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10/06/08 1:39 AM ET

NL West shouldn't be shortchanged

Dodgers' NLDS sweep proves division deserves more credit

The Dodgers have shown in recent days that they're better than their 84-78 regular-season record would indicate. Their National League Division Series sweep of the Cubs caught plenty of people's attention, and it followed a 19-8 sprint to end the season.

Perhaps it's time to reassess the division in which they played, as well.

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No one's going to try to sell the NL West as one of baseball's best divisions -- after all, both the East and the Central posted better records overall. But the division at least pitched well. The Dodgers, of course, you know about. They led the NL in team ERA, featuring both a deep and effective starting rotation and a mostly solid bullpen.

"The one thing that kept us [going] -- we had that one game where we beat Anaheim out here [when] we didn't get any hits," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre. "If it wasn't for pitching, it would be tough to keep guys' interest, trust me, because we weren't putting many numbers up."

Dealing out West
The five National League West teams had the lowest composite ERA of any of the three NL divisions.
NL West4.24
NL East4.30
NL Central4.32
And of course Arizona's pitching staff was heralded all over the game, headed by NL Cy Young candidates Brandon Webb and Danny Haren. The D-backs' bullpen wasn't quite up to snuff, but the rotation was outstanding.

Even the Giants and Padres had their strengths -- in both cases, the top of the starting rotation. San Francisco's Tim Lincecum has to be one of the top two or three candidates for the NL Cy Young Award, and teammate Matt Cain pitched very well despite an 8-14 record. Likewise, the Padres' Jake Peavy put up another sub-3.00 ERA, once again showing he's about as good as it gets in the NL.

Only Colorado, which looked a year ago like it was building such a formidable young staff, struggled on the mound.

One element worth noting, of course, is that every out recorded by a pitcher is charged to a batter. And none of these teams exactly lit up the scoreboard all year long -- Arizona scored the most runs in the division, and the Diamondbacks finished 10th in the league.

Better than you thought?
Only one NL West team finished significantly below average in team pitching in 2008.
Team ERA NL rank
Dodgers3.68 1st
Diamondbacks3.98 5th
Giants4.38 9th
Padres4.41 10th
Rockies4.77 15th

Additionally, all of the numbers are complicated by the ballparks. No other division features such extreme parks as the NL West. San Diego and San Francisco play in two of the best pitcher's parks in baseball, so their pitching performances probably aren't quite as good as the raw numbers indicate. Then again, Colorado and Arizona play in two of the best parks for hitters, making the D-backs' run prevention even more impressive.

Dodger Stadium is a bit in between. Its reputation has long been as a pitcher's park, but in recent years, it has played as very homer-friendly, and this year, it was a hitter's park overall.

So while it's not as though the NL West was a glamour-and-glory division, it's also a fair point that it at least did some things well. Hitting in this division was tough, and it's probably another indication that the Dodgers' offense is better than the overall full-season numbers would indicate.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.