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Future War

As we desperately wait for Spring Training to start, we start desperately reaching further and further for stories. Some of us use this opportunity to rip on A-Rod for wanting to win a championship. I say, I've already discussed the 2007 season enough, let's look to the future.

A couple days ago, I laid out the PECOTA projections for the 2009 Dodgers. This got a pretty good response, so I decided to do it again. This time, I'm going to compare the 2009 Dodgers to the team that should be their chief rival by then, the Diamondbacks. Here's the PECOTA projections for the 2009 editions of both teams, laid out side to side.

Russell Martin .291/.376/.453 C Miguel Montero .268/.335/.461
James Loney .294/.353/.484 1B Conor Jackson .294/.380/.495
Tony Abreu .278/.323/.417 2B Alberto Callapso .298/.351/.430
Andy LaRoche .287/.363/.494 3B Chad Tracy .286/.354/.506
Wilson Betemit .259/.329/.440 SS Stephen Drew .290/.358/.522
Andre Ethier .294/.364/.464 LF Carlos Gonzalez .277/.328/.498
Juan Pierre .291/.336/.369 CF Chris Young .286/.372/.561
Matt Kemp .300/.354/.528 RF Carlos Quentin .289/.383/.497
Clayton Kershaw 3.39 ERA SP Brandon Webb 3.53 ERA
Jason Schmidt 4.25 ERA SP Dana Eveland 4.45 ERA
Scott Elbert 4.41 ERA SP Dustin Nippert 4.65 ERA
Chad Billingsley 4.43 ERA SP Doug Davis 4.68 ERA
Brad Penny 4.63 ERA SP Micah Owings 4.76 ERA

Other notable players:

Hong-Chih Kuo 4.28 ERA
Blake Dewitt .251/.303/.396
Chin-Lung Hu .265/.313/.361

Justin Upton .263/.336/.446
Edgar Gonzalez 4.78 ERA
Same disclaimers about taking things with a grain of salt apply here.

PECOTA gives the Diamondbacks a pretty big edge on offense, mainly because it sees Chris Young and Stephen Drew and superstars, while seeing the Dodgers youngsters as merely above average, with Matt Kemp looking the best. Carrying Juan Pierre, Wilson Betemit and Tony Abreu also hurts the Dodgers. Abreu and Betemit are still decent for their positions, but Pierre is clearly the odd man out in this group as the only notably bad hitter between both teams. Compare the production that the Diamondbacks are getting up the middle to what the Dodgers are getting, and you can see the difference between the two clubs offensively.

There are a few reasons for this. First, I tend to agree that only Matt Kemp has superstar potential out of the Dodger hitters, while Loney, LaRoche and Martin "merely" look like above average players who can make a few All Star teams. Second, the Diamondbacks to have the park factor advantage over the Dodgers. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Diamonbacks, on the whole, are an older team than the Dodgers. In 2009, Loney and Kemp will be 23 and LaRoche and Martin will be 25. Meanwhile, the Diamondback core of Drew, Young and Quentin will be entering their age 25 and 26 seasons. In two years, the Diamondbacks should just be hitting their peaks while the Dodgers are probably a little further away.

When you go to the pitching, things look a lot better for the Dodgers. I pulled Kuo out of the rotation and replaced him with Penny since Kuo's projection is based on him being a swing man, so it's not as accurate as it could be. While Clayton Kershaw's projection is probably unrealistic, it's based on just 37 innings of rookie ball, Scott Elbert and Chad Billingsley's mediocre can see huge jumps if they improve their control. Elbert and Billingsley have projected walk rates of 4.6 per nine and 3.8/9, yet they're still functional pitchers. If either of these pitchers find their control sometime in the next two years, they can reach the ace potential that they've been said to have.

Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks pitchers just don't project out very well. They don't have anywhere near the pedigree the Dodgers youngsters do. Of course, the Diamondbacks payroll should be low enough that they could bring in Johan Santana, Ben Sheets or Jake Peavy, much like the Dodgers can bring in, well, Rafael Furcal to cover their middle infield holes. (the market for middle infielders in 2009 is pretty thin).

Again, this is only a projection and so much can change in the next two years, but right now, the Diamondbacks and the Dodgers have very good, cheap teams heading into 2009. In a couple years, we could very well see the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks fighting it out for the best record in baseball. I know what they say about counting your chickens, but I'm seeing a hell of a lot of eggs.