This isn't how the season was supposed to go. Colorado was supposed to be better than mediocre. The Padres weren't supposed to be winning the division. The Dodgers were supposed to fall off amidst the McCourt divorce and the Diamondbacks were supposed to come back with a vengeance. Instead, Los Angeles and Arizona have switched roles, at least lately.
Ian Kennedy won his first game of the season April 29 for Arizona, a day after that wild game at Coors Field. Since that game, the Diamondbacks have lost 11 of 12 games against teams not hailing from Houston. Dan Haren has been asked to carry the staff, and Haren can't do it all. Ironically, Arizona is the only NL West team not currently on a 3+ game winning or losing streak, but for all practicality, they are.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers are surging, plowing through opponents with a suddenly dominant pitching staff. That's right. Los Angeles' achilles heel has recently become its greatest strength. (Disclaimer: I wrote that line last night before this article was publsihed). Since April 29, Los Angeles has allowed 3 ER or less in 12 of 16 games, including each their past seven - all wins. That will get it done. (If you're curious, the outliers were two 11-run outputs from Milwaukee and two games against the Rockies). Most importantly, their young guns seem to have found something of late:
Clayton Kershaw, 22, and Chad Billingsley, 25, have combined to go 4-0 with a 0.98 ERA in their past two starts each. Kershaw has been dominant in particular, permitting just one run on five hits over his past 15 IP, notching 16 K's. Naturally, neither are sustainable.
|2010 - Clayton Kershaw||3-2||8||8||0||0||0||0||45.2||33||18||18||3||29||52||3.55||1.36|
|2010 - Chad Billingsley||4-2||8||8||0||0||0||0||44.2||44||23||20||3||19||39||4.03||1.41|
However, if Billingsley and Kershaw can maintain performances in the neighborhood of their ceiling while getting solid starts from Old Reliable Hiroki Kuroda, the rotation goes from a debilitating weakness to a notable strength. Billingsley is especially a wild card if he can return to 2008 form. With a relatively light schedule over the next two weeks, don't be shocked if Los Angeles is back on top of the NL West by June.
Team capsules after the jump, naturally.
So, I apologize for missing the NLWR last week. I was on vacation and couldn't find the time to compose it. What's that? No one noticed? Ah, well. I trudge on....
NL West Report
Arizona (15-23, 5th, L1, 7.5 GB)
Last Week: 1-5. 0-3 vs. Dodgers. 1-2 @ Braves. A horrible week was punctuated by 13-1 loss against the typically punchless Braves, a game started by Dan Haren of all people. Arizona's ace gave up 7 runs, 6 earned and 2 dingers in 4.1 IP, raising his ERA to 4.83, higher than four Rockies starters.
Previous Week: 3-4. 3-1 @ Astros. 0-3 vs. Brewers. I wrote "The schedule is exceptionally kind to Arizona next week." They didn't take advantage of it. Arizona scored just 8 runs in those four losses despite facing the Brewers (owners of the league worst staff ERA) and league-worst Astros.
Divisional Change: Lost 2.5 games to first-place San Diego.
You Should Know: Arizona has won just 4 of their past 16 games. Let's throw out facing the league-worst Astros. Then, the Diamondbacks are losers of 11 of their past 12 games.
News: The bullpen continues to be abhorrent, sitting with a 7.42 ERA, nearly 1.50 runs higher than 29th place Milwaukee. The Rockies bullpen has allowed less than half as many runs as AJ Hinch's has.
It has gotten to the point that some, specifically Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, are suggesting Arizona trades Kelly Johnson for bullpen help. Trade the best story for the team for a band-aid? Uhhh....Making it less sensible: Johnson is under team control through 2011 - even though he signed just a one-year deal, he is under five years of service time and will be arbitration eligible after the season.
#2 / Second Base / Arizona Diamondbacks
Feb 22, 1982
|2010 - Kelly Johnson||36||132||26||36||12||0||11||23||16||33||2||1||.273||.353||.614|
Bob McManahan of the Arizona Republic has a similar but starkly different suggestion: trade Tony Abreu for bullpen help. Abreu was the PTBNL in the Jon Garland deal last fall and doesn't seem to have a place in Arizona's roster.
A couple weeks ago, the Diamondbacks released a 17-year-old OF prospect named Socrates Brito for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Arizona's scout tabbed him as a "young Bernie Williams." Well, Socrates Brito has been signed again. I just like writing Socrates Brito. Socrates Brito could start in Arizona's minor league system in 2011.
Injuries: Miguel Montero jogged on the field Friday and could return late this month.
Arizona Diamondbacks Injuries
Los Angeles (20-17, 3rd, W7, 2 GB)
Last Week: 6-0. 3-0 @ Diamondbacks, 3-0 @ Padres. The Dodgers are begging to be noticed after taking all six games on the road against NL West foes. The Dodgers were 4-11 on the road before sweeping the week.
Previous Week: 3-3. 1-2 vs. Brewers. 2-1 vs. Rockies. In Los Angeles' three losses, the pitching staff allowed 10 runs/game. In the three wins - 3.67.
Divisional Change: Gained 3.0 games in the division.
This Week: 2 game home series vs. Astros, 2 game home series vs. Padres, 3 game home series vs. Tigers. Only the Yankees have fewer home losses than the Dodgers, so don't expect the hot streak to slow down much. In fact, they could easily be in first place in a week.
You Should Know: The only game the Dodgers have lost in their past nine was the thrashing the Rockies gave Charlie Haeger in Los Angeles May 8 for Jhoulys Chacin's second career win.
#27 / Center Field / Los Angeles Dodgers
Sep 23, 1984
|2010 - Matt Kemp||37||151||32||41||7||1||8||24||17||40||6||7||.272||.345||.490|
George Sherrill was a big acquisition last season for Los Angeles, but after just 12.1 innings, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes suggests Sherrill might be non-tendered after the season. I'd look long and hard at him if that's the case.
FeelingDodgerBlue suspects Garrett Anderson won't be with the Dodgers for long. Believe that opinion if you want to, but word from the Dodgers brass is a great deal of patience with the former Angel.
Luis Ayala exercised his opt out clause and can become a free agent.
Transactions: Activated Manny Ramirez and Jeff Weaver from 15-day DL. Optioned John Ely (5/7) and Xavier Paul (5/8) to AAA Albuquerque, then recalled Ely on 5/10 when Charlie Haeger was placed on the DL.
Injuries: Charlie Haeger (plantar fasciitis) made a rehab start Saturday and could return late this month. Rafael Furcal (hamstring) is on the same timeline. Vicente Padilla (forearm) can now play catch on consecutive days and is due back in early June. Andre Ethier saw a hand specialist yesterday for his broken right pinky. A trip to the DL is possible, with the decision coming later today or tomorrow.
Los Angeles Dodgers Injuries
San Diego (22-15, 1st, L3)
Last Week: 3-3. 3-0 @ Giants. 0-3 vs. Dodgers. San Diego had a strange weak in the division, going winless at home but undefeated on the road.
Previous Week: 3-3. 1-2 vs. Rockies. 2-1 @ Astros. Last week wasn't the beginning of the Padres' reverse home/road splits evidently.
Divisional Change: Lost one game to second place San Francisco, but remained in first place for the fourth consecutive Monday.
This Week: 2 game home series vs. Giants. 2 game road series @ Dodgers. 3 game road series @ Mariners. Even though they finish against an ice cold Seattle team, San Diego's division lead is in significant peril as they face the red hot Dodgers and revenge-minded Giants.
You Should Know: San Diego has slowed down in May, treading water at 7-7. Going 2-6 at Petco Park this month doesn't help. At all.
News: The Padres take on the Giants tonight and will try to continue the hex they have placed on San Francisco.
MLB.com's Corey Brock suggests Yorvit Torrealba may be one of MLB's best off-season free agent values. Just for reference, Torrealba has an OPS just .005 lower than Troy Tulowizki this season.
#8 / Catcher / San Diego Padres
Jul 19, 1978
|2010 - Yorvit Torrealba||18||62||5||19||3||0||1||13||7||13||2||0||.306||.377||.403|
Transactions: Activated SS Everth Cabrera from the 15-day DL. Placed RHP Kevin Correia on the bereavement list (5/11) and called up Adam Russell and Cesar Ramos. Called up Ryan Webb from AAA Portland.
San Diego Padres Injuries
San Francisco (21-15, 2nd, W3, 0.5 GB)
Last Week: 3-3. 0-3 vs. Padres, 3-0 vs. Astros. It really hurts to get swept at home by a division rival, but Bruce Bochy got a gift in hosting MLB's worst team to follow. The Giants did what they should have in sweeping the Astros.
Previous Week: 4-2. 3-0 @ Marlins, 1-2 @ Mets. A winning week on a trip east is an accomplishment, regardless of the teams involved.
Divisional Change: Gained one game on first half Padres.
This Week: 2 game road series @ Padres. 2 game road series @ Diamondbacks. 3 game road series @ Athletics. The Athletics are 13-7 at home, so this week might be a challenge for the Giants.
You Should Know: After last week, San Francisco is 0-6 against the Padres, yet 6-0 against the Astros. If the Giants had managed one single measly win against San Diego, they would be in first place today.
News: Forget Bengie Molina. The key to calling up Buster Posey might be Mark DeRosa. Yes. The left fielder. As the team comtemplates whether to send DeRosa to the disabled list, John Shea from the San Francisco Chronicle suggests an intriguing roster move: start Aubrey Huff in left field and callup Buster Posey to play first base. It would certainly prove that Brian Sabean told the truth in keeping Posey in AAA for catching defense reasons and not service time concerns.
Transactions: Called up IF Ryan Rohlinger and RHP Denny Bautista and optioned UT Eugenio Velez to AAA Fresno.
Injuries: Placed SS Edgar Renteria on the disabled list with a right groin strain. Mark DeRosa missed his seventh straight start yesterday with left hand numbness and is out indefinitely. Freddy Sanchez joined AAA Fresno Friday on a rehab assignment; Sanchez could return this week. Emmanuel Burriss resumed "baseball activities" to return from a broken foot. He could return in 4-8 weeks.