NL West: A Four Team Race?


Certainly back in March, many of us baseball writers picked either the Dodgers or Rockies as the favorites to win the National League West in 2010. The Dodgers had a stellar cast on offense, and the Rockies emerged as a young and talented team in 2009. So, it wasn’t crazy to think that the two team would be duking it out in 2010. However, how many of us thought that the NL West would essentially be a four team race come June 2nd?

The Dodgers struggled for most of the early part of this season, but have turned it around over the course of a month. The Dodgers currently sit one-half game behind the San Diego Padres (of all teams!), and 2.5 games ahead of the Rockies and 3 games ahead of the San Francisco Giants. The Dodgers’ offense has been their biggest strength this season, as they have scored 250 runs (5th most in NL) and have a .267 team batting average (2nd highest in NL). They’ve also managed to stay aggressive on the base-paths as well, with 31 stolen bases (5th in NL). Pitching, however, has been the Dodgers’ only weakness. With their recent success, however, the Dodgers pitching is starting to turn things around. After starting the season with a team ERA over the 5.00 mark, the Dodgers have lowered their ERA to 4.12 (10th in NL). Hiroki Kuroda, Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw and Jon Ely have been performing well as of late, and have the Dodgers back on track.

The Padres, meanwhile, boast the NL’s best pitching staff with a 3.02 ERA (1st in NL). Led by Jon Garland (6-2, 2.15 ERA), the Padres have held opponents to a .231 batting average and a .648 OPS. Offensively, however, the Padres are the NL version of the Oakland A’s. Both teams have strong pitching, but their offenses have been unable to remain consistent. As of now, the Padres are hitting .247/.325/.364 and rank near the bottom in all offensive categories. The only exception is that they’ve managed to swipe 54 bases, which is good for second most in the NL.

The Rockies and Giants are the two other teams currently vying for the top spot in the NL West. The Rockies are currently hitting .259/.336/.418 as a team, and have scored 248 runs (6th most in NL). The Rockies pitching staff has been better than the Dodgers, but their offense has not lived up to it’s expectations. The two players I really enjoy watching on Colorado are Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez. The Rockies are a young talented team, and at 28-24, there’s no reason to believe that they won’t be in the thick of things come September. The Giants, the arch-rivals of the Dodgers, have performed exceedingly well despite lacking a powerful offense. The Giants are led by their incredible pitching staff that consists of Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez.

For the most part, the NL West is shaping up to be a four-team race. Will it remain that way for the rest of the season? Probably not. I just don’t see the Padres sticking around for very much longer, especially because of their anemic offensive unit. As for Colorado and San Francisco, I could see the two giving the Dodgers a run for its money come September. The Dodgers offense is just down right scary right now, and with the pitching staff starting to take form, it will be a difficult task preventing LA from repeating as division champs in 2010.