Welcome back to the NL West roundup. In the last week, we’ve seen a little bit of back-and-forth between a few teams in the division but ultimately, the NL West standings look like they did at this time last week.
Beyond the standings, what can we get from the NL West’s five teams?
Note: All records are current through the games on Thursday, May 29.
First Place: San Francisco Giants
- Record: 35-19 (6 games up)
- Last 10: 8-2
- Upcoming: 3 at St. Louis, 3 at Cincinnati, 3 vs. New York Mets
The Good: The Giants have the most wins and highest winning percentage not only in the division, but in all of baseball. They also have the biggest lead of any division leader. It’s true that the Twins and Cubs at home aren’t exactly the most daunting opponents, but the Giants did exactly what they were supposed to against both, notching a combined 5-1 record.
They’re also starting to get big contributions from Pablo Sandoval, who’s driven in a run in nine consecutive games. He’s also hitting .419 with five homers in that stretch, so the Panda is absolutely heating up.
They’re also getting much more consistent pitching from Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum. If the bottom two pitchers in this rotation are pitching well, they are going to be very hard to chase down, as the Giants pitching staff makes prolonged losing streaks fairly rare.
Going a little deeper into the pitching, Alex Pavlovic reported some good news on Thursday.
Bochy said Cain not a lock to make next start. He ran and threw today, but they want to make sure he's 100%
— Alex Pavlovic (@AlexPavlovic) May 29, 2014
So even if Matt Cain misses a start, it doesn’t seem like a long term problem.
The Bad: When you’re dealing with the best record in baseball, serious negatives are difficult to come by. Having said that, a few things do jump out.
- Even with the win on Thursday, St. Louis and Cincinnati is a dangerous roadtrip. Throw in the constantly looming threat of rain in that part of the country, and the possibility of a tired bullpen looms.
- Sergio Romo hasn’t been all that dominant over the last few weeks. He’s only blown two saves all year and only one of those resulted in a team loss, but outings like the one in St. Louis on Thursday have been a little too frequent recently. Romo’s one of the best in the game so at this point, there’s no reason to think it’s anything more than a slump, but it’s something to pay attention to.
- Buster Posey is also in a bit of a slump, although he is showing signs of coming out of it. He’s been dealing with back issues and while nothing sounds that worrisome, it’d be nice to see a bit more power from the team’s best player.
Second Place: Colorado Rockies
- Record: 28-25 (6.5 games back)
- Last 10: 4-6
- Upcoming: 3 at Cleveland, 3 vs. Arizona, 3 vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Good: After three in Cleveland, the Rockies have a 10-game home stand coming up, and this is a much different team in Denver than they are on the road. If there is an NL team built to win in an AL park with the DH, it’s the Rockies, so they could very well have some momentum built up when they head back to Coors Field.
The Rockies are also continuing to get good production from Troy Tulowitzki and the recently returned Michael Cuddyer. It’s a very deep lineup and if nothing else, when a few guys are going hot, they are a nightmare for opposing rotations.
The Bad: Unfortunately for the Rockies, a few of these exist.
- Carlos Gonzalez missed three games and since he’s returned, has hung up an ugly 0-9. For a guy who’s had a hard time getting on track, this is not what you want to see.
- Charlie Blackmon has struggled over the last few weeks. His hot start definitely helped the Rockies get into contention, so it’s important that he gets out of the slump.
- The 10 games at Coors Field are a good thing but Colorado’s inability to win on the road looms large. Even with a lot of games to play, this is a big deficit for a team that doesn’t win consistently away from home.
- The Rockies should do fine against the Diamondbacks, but three at home against the Dodgers followed by four against Atlanta will pose a significant challenge. To keep the Giants within their sites, they’ll need a great home stand, and that’s not the kind of pressure you want on yourself this early in the year.
Third Place: Los Angeles Dodgers
- Record: 29-26 (6.5 games back)
- Last 10: 6-4
- Upcoming: 3 vs. Pittsburgh, 3 vs. Chicago White Sox, 3 at Colorado
The Good: While the last two games would indicate differently, the Dodgers have been playing good baseball over the last two weeks, or so. Their games last Sunday and Monday showed exactly why this team is so dangerous, with Josh Beckett throwing a no-hitter, and Hyun-jin Ryu taking a perfect game into the eighth inning. Notice, that remarkable run of starting pitching didn’t even include Clayton Kershaw or Zack Greinke.
Also, while no injury is a good thing, the injury to Carl Crawford does at least temporarily set the outfield at Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and of course, Yasiel Puig — which is probably the best outfield they can field.
The Dodgers have also been consistently unable to generate any streaks. On the one hand, they haven’t had many long losing streaks, so they are within striking distance. On the other, not being able to generate consistent win streaks over two months is a problem, especially when you’re down seven games in the loss column.
The last negative is a little picky, but it is pressing. Since the return of Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers have lost three of his four starts. Now, only one of those outings has been bad, so it doesn’t speak to his pitching as much as it speaks to Los Angeles not taking advantage of having the best pitcher in the game on the roster.
Fourth Place: San Diego Padres
- Record: 24-30 (11 games back)
- Last 10: 3-7
- Upcoming: 3 at Chicago White Sox, 3 vs. Pittsburgh, 3 vs. Washington
The Good: The positive are not easy to find, but the Padres pitching staff is one of the best in all of baseball. To get on a long winning streak, you need to have good pitchers going night in and night out, and San Diego has that working in its favor.
Also, while their home record is not great, they are much better in San Diego than on the road. Given that they’re pretty much at a now-or-never point when it comes to making a run, it’s good to have the six games next week the six games at Petco Park.
The Bad: They just can’t seem to get on track right now. The Dodgers and Rockies still have hope, because they only need the Giants to go on an extended losing streak to be right back in the division mix. But the Padres will need not only the Giants to collapse, but mid-sized collapses from both Los Angeles and Colorado…that’s just not likely to occur.
As for specific players, some regression from Jedd Gyorko and Will Venable was to be expected. But both players have been downright bad all year, unable to sustain any hot streaks. If they were sitting closer, that would actually be a good thing, as even a slight turnaround would be likely to get them closer to the top. But a slow start from a few guys leading to an 11-game deficit digs too big a hole, which is exactly what the Padres are in right now.
Fifth Place: Arizona Diamondbacks
- Record: 23-33 (13 games back)
- Last 10: 5-5
- Upcoming: 3 vs. Cincinnati, 3 at Colorado, 3 vs. Atlanta
The Good: It’s not terribly likely to amount to anything, but the Diamondbacks are beginning to play much better baseball. They’ve won each of their last two series and three of their last four (though the one exception was a sweep).
While his numbers over the season are fine, they’ve gotten limited day-to-day production from Paul Goldschmidt over that stretch. When a struggling team is winning despite not getting great play from their best player, it’s definitely a sign that things are turning around.
The Bad: It’s not that complicated, 13 games is a massive deficit. Heck, eliminate the Giants and they’re still 6.5 games behind two different teams.
You definitely want to see positive production, but playing the role of spoiler and looking ahead to next season before June 1 is definitely not what you want to see if you’re a D-Backs fan.