How Padres erased 30-game deficit to Dodgers (on paper)

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A remarkable turnaround unfolded this winter. ESPN Films isn't going to make a "30 for 30" documentary about it, but in its own way it was an exceptional thing:

Without a single regular-season game played, the San Diego Padres erased a 30-game deficit to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

This is merely theoretical, based only in the realm of projection. In the real world, the Dodgers are coming off a 111-win season, most in the history of the storied franchise. They won the National League West by 22 games over the Padres last year. (And then San Diego beat the Dodgers in the playoffs. You gotta love October.)

The wild thing is, San Diego was lucky to finish only 22 games back. The Dodgers outscored opponents by a whopping 334 runs. That margin translates to a club that, all things being equal, ought to win 116 games. The Padres, on the other hand, were just plus-45 in terms of run differential, suggesting they "should" have won 86 games. Thus, in effect, there was a 30-game chasm between these teams when the 2022 season ended.

Flash forward to right now and, according to Las Vegas, the Dodgers remain the favorite in the division -- but the margin is narrow. Check out the current forecasts of some leading projection systems:

How did this happen? To get a sense of how the NL West race has evolved, let's take a closer look at how the winter went down and how the projections changed at key points since last year.