Now that the All-Star break is over, it is time to discuss the team I think will win the wild card in the National League. As of the July 16, there are 10 teams within eight games of the current wild card leader, the Cincinnati Reds. Those teams are – in order of distance from the leader – the Dodgers, Giants, D-Backs, Astros, Rockies, Brewers, Phillies, Braves, and Marlins. Now a bit of explanation about how I came to pick the NL wild card winner.
The statistics I used to determine who would be the NL’s only non-division winner in the postseason included: wins and losses (as of Saturday’s games), weakness of schedule decided by the number of losing teams left on the teams schedule, team ERA, and runs scored by each team.
The teams were given a rank of 1-10 with a one signifying the top of the list, a ten, the bottom. If two teams had the same amount of runs, I would give the better rank to the team with the better record. If the two teams had same win-loss then I would go by their record away from home. In the end, the team with the lowest amount of points would be the team I pick to take the wild card.
First, the Cincinnati Reds. They are currently leading the Dodgers and Giants by two and a half games. The Reds have 69 games left on their schedule, importantly 40 of those are against teams with a below .500 record. Included in those 40 are the NL’s two worst teams, the Cubs and Pirates – they play them 16 times of which the Reds combined.
The worst thing I can see on the Reds schedule is that they also play the division leaders 16 times. Even though Cincinnati has made a couple questionable trades to try help out their league- worst bullpen, I still see the Reds winning a majority or their remaining games. The Reds in my ratings are first in won-loss ration, sixth in weakness of schedule (WOS), eighth in ERA, and third in runs scored, for a total score of 18.
The next team on the list is the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers are two and a half games off the pace with 70 games left in the regular season. Like the Reds, LA plays more games against losing than against winning teams – but not by much. Thirty-eight of their remaining games are against teams currently with a losing record. Unfortunately for the Chavez Ravine faithful, the Dodgers only get six games against the Pirates and Cubs.
The Dodgers also play 32 games against teams with a winning record, 17 games against the division leaders, and six against the wild card leading Reds. In my rating system, the Dodgers are fourth in W-L (have a bad away record), eighth in WOS, second in ERA, and first in runs scored. This totaled 15 points – great marks but we will have to see how they stack up compared to the other nine teams.
Next in the standings are the San Francisco Giants. The problems and performance of their star slugger, Barry Bonds, is no secret and has affected the team’s performance. And the problems will just keep continuing with Bonds likely very soon to be indicted for perjury and tax evasion. And don’t forget about his failing health that forces him to sit quite a few games out.
Even though I think the Giants have overachieved the first half of the season, their second half schedule is quite favorable. They play 40 games against losing ball clubs, but like the Dodgers, they only play the league’s two patsies – Chicago and Pittsburgh – only six times the rest of the season. This is what I think is the Reds biggest advantage compared to these two teams: Cincinnati plays those teams 10 more times.
When you think about it that is probably about five wins the Reds gain on the Giants and Dodgers. The only way these teams can counter those wins are sweeping the Reds. The Giants play 30 games against winners, but only play 14 against the division leaders, which are a couple games less than the Reds and Dodgers. The Giants ratings – third in W-L, seventh in WOS, third in ERA, and sixth in runs scored – add up to 19.
The Arizona Diamondbacks were in the public’s eye back in June because of the human growth hormone scandal involving former reliever Jason Grimsley.
The Diamondbacks are trying to get out of the spotlight but can’t seem to do so with the fight that Grimsley is putting up to get his remaining 2006 salary. But lately it seems the D-backs just don’t care as they have won seven of their last eleven. The Diamondbacks have posted a 45-46 record at this point of the season, but look like they would rather have the season over than to have it continue into October.
The D-Backs have one of the worst pitching staffs in the league and it shows because they are seventh in the ERA standings. On the other hand, the bats are looking pretty good as the D-Backs rate fourth in runs scored. But I think the downfall of the Diamondbacks will be their schedule. It is currently one of the tougher one in the league as only half of their remaining games are against losing teams.
So figuring that out you can see the D-Backs with their schedule and roster could at best go .500 and that’s not good enough because their elimination number according to mlb.com is 68 losses. So Diamondback fans you have seen the Diamondbacks perform at their highest possible level right now so the only place to go is down. Their rating, with their W-L which rates second and WOS, which rates ninth, is a mediocre 22.
The Houston Astros last year were the NL champions. This year they were predicted to win the wild card and maybe even the NL Central division.
Obviously, things have not gone as planned. The Astros have been moping along this year with one of the worst run supporting offenses in the league; quite contrary to their fine pitching staff. The Astros in my ratings are seventh in runs scored and fourth in ERA this year. But really what is the good if you can expect your pitcher to go out and give you seven strong and give up three or four if your offense can’t score one or two?
This is the problem the Astros will continue with the rest of the year and this is why I feel they will not win the wild card. Their schedule is right in the middle with a rank of five and their wins and losses rank sixth among the contenders. Houston’s schedule is in the middle of the pack. They have 41 games against sub .500 teams the rest of the season.
But since the ‘Stros are in the Central division they get to play the Cubs and Pirates a combined 16 times the rest of the season. Add the points up and the Astros have 22 total. That won’t be enough to get you to the playoffs this year or any year.
The Milwaukee Brewers have been the most surprising team in the NL. The Brewers have compiled a 45-48 record, only good for seventh in the rankings. The Brewers schedule is something they can be happy about, though, because their schedule is fourth on the list.
The Brew Crew plays 43 games against the losing teams, including 14 against the Cubs and the Pirates. But even though they have a weak schedule it won’t matter because – thanks to a rash of injuries on the mound and in the field – they are a measly ninth in runs scored and dead last in ERA. Because of the Brewers inability to score runs when they matter and keep games close with their pitching, they have accumulated a total score of 30. I don’t have to wait till’ the end to tell you that the Brewers are the least likely of any team still contending to win the wild card.
The Colorado Rockies were just supposed to lie down this year and let opposing teams win. But the Rockies are tired of being the league’s laughing stock and have set out to be a contender. They have a 44-47 record so far and are only four games off the Reds. That record gets the Rockies fifth in the rankings for wins and losses.
The bad thing for the Rockies is that they have the hardest schedule remaining of all the teams contending. Out of their 71 games left they only play 33 against teams lower then .500. But they do play the Pirates and Cubs a combined nine times. The Rockies have the same problem as the Astros: they have a good pitching staff but no offense.
Almost shockingly, the Rockies rate first in ERA, but just eighth in runs scored. Those don’t mix at all. With those scores the Rockies have a total of 24 and now we all know that won’t be good enough to win the wild card.
The Atlanta Braves right now are having their worst season in 15 years. You would think the way they are playing that they are for sure out of the playoff race. The Braves, 43-49, are five and a half games off the pace. I was contemplating not even putting the Braves in this article but the way the Braves have played their last 10 games, it is a good thing I did. The Braves are 8-2 in their last 10 and are currently riding a five game winning streak.
Their current record rates them eighth in the standings, but they have the third easiest schedule left. They play 47 games against losing opponents, including 10 against the Pirates and Cubs. The Braves, despite having the sixth rated ERA, have an impressive offense that rates second in runs scored. The Braves total score is 19 putting them close to the top but not quite there.
The Philadelphia Phillies were predicted to be third in the NL East this year. Well, Philadelphia so far that is exactly where they are – and ninth in my wild card formula. The thing that is most interesting about this is how many games the Phillies play against teams below .500 the rest of the season. They play a miraculous 53 contests against those teams and every game that they play in September is against a team that currently has a losing record.
But that is really the only good thing to look forward to if you are a Phillies fan. The pitching staff is one of the worst in the league (they rank ninth) while the batting is just a little bit better. Overall, they are ranked fifth in runs scored, thanks to their super slugger Ryan Howard.
In total, the Phillies have 24 points, which – according to my formula – will not get them into the postseason this year. That is why Phillies General Manager Pat Gillick said he will wait two weeks to see if the Phillies have a chance of making the playoffs before he starts making trades. But don’t expect for much in the way of talent coming Philadelphia’s way. Most reports say that the Phillies won’t give up Bobby Abreu unless teams flash some money at them.
The last team on the list, the Florida Marlins, are in last place in standings so it’s no surprise I don’t feel that they are destined for anything special this year. The Marlins, like the Phillies, have a great schedule to look forward to the second half of the season.
They rank second in WOS because they play against 49 other losing ball clubs. But don’t look for any easy wins as every win this year for the Marlins has been a big task., mostly due to the Marlins mediocre pitching staff that ranks fifth in ERA and they have the worst offensive team in the NL.
Altogether, the Marlins have a total of 27 points which places them second to last in the final standings. This year, though, has been a success as many publications had the Marlins finishing as the second worst team in baseball (ahead only of the Kansas City Royals). But look out for this team next year to possibly win the NL East and again contend for yet another World Series crown.
Los Angeles Dodgers 15
Cincinnati Reds 18
San Francisco Giants 19
Atlanta Braves 19
Arizona D-Backs 22
Houston Astros 22
Colorado Rockies 24
Philadelphia Phillies 24
Florida Marlins 27
Milwaukee Brewers 30
As you can see, my pick for the NL wild card for the 2006 season is the Los Angeles Dodgers. With their pitching staff and offense led by Brad Penny and Nomar Garciaparra, respectively, the Dodgers will be the team to beat come October.
I don’t see the Dodgers getting past the New York Mets, however, as I believe the Mets are the 3rd best team in baseball behind the Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox. Don’t miss a chance to watch this team play. They are a fun bunch to watch – especially when they are winning. I hope you enjoyed my analysis; I had a lot of fun writing it.