Analyzing The NL West Pennant Race: Who Has The Easiest Remaining Schedule?
Other than predicting a close race, the oddsmakers — hold your gasps — got the National League West completely wrong.
No one could conjure up the actual state of the NL West come September. Not in spring training. Not even a month ago.
But here we are, with the NL West poised for the best finish among all baseball's divisions.
The Padres, Giants and Rockies — with just 2 1/2 games currently separating them — are flying down the stretch, all with a chance to inch out the other for the pennant.
It's a far cry from 2008, an abomination of sorts when the Dodgers took the title with just 86 wins. Currently, all three teams have at least 80 wins. Other than the American League East, no other division can claim that success.
It's also a far cry from six months ago, when the Dodgers — back-to-back champs — were declared 2-1 favorites to win the division. You can give that line to Jamie McCourt now. The team on the field doesn't need it.
The Giants and Rockies got 11/5 odds, while the Diamondbacks were 9/2.
Finally, Vegas acknowledged the Padres still had something that resembled a team every fourth or fifth day, giving them 40-1 odds.
As of Friday, the Padres — not a typo — were within half a game of the Giants with 16 games remaining.
Appropriately, the two teams meet for a three-game series to close out the season.
"I feel that the last weekend is when it's going to be decided," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.
No one thought the series would mean much in late August. On Aug. 25, the Padres had complete control, 6 1/2 games ahead, and the Rockies were but an afterthought (10 1/2 games back).
Then the Giants went on a tear, taking seven of 10 on a recent road trip. Quietly in the background, the Rockies, always with a final kick, scrapped back with a 10-game win streak. Anyone remember 2007? The Rocks took 14 of 15 to close that season and make the playoffs.
Now all three have a chance to take the pennant with fewer than 20 games remaining.
But who has the best chance to win? And who does the schedule favor?
From worst to best, we digress...
Worst: Colorado Rockies
For the Rockies, most of their remaining work is within the division. Four of five series will be against NL West teams. Two of those come against the Dodgers, who are 7-5 against the Rockies in 2010.
The Rockies may make magic out of thin air but away from Coors Field they are just 29-42. Ten of their remaining games will be on the road.
Still, no other NL team has been as clutch since 2007. The Rockies hold the NL's best winning percentage in the month of September (.633).
Here's what remains:
- three games at the Dodgers
- three games at the Diamondbacks
- three games home against the Giants
- three games home against the Dodgers
- four games at the Cardinals
Middle: San Diego Padres
The schedule makers did the unlikely Cinderfellas no favors.
Leading into the season's final weekend, series await versus the Cardinals (always tough, albeit average this season) and the first place Reds.
Of the 17 games left, 10 are on the road, including pivotal series against the Dodgers and Giants. This year, San Diego is 38-30 on the road.
Here's how it shapes up:
- Three games at St. Louis (second in the NL Central)
- Three games at the Dodgers
- Three games at home against Cincinnati (first in the NL Central)
- Four games at home against the Cubs (4-0 versus)
- Three games at the Giants (10-4 versus)
Best: San Francisco Giants
It's looking good for the G-men, who roll into the final 15 games with momentum and a favorable schedule (not to mention the division lead as of Thursday night).
Ten games will be at home, where the Giants are 44-28. They also sport a nice recent record against NL West teams, winning 22 of 34.
Besides the Rockies and Padres, no team left on the Giants schedule is above .500.
Here's what's to come:
- Three games home against the Brewers
- Three games at the Cubs
- Three games at the Rockies
- Three games home against the Diamondbacks
- Three games home against the Padres
To reach writer Daniel Watson, click here.
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