The Race for the NL West

Coming into the 2014 season, many people looked at the NL west as the best division in baseball.  A division where last year, every team held the lead at a point in time.  The Dodgers ended up winning the division after going on a 40-8 streak.  Catching the league by storm, with the flash of Yasiel Puig, they were the favorites in 2014.  As of July 6, 2014 the Dodgers are a half of a game ahead of the San Francisco Giants. The Giants, who led the NL West, and who were the reigning World Series Champions, fell apart, like everyone else except the Dodgers in the division in 2013.  They signed Michael Morse, and locked up Ryan Vogelsong after the disappointing collapse.  They added Tim Hudson, the 38 year old pitcher who had came off a broken ankle. Hudson, who as of June 6, has a 2.53 ERA with a record of 7-5, has blown all of the critics and writers who doubted the signing.  The Giants sit in 2nd place in the NL West.  Both teams have excellent pitching, with Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum throwing no-hitters in the past month.  Both teams can score quickly, with the hitting of Adrian Gonzalez, the powerful when healthy Carl Crawford, and the flash of Yasiel Puig for the Dodgers.  With the Giants, the streaky Pablo Sandoval, the clutch Hunter Pence, and the star power of Buster Posey put together a talented group of hitters.  The Giants have had injury problems, with Brandon Belt, who got off to a fascinating start, and who has also returned as of July 2, and Marco Scutaro.  If the Giants stay healthy, they will hang with the Dodgers, in what will become a great race.

The other three teams in the NL West, the Rockies, Diamondbacks, and Padres have fluked, stumbled, and hit rock bottom in some cases.  The Rockies, who were playing incredible baseball in May and early June, have slowed down, falling 13 games back from first.  The Padres and Diamondbacks, the worst of the worst in the division, are fumbling towards the end of the season. The Diamondbacks were projected to contend for the division.  They lost Patrick Corbin, their ace, to Tommy John Surgery.  David Hernandez also had the surgery. They traded Ian Kennedy to Padres at last year’s trade deadline.  On offense, Paul Goldschmidt has had a very good year, although he is batting .298.  Mark Trumbo, the offseason addition, was bombing home runs before suffering a stress fracture in his foot.  The Diamondbacks just can’t put it together.  However, the Diamondbacks made a surprise move in May, by hiring Tony LaRussa as chief of baseball operations.  I was a little perplexed by the move, wondering what changes he is going to imply to the team.  Overall, the Diamondbacks are ailing because of their inability to win close games, and the injuries to their pitching staff. The Padres (oh, the Padres) are just to painful to talk about.  The terrible offense, the switching of GM’s, it’s just unbearable.

Once we hit the All-Star break, we should have a good guess which team will be pulling ahead. If the Giants continue to slump, the Dodgers will take advantage.  Also, don’t expect any selling from either team at trade deadline.  Both teams would look to buy. Whatever team finishes 2nd, will surely receive a Wild Card.  The NL West may not be as good as projected, but be prepared for a September division battle.

 

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