It’s no longer breaking news that the NL West this season is the paltriest of divisions. The West, at this juncture, is a cumulative 58 games under .500 (which, of course, means they’re 58 games under .500 against teams from outside the division) and has an aggregate run differential of -479. Thanks to the folly of the unbalanced schedule, it’s likely that eventual division champ will manage a winning record, but that’s a contrived merit.

Anyhow, that this year’s NL West is among the worst divisions since divisional play began in 1969 is beyond dispute, and I’m hardly the first one to point this out. So let’s delve a little more deeply into the “rolling brownout” that is the NL West.

What we’ll do is construct an NL West VORP All-Star team and compare it to the leaders of the remaining five divisions with this question in mind: Could the best of the West possibly be worse than a single team in another division? These ad hoc teams will comprise the VORP leaders at each of the eight positions, a DH (or, in the NL, the top offensive VORP not among the best at each position), the top five starting pitchers and the highest relief VORP. Obviously, this is a frontline, offensive comparison, so bench strength, bullpen depth and team defense won’t be accounted for. Still, this will provide us with a snapshot of how the West compares. So here’s how the NL West All-VORP team fares against the likes of the Red Sox, White Sox, Angels, Braves and Cardinals:

NL West

Position/Role - Player                        VORP
C - Ramon Hernandez, Padres                   14.0
1B - Todd Helton, Rockies                     45.7
2B - Jeff Kent, Dodgers                       58.6
3B - Troy Glaus, Diamondbacks                 46.6
SS - Omar Vizquel, Giants                     17.7
LF - Moises Alou, Giants                      39.4
CF - Milton Bradley, Dodgers                  23.8
RF - Brian Giles, Padres                      59.0
DH - Shawn Green, Diamondbacks                41.3

SP - Jake Peavy, Padres                       50.2
SP - Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks               32.5
SP - Noah Lowry, Giants                       32.2
SP - Brad Penny, Dodgers                      31.3
SP - Derek Lowe, Dodgers                      20.1

RP - Scott Linebrink, Padres                  22.5

VORP Total                                   534.9

Red Sox

Position/Role - Player                        VORP
C - Jason Varitek                             45.1
1B - Kevin Millar                             13.6
2B - Tony Graffanino                           8.8
3B - Bill Mueller                             28.3
SS - Edgar Renteria                           24.8
LF - Manny Ramirez                            49.1
CF - Johnny Damon                             43.9
RF - Trot Nixon                               20.4
DH - David Ortiz                              66.3

SP - Tim Wakefield                            28.5
SP - Matt Clement                             26.9
SP - David Wells                              22.2
SP - Bronson Arroyo                           15.5
SP - Wade Miller                               6.0

RP - Mike Timlin                              27.7

VORP Total                                   427.1

White Sox

Position/Role - Player                        VORP
C - A.J. Pierzynski                           15.2
1B - Paul Konerko                             45.9
2B - Tadahito Iguchi                          25.4
3B - Joe Crede                                 1.7
SS - Juan Uribe                               13.0
LF - Scott Podsednik                          10.3
CF - Aaron Rowand                             18.6
RF - Jermaine Dye                             25.2
DH - Carl Everett                             10.9

SP - Mark Buehrle                             45.9
SP - Jon Garland                              42.7
SP - Freddy Garcia                            42.5
SP - Jose Contreras                           29.8
SP - Orlando Hernandez                         5.9

RP - Cliff Politte                            24.4

VORP Total                                   357.4


Position/Role - Player                        VORP
C - Ben Molina                                21.4
1B - Darin Erstad                             11.6
2B - Adam Kennedy                             19.5
3B - Chone Figgins                            28.6
SS - Orlando Cabrera                          16.6
LF - Garret Anderson                          18.7
CF - Steve Finley                             -3.7
RF - Vladimir Guerrero                        60.1
DH - Casey Kotchman                            6.5

SP - Bartolo Colon                            53.1
SP - John Lackey                              47.1
SP - Jarrod Washburn                          45.8
SP - Paul Byrd                                34.3
SP - Kelvim Escobar                           12.4

RP - Scott Shields                            21.7

VORP Total                                   393.7


Position/Role - Player                        VORP
C - Johnny Estrada                             6.9
1B - Julio Franco                             14.4
2B - Marcus Giles                             45.1
3B - Chipper Jones                            44.6
SS - Rafael Furcal                            42.5
LF - Kelly Johnson                             5.2
CF - Andruw Jones                             65.4
RF - Jeff Francoeur                           23.3
DH - Wilson Betemit                           15.4

SP - John Smoltz                              59.3
SP - Tim Hudson                               39.3
SP - Jorge Sosa                               35.4
SP - Horacio Ramirez                          22.2
SP - Mike Hampton                             15.3

RP - Blaine Boyer                             13.3

VORP Total                                   447.6


Position/Role - Player                        VORP
C - Yadier Molina                              7.8
1B - Albert Pujols                            96.1
2B - Mark Grudzielanek                        22.2
3B - Abraham Nunez                            15.8
SS - David Eckstein                           34.7
LF - Reggie Sanders                           26.2
CF - Jim Edmonds                              45.9
RF - Larry Walker                             21.5
DH - So Taguchi                               17.3

SP - Chris Carpenter                          78.4
SP - Mark Mulder                              38.7
SP - Jeff Suppan                              21.3
SP - Matt Morris                              18.2
SP - Jason Marquis                            17.2

RP - Al Reyes                                 19.0

VORP Total                                   480.3

Okay, so the NL West All-VORP team shakes out better than any other single team in baseball, and this column would’ve been a lot cooler if that weren’t the case. Still, they’re only about five wins better than the Cardinals, and that’s semi-damning stuff. The best of an entire division is only a handful of games better than a single team, at least in terms of the VORP of the core contributors. Add a healthy Scott Rolen into the mix and give Taguchi a full season’s worth of plate appearances (which he would have were he an actual DH), and that margin might dissipate.

  • Think the Yankees have center-field problems? Observe …
    Player                  VORP                 FRAA
    Bernie Williams         11.9                 -2
    Steve Finley            -3.7                 -2

    Finley has been squarely worse at the plate and just as lamentable with the glove. The Angels have the bench strength to keep Finley off the field for the balance of the season, and that’s just what they should do.

  • Jason Marquis, who’s hitting .329/.337/.494 in 83 plate appearances this season, came within one VORP run of tying Taguchi for Cardinal DH dibs. So that’s something.

  • Pardon the following “fan boy” rumination of sorts … Recently, Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter passed Derrek Lee and Roger Clemens, respectively, in the VORP rankings. We now have legitimate, nuanced debates before us for the NL MVP and Cy Young awards. That wasn’t the case two weeks ago. What does this have to do with the prevailing theme of this column? Not bloody much …

That’s all for this time around. Since I came reasonably close to predicting the exact score of the Texas/Ohio State game last week, I figure I should take another whack at it: UCLA 31, Oklahoma 27.

Thank you for reading

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