The Pirates and Padres are responsible for Los Angeles' rise to the top of the division.
Small sample size isn't the only thing that can skew early season standings. With just five series down, strength of schedule can vary greatly, dramatically impacting the number of W's and L's in every division. That is most true in the NL West, where the Dodgers have jumped out to a surprising commanding lead. Despite going just 3-3 since Sunday, Los Angeles leads the Rockies by 3.5 games.
NL West Standings
A quick glance at the Dodgers' schedule reveals a big reason why. Coming into 2012, the four weakest NL teams were arguably the Padres, Pirates, Astros and Mets. Of the Dodgers' 16 games, 13 have come against those weak teams. The other three were in a 3-game set in Milwaukee, the only series they have lost.
In contrast, each of the other three contenders in the division have faced the four weaklings in the NL no more than six times. One would expect the division to tighten up once the schedule starts evening out a little more. But before we ignore the Dodgers altogether, they deserve a little credit.
In 13 games against weak competition, Los Angeles has lost two games. The Rockies and Diamondbacks have lost more than that in just 6 games of their soft schedule. The Giants have lost two of five.
The Dodgers have had a fluff schedule, but they've treated it like one more than any of their NL West foes, and in a larger sample to boot.
NL West Report
Arizona (8-8, W1, t-3rd, 4.0 GB)
Last Week: 2-5. 1-2 vs. Pirates. 1-3 vs. Braves. After starting the season 4-0, the Diamondbacks have lost three consecutive series. Their win yesterday broke a five game losing streak.
You Should Know: Much was made of Kevin Towers' restructure of the Arizona roster and its ensuing decrease in strikeouts in 2011. So far, Arizona has the highest strikeout rate in the National League. So much for that. /Kubel'd
Divisional Change: Fell into third place and fell 1.5 games behind the Dodgers.
News: After the Diamondbacks signed Jason Kubel to block Gold Glover Gerardo Parra, many were confused. While it may not have been the chief concern, Kevin Towers had to realize the Diamondbacks' outfield depth was minimal. Now Chris Young is on the disabled list and Justin Upton played yesterday for the first time since Monday with a thumb injury. Now Kubel and Parra are both playing, but Kubel hasn't exactly hit well.
#13 / Left Field / Arizona Diamondbacks
May 25, 1982
|2012 - Jason Kubel||14||47||2||12||2||0||1||5||6||15||0||0||.255||.340||.362|
The injury bug isn't just biting outfielders. Daniel Hudson hit the DL with a shoulder impingement last week. While an MRI revealed no structural damage and he is expected to recover by the time his 15 days are up, shoulder injuries are always the most worrisome.
Hudson's spot in the rotation comes up today for the first time. With Patrick Corbin, Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs all as varying degrees of prized horses in the stable,Arizona will turn to...Wade Miley.
AJ Pollock got the call to the majors when Chris Young hit the disabled list. Pollock was selected 17th in the 2009 draft, two slots after Alex White and six spots after Tyler Matzek. After 12 plate appearances last week, Pollock is still looking for this first big league hit.
Jim McLennan has an interesting post on most unbreakable season records. If the obvious answer doesn't stick out now, it will smack you in your face when you get to it.
Quotable: Daniel Hudson, on his shoulder injury:
"It's scary, especially because I've never felt it before,. All the worst thoughts go through your mind. You hear so many stories about guys who don't bounce back from shoulder injuries. You just pray for the best."
Injuries: Placed IF Geoff Blum (oblique) on 15-day DL retroactive to April 17 (4/18). Placed CF Chris Young (shoulder) on the 15-day DL (4/18). Placed RHP Daniel Hudson (shoulder) on the 15-day DL, retroactive to April 19 (4/21). Stephen Drew (ankle) ran the bases fully on Saturday for the first time. Takashi Saito's calf stiffened up during drills Friday.
Arizona Diamondbacks Injuries
Los Angeles (12-4, L1, 1st)
Last Week: 3-3. 1-2 @ Brewers. 2-1 @ Astros. Two of the Dodgers' four losses were by one run. One was by four runs, but their bullpen allowed four runs in the eighth inning. Then there was yesterday, when the Dodgers got blanked 12-0.
You Should Know: Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier have combined for 2.7 fWAR. The rest of the lineup: a 1.2 fWAR combined.
This Week: 3 game home series vs. Braves. 3 game home series vs. Nationals.
Divisional Change: Despite going 3-3, the Dodgers gained a game ahead of the second place team.
News: Mike Axisa says it is a "make or break year" for James Loney. The Dodgers won't land Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder or Joey Votto, but the way things have gone, James Loney may have just as good of a chance of being a Dodger in 2013 as that trio.
Matt Kemp is in full beast-mode this season, and eight of his nine home runs have gone to the opposite field. But it should be noted that six of his nine homers are classified as "just enough" or "lucky." Not a single one has been hit well enough to leave all 30 MLB parks.
#27 / Center Field / Los Angeles Dodgers
Sep 23, 1984
|2012 - Matt Kemp||16||60||17||27||4||0||9||22||7||15||1||2||.450||.500||.967|
Andre Ethier has hit well so far as well, but that's about it for the Dodgers.
As Eric Stephen points out, a weather postponement yesterday killed a potential Clayton Kershaw-Stephen Strasburg on Saturday. Instead, Chad Billingsley will match up with Strasburg.
Stan Kasten promises the Dodgers' new ownership group has more moneyafter paying $2.15 billion in cash to purchase the team.
Ken Rosenthal suggests the Dodgers could be a landing spot for AJ Pierzynski. The Dodgers' catchers are AJ Ellis and Matt Treanor.
Former Cub and current Dodger minor league reliever Angel Guzman has been suspended 50-games for a second violation of a drug of abuse.
Quotable: Matt Kemp on his hitting approach:
"I want to represent this franchise as good as possible. Put us on the map again. I don't even look at records. It would be awesome to be known as one of the best hitters. That's what I'm planning on doing."
Injuries: Juan Uribe is day to day with a sore wrist.
Los Angeles Dodgers Injuries
San Diego (5-12, 5th, 7.5 GB)
You Should Know: The Padres opened 2012 3-12 for the first time in 25 years. They are 1-3 in 1-run games and 0-2 in extra innings.
This Week: 3 game home series vs. Nationals. 3 game road series @ Giants.
Divisional Change: Fell a half game off the Dodgers' pace.
News: Coming into last season, Orlando Hudson was to be San Diego's 3-hole hitter. Now the Padres are prepared to release Hudson, even though it would require eating $7.5million in salary. He has hit poorly and hasn't helped in the clubhouse either, according to Scott Miller.
#1 / Second Base / San Diego Padres
Dec 12, 1977
|2012 - Orlando Hudson||14||52||2||10||0||3||0||5||2||11||0||1||.192||.222||.308|
Quotable: Scott Miller of CBS Sports has a scout source who pulls no punches when describing Orlando Hudson this season:
"It's like (Hudson)'s playing T-ball...Run til you're out. He plays so deep at second base because his range is gone. And then he dives at balls like he's body surfing. It is very appropriate," the scout said, "that he is playing his final year at Petco Park."
Transactions: Optioned RHP Brach Brach to AAA Tucson and activated OF Mark Kotsay from the 15-day DL (4/16).
San Diego Padres Injuries
San Francisco (7-7, t-3rd, 4.0 GB)
Last Week: 3-2. 2-1 vs. Phillies. 1-1 @ Mets. Yesterday's game at Citi Field was postponed.
You Should Know: Due to the rain out yesterday, the Giants will need a spot starter Friday. This is where Eric Surkamp being on the disabled list hurts.
This Week: Final two games of a 4-game road series @ Mets. 3 game road series @ Reds. 3 game home series vs. Padres. Yep, that's eight games in seven days, including two plane flights.
Divisional Change: Moved into a tie for third place and gained a half game on the Dodgers.
News: Madison Bumgarner signed a record contract for a player with one year service time. The contract guarantees Bumgarner $35million through 2017, with a $12million vesting/club option for 2018 and $12 club option for 2019. From the Giants side, they have Bumgarner under control for $49million for the next eight seasons. From Bumgarner's side, he gets substantial financial security very early in his career. If he wins a Cy Young Award, his 2018/19 option increase, and he could earn $57million in that span. After 2019, Bumgarner will have just turned 30.
#40 / Pitcher / San Francisco Giants
Aug 01, 1989
|2012 - Madison Bumgarner||2-1||3||3||0||0||0||0||17.1||18||7||7||3||5||7||3.63||1.33|
On Tulo: From where I sit, the Rockies just took on too much needless risk. This seems like a deal they should have sat on for another year at least.On MadBum: The Giants potentially save significant dollars and get to keep one of their best young players in the organization through most of his expected prime...(a) win-win deal.
Despite the Giants opening their wallets, MLBTR readers believe the Cain/Bumgarner extensions are signs the Giants won't be able to afford extending Tim Lincecum.
The Giants have no plans to alter AT&T Park to make the park more hitter friendly. After extending Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, that's a big duh.
Quotable: While playing second base, Aubrey Huff butchered a potential double play ball by running towards first base, not second, on a ground ball to shortstop. On the misplay:
"It's just my natural instinct. My whole life, if the ball gets hit to my right, I'm going to first. That was my first move. I mean, I knew where I was, but that's just my natural instinct my whole career."
Injuries: RHP Brian Wilson underwent Tommy John surgery on Thursday. 2B Freddy Sanchez is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment today and suffer a setback by Wednesday. IF Ryan Theriot is day to day with the flu.