After nearly two full months of baseball, Buster Posey and the Giants remain in first place. Photo Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

NL West Roundup: How Giants Stack up to Division Rivals

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Welcome back to the weekly NL West roundup. While a few games were gained and lost here and there, our Giants still sit atop the division. Actually, the order of all five NL West teams did not change in the last week.

Still, enough happened to possibly alter the perceptions of some of the teams. So, let’s take a look, starting from the top and working our way down.

Note: All records are current through the games on Thursday, May 22.

 

First Place: San Francisco Giants

  • Record: 29-18 (3 games up)
  • Last 10: 6-4
  • Upcoming: 3 vs. Minnesota, 3 vs. Chicago Cubs, 4 at St. Louis

 

The Good: While it was a costly week for the Giants with the long-term injury of Santiago Casilla and potential DL trip for Matt Cain, their 29 wins trail only Oakland.

The Marlins continued their strong play in San Francisco, splitting a four-game series with the G-Men. But the Giants did fine for themselves at Coors Field, winning one, losing one, and having one delayed by bad weather.

The upcoming six games should be favorable for the Giants. While the Twins are playing well, American League teams tend to struggle in NL Parks, and the Cubs currently sport the worst record in the National League. If they can win both of those series and manage a split or better against the Cards, San Francisco will have put itself in great position heading into June.

 

The Bad: The injury bug is really what it comes down to. As we went over last week, the Giants already lost Brandon Belt. The loss of Casilla definitely weakens the bullpen. Now, the Giants relievers have been strong all year, but Casilla’s injury could force the other guys to pitch in roles they’re not quite accustomed to.

Cain will be the really important guy to monitor. If he needs to miss a start or two in May/June, it’s fine. If he misses extended time and the Giants are stuck with Yusmeiro Petit or someone from the minors, they’re significantly more vulnerable. His status should definitely be the No. 1 for Giants fans.

 

Second Place: Colorado Rockies

  • Record: 26-21 (3 games back)
  • Last 10: 4-6
  • Upcoming: 3 at Atlanta, 3 at Philadelphia, 3 at Cleveland

 

The Good: Because the third game wasn’t completed and the first two contests were split, the Giants-Rockies series was something of a positive for both teams.

More importantly, the return of Michael Cuddyer will do a lot to strengthen an offense that’s already been one of — if not the — best in baseball for the first two months of the year. If and when Carlos Gonzalez heats up, that offense will be an absolute nightmare for opposing pitchers, especially at Coors Field.

 

The Bad: As we saw above, the Rockies are 26-21. They’re 16-7 at home, and 10-14 on the road. They catch a little bit of a break with a nine-game road stand, as Atlanta is the only team on it who currently has a winning record, but they’ve always been a different team away from Denver.

With the Giants holding fairly steady and the Dodgers starting to heat up, Colorado will have a lot of pressure on them over the next nine games.

 

Third Place: Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Record: 25-23 (4.5 games back)
  • Last 10: 5-5
  • Upcoming: 3 at Philadelphia, 3 vs. Cincinnati, 4 vs. Pittsburgh

 

The Good: While they lost Thursday, the Dodgers began to show some better form against the Mets in New York, taking the first two games. They have a very winnable series in Philadelphia and if they win two of three, LA will have posted a winning road trip, which is always the goal.

In addition to that, Yasiel Puig has been on an absolute role for pretty much all of May. Other hitters are capable of hot streaks, but Puig’s hot streaks are nearly impossible to deal with because he’s so unique in the batter’s box. If just one other person in the heart of that order gets hot, the Dodgers are a tough team to beat.

 

The Bad: Not to dwell on one bad outing, but man. Clayton Kershaw not getting out of the second inning against the Diamonbacks is something to pay attention to. If he wasn’t just returning from an injury, we could easily chalk it up to one bad outing, which happens to everyone. But coming off of an injury, his start Friday in Philly does get a bit more interesting.

Also, while Puig has been hot, the rest of the Dodgers offense has lacked a little. Matt Kemp is still inconsistent, Hanley Ramirez is beginning to warm up, but still seems to be lacking the MVP form we saw last year.

It’s worth saying again that the Dodgers have 2013 in their memories, but they may not be all good. As good as they were, the rest of the division helped them by collapsing, and that can’t be counted on year in and year out. They’re getting warmer, but need to find another gear.

 

Fourth Place: San Diego Padres

  • Record: 21-27 (8.5 games back)
  • Last 10: 4-6
  • Upcoming: 3 vs. Chicago Cubs, 3 at Arizona Diamondbacks, 3 at Chicago White Sox

 

The Good: Really, we’re looking at the upcoming schedule and the fact that all three teams are under .500. The Padres may be out of it at this point, anyway, but if not, they have to begin to make serious headway. That probably means 7-2 or better.

Unfortunately for the Padres, that’s about it.

 

The Bad: The loss of Andrew Cashner hurts but remember, even the best starters only impact one of every five games. The Padres have dropped four in a row, five of six, and are now closer to being caught by Arizona than they are to catching the Dodgers, and that would only get them to third place.

They’re under .500 both in San Diego and on the road and while nothing’s impossible, you’d have to be a real optimist to see the Padres getting back into contention this year.

 

Fifth Place: Arizona Diamondbacks

  • Record: 18-31 (12 games back)
  • Last 10: 4-6
  • Upcoming: 3 at New York Mets, 3 vs. San Diego Padres, 4 vs. Cincinnati Reds

 

The Good: The Diamondbacks have been one of baseball’s worst teams all year so while it may not seem like much, being within striking distance of getting out of the cellar is a big victory. Will that be enough to get into playoff contention? No, probably not. But I don’t think that’s a serious expectation at this point, anyway. Even if it was, you’ve got to start somewhere, and jumping the other bad teams is a good way to go.

More long term, the verdict is not yet out on the addition of Tony LaRussa as the new Chief Baseball Officer. But LaRussa is a three-time World Series winning Manager and has won everywhere he’s gone. Having a guy like that deciding who comes in, who stays, and who goes is definitely something to be excited about.

 

The Bad: Things actually weren’t that bad for the Diamondbacks, but they had a rough go of it in St. Louis, losing all three games. As a result, they’re entering a fairly winnable series with little to no momentum, which is never a good thing on the road.

The one potential negative I see with LaRussa comes if people begin to play and act a little more tense with a new Sheriff in town. When you’re trying to turn around a bad season, being tense doesn’t tend to be a great way to go. Of course, that’s all speculation, but it’s a possibility. When a new boss is in town, everyone really wants to show what they can do. When that happens, pushing too hard isn’t exactly out of the question.

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