Friday, June 29, 2012

NL West Race Tightens Up

Just a few weeks ago the Dodgers had the best record in baseball. Earlier this week the Giants swept the Dodgers, and yesterday the Giants took a one game lead over the Dodgers. The Dodgers have been in an 1-9 freefall in their last 10 games. The Diamondbacks have also got back in the race, and they are only 4 back of the second place Dodgers, and five back of the first place Giants.

Losing Matt Kemp has been a big loss for the Dodgers. They were 23-13 with him, and only 20-21 without him. Kemp isn't likely to come back until after the All Star break. Andre Ethier also strained his oblique during the Giants series. Ethier is officially day-to-day, but the Dodgers cannot afford to lose him for a long period of time. The rest of the Dodgers offense is pretty weak, and they could use another bat even when Kemp and Ethier are healthy again.

The Dodgers have won this year because of their pitching. Led by Clayton Kershaw and Chris Capuano, they have the second best ERA in the National League. Chad Billingsley has been up and down this season. Their bullpen has been solid, with Kenley Jansen taking over as closer. Offensively, the Dodgers only rank 11th in the NL in runs scored.

The Giants don't have a mighty offense either. They are slightly ahead of the Dodgers, ranking 10th in the NL in runs scored. Buster Posey and Melky Cabrera have both have good seasons, and are likely All Stars this year. Pablo Sandoval has also came of the disabled list, and provides protection for Posey. Still, the Giants are probably in the market for a bat as well.

Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and Ryan Vogelsong have been dominant this season. Cain pitched a perfect game recently, and Bumgarner shut out a powerful Reds team and limited them to one hit. However, Tim Lincecum has been shaky this year. Currently, Lincecum is 3-8 with a 5.60 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP. Lincecum did pitch well against the Dodgers a couple of days ago. The Giants need him to revert back to his old self.

The Giants lost Brian Wilson for the year in early April. Santiago Casilla has filled in as closer, and has pitched well. Sergio Romo has also been dominant out of the bullpen, with a 0.83 ERA for the year. Lefties Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt have been sharp as well.

The Giants and Dodgers have similar ballclubs. They both have strong pitching and mediocre offenses. This is one of the classic rivalries in baseball, ranking with the Yankees/Red Sox and Cardinals/Cubs. They have been in many close pennant races against each other, dating back to their New York days. But, there is another club sneaking back into contention. That would be last year's division champion, the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The D-Backs have underachieved in the first couple of months. Justin Upton, Ryan Roberts and Miguel Montero got off to slow starts. Chris Young and Stephen Drew were injured. Both Young and Drew are healthy now. Roberts(the Tatman) is still slumping, but Upton and Montero have picked it up. Jason Kubel, Aaron Hill, and Paul Goldschmidt are all having good years. Last year's Gold Glove outfielder Gerardo Parra has been moved to fourth outfielder to make room for Kubel. This is the best offensive team in the division when healthy, and they rank 6th in runs right now.

Arizona has gone 15-9 in June, and are now only 5 games behind the Giants. Trevor Cahill and Ian Kennedy have rebounded from slow starts. Lefty Wade Miley is the leading contender for Rookie of the Year. Miley is 9-3 with a 2.19 ERA, so far. Joe Saunders is hurt, and Daniel Hudson has a tear in his UCL and will likely undergo Tommy John surgery. The D-Backs have called up top pitching prospect Trevor Bauer to fill in. Bauer was the D-Backs #1 pick last year, and has electric stuff. In the bullpen, setup guys Daniel Hernandez and Brad Ziegler have pitched well. Closer JJ Putz has been inconsistent, and has an ERA north of 5.

It looks like it will be an good race in the National League West this year. The Dodgers now have stable ownership, and will likely make some moves at the deadline. With the Rockies and Padres in terrible shape, its likely that a wild card could come from this division, too. Right now, the Giants have the best record in the National League. The Dodgers are right behind them, and the Diamondbacks are healthy now. It should be an exciting second half for these teams.

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