Nick Piecoro of azcentral.com takes a look at this years projected standings from the Chone projection system, and points out that the Diamondbacks are the clear favorites heading into this year. While this seemed ludicrous at first, after looking through the actual numbers that Chone projects, it makes a lot of sense. How much better are the projected 2008 Dodgers versus the projected 2007 Dodgers? While the 2007 CHONE projections seem to be gone, look at the 2007 ZIPS numbers for a decent idea for an idea of what we thought we had heading into last year.
|POS||2007 ZIPS||2008 Chone||Diff(OPS)|
|C||Russell Martin||.279/.359/.432||Russell Martin||.282/.376/.438||.023|
|1B||Nomar Garciaparra||.288/.354/.469||James Loney||.284/.347/.431||-.045|
|2B||Jeff Kent||.272/.352/.473||Jeff Kent||.273/.356/.452||-.017|
|3B||Wilson Betemit||.262/.328/.451||Andy LaRoche||.268/.356/.455||.022|
|SS||Rafael Furcal||.286/.358/.431||Rafael Furcal||.277/.348/.394||.047|
|LF||Luis Gonzalez||.244/.326/.384||Juan Pierre||.288/.333/.363||.014|
|CF||Juan Pierre||.299/.342/.385||Andruw Jones||.249/.345/.491||.109|
|RF||Andre Ethier||.296/.366/.463||Matt Kemp||.289/.337/.467||.025|
|SP1||Brad Penny||3.95||Brad Penny||4.11||.160|
|SP2||Derek Lowe||3.83||Derek Lowe||3.83||.000|
|SP3||Jason Schmidt||3.94||Chad Billingsley||3.92||-.020|
|SP4||Chad Billingsley||4.38||Hiroki Kuroda||3.78||-.600|
|SP5||Brett Tomko||4.47||Jason Schmidt||4.23||-.240|
That 2007 team projected for 85.6 wins. Now looking at those two teams side by side, are the 2008 projected Dodgers much better? Not really. Having Nomar and Schmidt not be useless makes that team a heck of a lot better than what really happened. Since I had a generally sour outlook on the team last year, and projections tended to agree with me, it does make sense that a team that projects to be pretty similar should also project to be a team with wins in the mid 80s.
The difference between a team that I pretty much hated coming into the year last year and this one is I feel like a lot of the team this year can beat those projections. Loney and Kemp have a ton of upside and can easily contribute more. Rafael Furcal can bounce back from his absolutely horrendous year last year and beat that. In 2007, there was no one on the list that I thought had any real hope of beating their projection.
If no one has any kind of stellar breakout performance, then yes, this team will win about 85 games and probably get crushed by the Diamondbacks. However, with almost everyone on the team except for Kent (who can easily fall off the table) and Kuroda (who I think gets way overrated here) projected very conservatively, this team has a lot of room to improve on those 84 wins. There's a ton of variance in this team's possible performance, but 84 wins is very close to the low end of this team's potential. Despite what this system says, the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks should be neck and neck all year.