Welcome to the weekly NL West roundup.
You all probably know where the Giants stand against all of their division rivals right now. But as we look a little beyond the stats, what do we as fans have to look forward to? What do we have to be afraid of? What about the other teams?
Note: All records are current through the games on Thursday, May 15.
First Place: San Francisco Giants
- Record: 27-15 (4 games up)
- Last 10: 6-4
- Upcoming: 3 vs. Miami, 3 at Colorado, 3 vs. Minnesota
The Good: The Giants are absolutely rolling right now. San Francisco had an incredibly successful road trip, going 7-3 against three playoff teams from 2013. They also seem capable of winning games of all styles, so their success can’t be pointed to a lot of 1-0 pitcher’s duels, or 10-9 slugfests, as both will eventually likely even out over time.
They’ve also achieved this record without serious contributions from Pablo Sandoval and until recently, Hunter Pence. Pence has heated up over the last week, while the Panda is starting to show a little bit of life at the plate, though his power is still lagging. If and when those two come around, the Giants offense should grow significantly more formidable.
The Bad: The injury bug may be starting to rear its ugly head. Brandon Belt will be out with a broken thumb for more than a month. Not only will they be without his bat, but hand injuries are at least important enough to worry about how effective he’ll be once he gets back.
Tim Hudson is missing his scheduled start today. As Mike Krukow pointed out during Thursday’s broadcast, Hudson missing a start here and there isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as with his age and injury history, it’s important to be sure he’s fresh all year. According to Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle, the injury doesn’t look serious, still it’s something to be anxious about.
Conversely, while they have to expect better production from Pablo Sandoval, at some point it’s likely that guys like Mike Morse and Angel Pagan may cool off. As Giants fans, we just have to hope that some of the other bats are going well when they go through their slumps.
Second Place: Colorado Rockies
- Record: 23-19 (4 games back)
- Last 10: 4-6
- Upcoming: 3 vs. San Diego, 3 vs. San Francisco, 3 at Atlanta
The Good: The fact that next week’s series vs. the Giants is in Colorado is definitely a good thing for the Rockies, who tend to play the Giants much better in Denver than San Francisco.
The Rockies are also at or near of the top of pretty much every major offensive statistic and despite playing half of their games at Coors Field, are middle-of-the-road in most pitching stats.
Troy Tulowitzki would be on a very short list of NL MVP candidates right now, Charlie Blackmon has been one of the game’s brightest stars, and their offense has shone brightly despite fairly mediocre (by his standards) production from Carlos Gonzalez. So, even if Tulo and Blackmon flatten out, Gonzalez and a soon-to-be-returning Michael Cuddyer will be there to pick up the slack.
The Bad: Regardless of your favorite team, as baseball fans, we all have to hope that Tulo stays healthy, as he’s very fun to watch. Unfortunately, history shows that something may be coming, and the Rockies are obviously not the same team without Tulo.
More immediately, the Rockies need to shake out of a current funk. They’ve dropped five of six and scored only four combined runs over the last three games — all losses. Granted, all of those games have been on the road and they’ve played incredibly well at home this year, but if they don’t turn things around quickly, the Rockies run a risk of falling a little too far behind.
Third Place: Los Angeles Dodgers
- Record: 22-20 (5 games back)
- Last 10: 4-6
- Upcoming: 3 at Arizona, 3 at NY Mets, 3 at Philadelphia
The Good: The main positive for the Dodgers is the return of the game’s best pitcher, Clayton Kershaw. The reigning Cy Young award winner has gone seven innings without walking a hitter in each of his first two starts back.
The Dodgers also have the knowledge that they’ve been here before. After 42 games in 2013, the Dodgers were 17-25 and in dead last in the NL West, seven games back. As you can see above, they’re significantly better than that this year.
While Dee Gordon‘s slash line of .318/.357/.427 is likely to come down, Hanley Ramirez (.252/.331/.440) and Adrian Gonzalez (.263/.335/.500) also figure to get much better. The Dodgers aren’t running away from the division, but there’s little reason to panic.
The Bad: Last year looms large for the Dodgers, but they can’t exactly plan on the rest of the NL West fading like they did in 2013. If the Dodgers want to repeat as division champs, they definitely need to be sure they don’t fall much further than this.
The looming road trip is also a potential issue. Granted, if they do well, as the Giants did, it can be a positive, but being away from home for more than the standard two series does tend to be tricky. All three opponents currently sport losing records, so the pressure will be on the Dodgers to overcome the adversity and at least notch a winning trip.
The big negative as it relates specifically to the Giants is that LA has had horrendous success against their arch-rivals, as they’re presently 3-7 against the Orange & Black, after losing the season series in 2012 and 2013. The remaining games do figure to be very meaningful, and the Dodgers won’t likely win the division if they can’t post a winning record in the remaining games against the Giants.
Fourth Place: San Diego Padres
- Record: 20-22 (7 games back)
- Last 10: 6-4
- Upcoming: 3 at Colorado, 2 vs. Minnesota, 4 vs. Chicago Cubs
The Good: With the return of Chase Headley, the San Diego offense is beginning to show some life. The Padres have won five of the six and even though the one loss was a shutout by Johnny Cueto and the Reds, the bats have been solid. In the five wins, San Diego scored 10, 9, 5, 2, and 6 runs. That should definitely help them gain confidence.
Like the Dodgers, the upcoming schedule is important. The series against Colorado in Denver does figure to be tough, but there’s no reason that the Padres shouldn’t win at least four of the six games against the Twins and Cubs.
The Bad: Sticking to baseball here, as there’s no way to speculate how much the fires in San Diego are mentally impacting these players. We can only hope that the Padres and the whole region comes out of that as best as they can.
As for the on field stuff, the Padres are not the Dodgers. They’re not loaded with high priced talent that can carry them on a prolonged run of success. The best chance for teams like this to compete is to start strong and hope to hold off the rest, which is what San Diego nearly did in 2010.
If the Padres are going to move, it’s pretty much now or never. Even discounting the Rockies, the pitching of the Giants and Dodgers doesn’t make either team susceptible to prolonged losing streaks. It’s very important for the Padres to stay close by picking up a few games in the standings heading into June and beyond.
Fifth Place: Arizona Diamondbacks
- Record: 16-27 (11.5 games back)
- Last 10: 5-5
- Upcoming: 3 vs. LA Dodgers, 3 at St. Louis, 3 at NY Mets
The Good: At the risk of sounding condescending, it really can’t get that much worse, can it? The D-Backs are on pace to lose over 100 games and are 4-17 at home.
As their most recent stretch indicates, Arizona is playing better now than they were in the first few weeks of the year. They’re still a long way from playoff contention, but the only way they could possibly get back is to start playing better and winning games, which they’ve been doing.
Also, while the upcoming road trip may look like a bad thing, Arizona’s actually 12-10 on the road this season. Their last road trip was also a nine-gamer — against the Padres, Brewers, and White Sox — and they won all three series, going 6-3.
The Bad: The immediate concern is that Paul Goldschmidt immediately followed a hot streak with a cold one. He’s batting .130 without a homer over the team’s last six games. They’re also still likely at least a few weeks away from the return of Mark Trumbo.
Long term, it’s not exactly breaking news, but the season appears pretty much lost. If you remember the Dodgers’ note above, they were in last place at this point last season and won the division, but LA was only seven out of first. All of the on-field negatives that applied to the Padres apply to the D-Backs as well, only they have to go on a good run just to get out of last place.
It can’t get much worse, but this is a team that won the division in 2011 and finished 81-81 in 2012 and 2013. Even with the preseason injury to Patrick Corbin, they had to be thinking that contention was realistic. At this point, it’s just very unlikely.
As you can see, every team in the division has a divisional series coming up. While the Diamondbacks can take some solace in the fact that someone they’re chasing will lose all of those games, someone will win them, as well. We’ll revisit this next Friday but for now, they need an awful lot of help.