff has hit an average of 20 home runs per season and currently he has 4. He has been a player that hit better later in the season his first two seasons, so we should be able to expect an improvement as this season goes along.
David Eckstein has been a very consistent hitter. Not a high average guy for sure, but most years in the .270-.300 range with a career average of .285 coming into the season. Right now he is 60 points below his career averages and chances are he will improve as the season progresses.
Edgar Gonzalez and Chase Headley do not have full seasons at the major league level under their belts so it is more difficult to project improvement this season, but after looking at their minor league stats and last years results it can pretty safely be said that they are better hitters than what we have seen so far.
Throw in injuries to Luis Rodriguez and promising shortstop Everth Cabrera and the Padres hitting should see marked improvement as the season goes on.
Only Scott Hairston is hitting far above his career averages for the Padres.
Chris Young is a full ERA point over his career averages. He is healthy, but has not been consistent so far this season. One game pitching a gem and the next getting blown out. He should also improve.
Heath Bell is below his career average, but as a closer he can see a small increase and still close games effectively.
A large percentage of the Padres position players are due to see an increase in batting average and the number two starter is due to see a full point come off his ERA as the season progresses.
In other words, chances are the Padres will get better as the season goes on.
Now for the Dodgers.
Juan Pierre is hitting more than 90 points above his career norms.
Casey Blake is hitting 20 points higher than his career high and 50 points above his career average.
Orlando Hudson is hitting 45 points higher than his career high and 65 points better than his career average.
Brad Ausmus is playing in rarefied air at over 100 points higher than his career average.
Randy Wolf is more than a full point lower than what his career ERA of 4.26.
Jeff Weaver is more than a full point below his career ERA of 4.72.
Jonathan Broxton is more than 1.8 points lower than his career ERA of 2.98.
These key Dodgers players are due for a fall in batting average and a rise in ERA.
Add to that the continuing struggles of Rafael Furcal. After his injury and subsequent back surgery I posted that no regular in baseball had ever returned from the surgery Furcal had done and completed a full season of baseball and that ALL who have had the surgery had significant drops in production when they did come back.
Furcal is 48 points below his career batting average of .286 and is regressing. He may still improve, but no other player who has had the same back surgery has ever completed a full season or hit his career average ever again in their careers.
Only one Dodger starter is more than 40 points below his career averages, Andre Ethier at .250.
In other words, chances are the Dodgers will get worse as the season goes on.
Will the Dodgers get 8.5 games worse?
Or even meet the Padres half way, with the Padres getting 4.5 games better to the Dodgers getting 4.5 games worse?
That is a question for the baseball Gods.
My point was to show that there is a plausible argument for why the Padres CAN catch the Dodgers and win the NL West.
I have had my say. Now what do you think?