The NL West, previously known as the NL Worst, may be reverting back to the form that caused that nickname to be coined. The Diamondbacks at 37-31 lead the division and have the worst record of any division front runner in baseball. The NL West is certainly competitive and it boasts the World Champion San Francisco Giants from two of the previous three seasons, but nearly 70 games into the season, mediocrity has ruled the division.
This is all good news for the Rockies as they look to stay afloat in the division, despite losing Troy Tulowitzki for 4-6 weeks with a broken rib. At just 1.5 games back, the Rockies are much closer then many people thought they would be at this juncture of the season. It's pretty simple, the Rockies have defied expectations and the Dodgers and Giants have belied them. And the Diamondbacks? They are who we thought they were. But, you also can't count out the Padres who have quietly put themselves right in the thick of things.
This very well could be a five team race for the division. Each team is a hot streak away from pulling away with the division, aside from the Dodgers, who likely will play better baseball at some point. The Rockies brass seems to realize this as they have made several moves throughout the season that show they feel the division is very winnable. When the trade deadline rolls around, each NL West team will likely be in a unique position to be buyers.
The Rockies have traditionally not made big splashes at the trade deadline and will likely continue to look at savvy deals rather then throw the farm at some trade deadline piece. In a year when each team in the division could be a savvy move away from capturing the division crown, this seems to benefit the Rockies. That, and the fact that there is no clear favorite in the NL West. Each team is flawed.
We all know what the Giants are capable of and they always seem to get the big hit right when they need it, or to have some ludicrous amount of luck go there way. Bottom line for El Gigantes has always been pitching though, and they may have some legitimate concerns in that department this year. Matt Cain is 5-3 with a 4.70 ERA and after six straight years of 200 plus innings and playoffs, his regression may be a legitimate cause for concern in San Francisco. Couple that with Tim Lincecum's well documented struggles, Ryan Vogelsong's injury and Barry Zito's inconsistency and the Giants don't look nearly as formidable as in years past.
The Dodgers, everybody's off-season pick to win the division or at least battle it out with San Francisco all year, has failed miserably in meeting those expectations. Injuries have played a major factor, but even without injuries players like Matt Kemp were struggling mightily. Andre Either has performed well below his career numbers and with the scrutiny that has been on Don Mattingly, the Dodgers don't look like a team that is going to figure it out anytime soon. They are loaded with talent however, and a run from them has to be expected at some point, but at 8.5 games back they have dug themselves quite a hole.
Arizona has a good team, but they have just that, a "good" team. Paul Goldschmidt is certainly putting himself into superstar territory, but outside of him the Diamondbacks are a collection of good but not great players. It may be enough in the NL West this year, but they also could be a few injuries away from falling apart. Patrick Corbin has anchored the rotation at 9-0 with a 2.28 ERA and he's not all smoke and mirrors either as his peripheral stats show. He's due for a regression at some point though, as he has never logged more than 160 innings at any level. The Diamondbacks also could have difficulty closing out games long term. Heath Bell has filled in nicely for the injured J.J Putz, but Bell was disgracefully bad last year and it is yet to be seen if he can revert back to his old form.
Then of course there is San Diego. The Padres are that team that's kind of hard to put a finger on. They started off miserably, but have played good baseball (24-18) since May 1st. Eric Stults and Jason Marquis have been stalwarts in their rotation and as usual, they boast a solid bullpen. Offensively, the Padres actually have a decent amount of firepower when you consider Chase Headley, Carlos Quentin, Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal and the little guys, Everth Cabrera and Alexi Amarista. The Padres don't look like they are going away anytime soon and though the Rockies have played well against them they by no means should be considered non division contenders.
Can San Diego legitimately expect Marquis and Stults to keep them in the race? Only time will tell, but history would suggest both Stults and Marquis will regress.
The NL West appears to be flawed this year. That's why the Rockies stand a legitimate chance at winning the division for the first time in 20 years of existence. The absence of Tulo is killer, but if the Rockies stay close until his return, his return could be a major shot in the arm. If Roy Oswalt can help stabilize the rotation and give the bullpen rest, and if the Rockies can pull the trigger on a savvy move here and there, winning the division is not out of the question.
The NL West is wide open and it's going to be a wild ride.