- The Dodgers and Diamondbacks will end up battling for the NL West divisional crown. That is probably the most interesting storyline in the otherwise boring division.
Last year, the NL West featured a historically dominant regular-season team (the Dodgers) and two Wild Card winners (Rockies, Diamondbacks). This year, none of those teams appear to be quite as good as they were last year, and it's highly unlikely that two playoff teams will come from this division. The NL West has been underwhelming, but it should still feature a close race by the end of the season. Here are our grades now that the middle of the season has arrived.
Arizona Diamondbacks (47–34)
The D-backs aren’t too consistent, but they lead the division thanks to the resurgence of star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. After starting the season 20–8 thanks to a red-hot start by outfielder A.J. Pollock, Arizona tumbled to 28–27 by the end of May thanks to an injury to Pollock, poor play from Goldschmidt and a creaky starting rotation. Once June arrived, they boosted their record back to 46–34 to give them some space at the top of the NL West.
That surge can almost entirely be attributed to Goldschmidt. After dipping to .198/.320/.355 with just three homers on May 22, the perennial MVP candidate is hitting .353/.450/.756 with 12 HR and a 52% extra-base hit rate. He remains the cornerstone of the franchise and the engine behind their success. The starting pitching is effective (Patrick Corbin and Zack Greinke remain two of the most consistent starters in the division), but third starter Zack Godley is struggling after a surprise 2017. Former Red Sox hurler Clay Buccholz may be the biggest surprise in baseball (a 2.66 ERA over seven starts), but his success doesn’t feel sustainable.
The D-backs would do well to boost their team average and strike out a little bit less, but first place is first place and they’ll be in the playoff hunt for the rest of the season.
Colorado Rockies (38–42)
Remember when the Rockies spent $106 million on fortifying their bullpen when no other teams were spending on free agents? Here are the results.
Wade Davis (four years, $52 million): 0–2, 4.40 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 5.3 BB/9
Bryan Shaw (three years, $27 million): 3–5, 7.75 ERA, 1.963 WHIP, 12.6 H/9
Jake McGee (three years, $27 million): 1–2, 5.90 ERA, 1.448 WHIP, 10.9 H/9
The lesson? Never, ever try and buy a bullpen. Besides their tremendous pitching struggles, the Rockies have been unremarkable and a notable step back from last year’s playoff team. Nolan Arenado is his usual brilliant self (.310/.396/.580 with 18 HRs) and Trevor Story is a pleasant surprise (.264/.330/.511 with 16 HRs), but the Colorado offense is otherwise quiet compared to their usual output, and that’s ominous when only one starting pitcher has an ERA under 4.62 (Kyle Freeland).
Meanwhile, the Rougned Odor Meaningless Power Stats of the Year Award will likely be awarded to Ian Desmond, who has 16 HRs and 44 RBI … to go along with a .215/.296/.433 slash line.
Los Angeles Dodgers (43–36)
Dave Roberts’s squad received an unequivocal F for the first 42 games of the season: the defending NL pennant winners stumbled to a 16–26 start that included a 1–6 stretch against the lowly Reds and Marlins. And then, thanks to the surprise play of Matt Kemp, the little-known Max Muncy (17 home runs in 58 games) and rookie sensation Walker Buehler, the Dodgers are back in competition for the division crown.
Every starting pitcher besides Alex Wood (Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, Hyun-jin Ryu and Walker Buehler) have all spent extended time on the disabled list, which has forced the Dodgers to adopt some bullpen games and odd starters (Caleb Ferguson, Brock Stewart). After a dreadful start to the season, the offense is now homering at a high rate (six players have more than 10 home runs) despite underwhelming play from lineup lynchpin Justin Turner.
The Dodgers look primed to return to the playoffs, but that dreadful first quarter of the season may hurt them when they’re trying to stay out of the NL Wild Card Game.
San Diego Padres (36–47)
The most anonymous and arguably least interesting team in the league remains … very anonymous and completely uninteresting. Outfielder Franchy Cordero provided an exciting speed/power combo early in the season until he was placed on the 60-day DL with a right forearm strain and bone spurs in his elbow. Eric Hosmer is having a nice, if hardly notable first season in San Diego (.272/.347/.437). Tyson Ross is enjoying a moderate career resurgence (a 3.32 ERA over 16 starts). Otherwise, it’s all rather forgettable except two relievers who will be dangled at the trading deadline.
Brad Hand’s name was floated in trade talks last year and he’ll likely be moved to a relief-starved team near the trading deadline. The more valuable piece might be Kirby Yates, who has quietly been one of the most dominant relievers in the big leagues this season (0.82 ERA and a 10.9 K/9 rate over 33 appearances). The Padres might serve as a good spoiler against the Diamondbacks and Dodgers once the playoffs near, but it’s a rebuilding team that is, well, still rebuilding in the meantime.
San Francisco Giants (42–39)
Madison Bumgarner, Evan Longoria and Hunter Strickland (who punched a wall) have all spent time on the disabled list with broken pinkies. That’s about the kind of luck the Giants have had this season on the injury front, yet they're still above .500 at the midway mark. Ultimately, it's an underwhelming group with middling starting pitching and a dreary offense that, barring a surge of hitting, will probably fade in the playoff race. Brandon Belt is enjoying a breakout season (.292/.381/.511 with 12 homers), but few others amount to anything more than league-average hittters. Amazingly, Gorkys Hernandez (122 OPS+) might be an even more valuable player to San Francisco right now than Andrew McCutchen (.261/.348/.430) is. This team will likely finish right around 81 wins, and that’s about what they projected as all along.