NL West: Domination of the Rest a Distant Memory
Remember last year? Remember how the NL West established itself as the power of the Naitonal League?
Remember how the Dodgers won a regular-season-best games, and the Diamondbacks and Rockies claimed the two NL wild-card spots?
Remember how the NL West had a winning record against the teams from both the NL East and NL Central?
Well, it's a whole different world in 2018. The NL West is struggling to survive against the rest of the National League.
The division-leading Rockies (30-26) have the seventh-best record in the NL. The second-place Diamondbacks are sixth in the battle for the two wild-card spots.
The Developments of May
The Diamondbacks did open the season with the appearance of being a dominant team. They were 24-11 on May 8, looking like they could run away with the division.
But, remember, it is a long season. The D-Backs lost 16 of their final 20 games in May, and were overtaken by the Rockies for first place in the NL West.
Paul Goldschmidt hit a home run at Chase Field in Wednesday's loss to the Reds. What's so good about that? Well, it was his first home run at home this season. And it came in the midst of a spurt which has seen Goldschmidt, who was hitting .198 on May 22, hit .292 in his final 27 plate appearances in May.
Jake Lamb, who was placed on the disabled list four games into the season with a sprained left ACL joint, was activated on May 18.
Brad Boxberger has been all the D-Backs could have hoped for --13 of 14 saves and a 1.80 ERA.
A.J. Pollock leads the team with 11 home runs and 33 RBI, and he has been on the disabled list since suffering a fractured left thumb when he attempted to make a diving catch of a fly ball.
Patrick Corbin (5-2, 2.99), Zack Godley (5-4, 4.38) and Zack Greinke (3-4, 3.65) are the only starting pitchers who have been in the rotation since Opening Day. The big loss was Taijuan Walker, who pitched only 13 innings in three starts before being sidelined by Tommy John Surgery.
The Rockies go into the weekend having won back-to-back home series. Big deal? Well they won only one of their first six series at Coors Field.
Trevor Story continues to refine his game. In addition to dazzling defense he has become a crunch-time offensive player, particularly at Coors Field. His .301 average at Coors Field is the 12th best home-field average in the National League, and he leads NL hitters with .771 slugging percentage at home.
The five Rockies starters are a combined 21-18 (.538) and a 4.33 ERA. Only twice in the Rockies previous 25 years have they had a rotation with a better winning percentage and a lower ERA.
Lefty Jake McGee and Bryan Shaw, both given three-year contracts in the off-season, to handle setup chores for closer Wade Davis, have combined to fail in four save situations, and have a 3-5 win-loss record and a 5.20 ERA.
Right-hander Adam Ottavino was filling a bullpen void, rebounding from a miserable 2017, compiling a 0.95 ERA and striking out 45 in 28 1/3 innings but went on the disabled list Monday with a left oblique strain.
The Dodgers were 10 games below .500 (16-26) on May 16, but have bounced back to win 10 of their final 14 games in the month of May.
Matt Kemp has had a revival. He's bringing back memories of that dominant, middle-of-the-lineup hitter of the past decade. He's leading the NL with a .345 batting average, and he's tied for third on the team with seven home runs and leads the team with 30 RBI.
The Dodgers do have a balanced lineup. They have seven players with seven or more home runs, and four players with 20 or more RBI. Plus in mid-May, Josh Turner, the force in the Dodgers clubhouse, was activated from the disabled list. He is hitting .255 with one home run and eight RBI, but remember he missed the first seven weeks of the season.
The Bad News
Clayton Kershaw came off the disabled list to start Thursday, worked five innings, and was back at the doctor's office on Friday, having his back examined, which led to his return to the disabled list. The only other member of the season-opening rotation on the active roster is Alex Wood, and there is enough concern about his status that his Friday start at Colorado was pushed back two days to give him some extra rest.
The pitching staff has a 3.57 ERA, which might seem impressive, but in the last decade the Dodgers have had a higher ERA in only two seasons -- 2010 (4.01) and 2016 (3.20).
Give the Padres credit. They may be in last place, but they have bounced back from a 10-20 start to the season, which had them 11 games out of first place on April 30, to have the second-best record in the NL West in May (15-13) and they have cut their deficit to six games out of first, two games back of the Giants and Dodgers.
The Good News
Lefty Brad Hand was given a chance to close games a year ago, did a solid job, and has worked his way into the elite closer role in the opening weeks of this season. He has converted 17 of 19 save situations -- that's 68 percent of the Padres victories -- while compiling a 1.91 ERA and allowing a .162 batting average.
Rookie Joey Lucchesi stepped into the rotation and wasn't the least bit fazed by the big leagues, going 3-2 with a 3.23 ERA in nine starts, and when he went on the disabled list with a right hip strain on May 15 the Padres got a lift from Jodan Lyles. The journeyman right-hander has seen the Padres win four of his five starts, which included him carrying a perfect game against the Rockies for 7 1/3 innings.
Rookie third baseman Christian Villanueva may be hitting .241, but he is second in the NL with 15 home runs and tied for 10th with 35 RBI. As a team, the Padres are tied for 27th in MLB with only 51 home runs.
The Bad News
Rotation depth remains a headache for the Padres. They may play in a pitcher-friendly environment at Petco Park, but the team ERA of 4.20 is 10th in the NL, and the rotation ERA of 4.90 is 14th. They have already used nine starting pitchers.
There's no depth in the lineup, either. Other than Villanueva, the only Padres with more than four home runs are Eris Hosmer (6) and Franchy Cordero (7). Hosmer, with 24 RBI, is the only player other than Villaneuva with more than 19 RBI.
The season started with hope for the Giants, who rebuilt their offense in the off-season with the additions of third baseman Evan Longoria, and outfielders Andrew McCutchen and Austin Jackson. They opened the season with back-to-back 1-0 victories against the Dodgers, including Ty Blach stepping into the Opening Day assignment with Maidson Bumgarner on the disabled list and outdueling Clayton Kershaw. They have, however, only spent nine other days of the season over .500.
The Good News
Bumgarner will be activated from the disabled list to make his 2018 debut on Tuesday night against the D-Backs. He is the unchallenged anchor to the rotation.
Brandon Belt (.309, 11 home runs, 31 RBI) and Brandon Crawford (.307, six home runs, 24 RBI) have stepped up their game to assume leadership roles in the lineup. Gorkys Hernandez has asserted himself in center field and provides a right-handed answer to the lead-off role, hitting .300 going into June.
The Bad News
With slick-fielding 2B Joe Panik out since April 28 with a sprained left thumb, the Giants have been defenseless at second base. How bad is it? So bad that manager Bruce Bochy started Pablo Sandoval in two games. But what's he have to lose? In a combined 39 starts, Alen Hanson and Kelby Tomlinson committed eight errors.
With out Bumganrer and Johnny Cueto the rotation has been a mess. While Bumgarner will be back on Tuesday, Cueto did make five starts before he was hurt. He went 3-0 with a 0.84 ERA. The rest of the rotation this season? 14-23 with a 5.36 ERA, and Chris Stratton has accounted for six of those 14 victories.
Jeff Samardzjia did go on the disabled list Wednesday, after lasting only one inning in a Tuesday start at Colorado. But it's not like he was providing any stability. He was 1-4 with a 6.56 ERA in eight starts.
NL WEST STANDINGS
|Jun 1 - 3||vs. Marlins|
|Jun 4 - 6||at Giants|
|Jun 8 - 10||at Rockies|
|Jun 11 - 13||vs. Pirates|
|Jun 14 - 17||vs. Mets|
|Jun 18 - 19||at Angels|
|Jun 21 - 24||at Pirates|
|Jun 25 - 28||at Marlins|
|Jun 29 - Jul 1||vs. Giants|
|TJ Surgery Recovery||March 26|
|Rehab Assignment||May 29|
|Steven Souza Jr.|
|Strain R Pectoral||May 22|
|Fractured L Thumb||May 15|
|Strained R Olbique||April 30|
|Tommy John Surgery||April 15|
|Strained L Oblique||DL Mar. 26|
|Jun 1 - 3||Dodgers|
|Jun 5 - 7||at Reds|
|Jun 8 - 10||D-backs|
|Jun 12 - 14||at Phillies|
|Jun 15 - 17||at Rangers|
|Jun 18 - 21||Mets|
|Jun 22 - 24||Marlins|
|Jun 26 - 28||at Giants|
|Jun 29 - July 1||at Dodgers|
|Strained L Oblique||Mar. 26|
|R elbow surgery||Mar. 12|
|Warts L Mid Finger||Mar. 26|
|L oblique strain||May 28|
|Jun 1 - 3||at Rockies|
|Jun 5 - 7||at Pirates|
|Jun 8 - 10||Braves|
|Jun 12 - 13||Rangers|
|Jun 15 - 17||Giants|
|Jun 18 - 20||at Cubs|
|Jun 22 - 24||at Mets|
|Jun 25 - 28||vs. Cubs|
|Jun 29 - Ju;y 1||Rockies|
|Blisters left hand||May 20|
|60-day R Shoulder||March 28|
|anterior capsule strain|
|Right hip strain||May 30|
|Left groin strain||May 3|
|Right UCL sprain||May 12|
|L Shoulder Surgery||Feb. 23|
|Left thumb sprain||May 30|
|Jun 1 - 3||Reds|
|Jun 4 - 6||Braves|
|Jun 8 -10||at Marlins|
|Jun 11 - 13||at Cardinals|
|Jun 14 - 17||at Braves|
|Jun 19 - 20||vs. A's|
|Jun 21 - 24||at Giants|
|Jun 25 - 27||at Rangers|
|Jun 29 - July 1||vs. Pirates|
|Right forearm strain||May 28|
|Left elbow surgery||March 28|
|R elbow tendinitis||May 1|
|60-day R elbow operation||March 28|
|Right hip strain||May 15|
|Right lat strain||May 13|
|Strained left oblique||April 29|
|Jun 1 - 3||Phillies|
|Jun 4 - 6||D-Backs|
|Jun 8 - 10||at Nationals|
|Jun 11 - 14||at Marlins|
|Jun 15 - 17||at Dodgers|
|Jun 18 - 20||Marlins|
|Jun 21 - 24||Padres|
|Jun 26 - 28||Rockies|
|Jun 29 - July1||at D-backs|
|Fractured left hand||March 28|
|60-day R elbow sprain||April 29|
|Strained UCL R elbow||March 28|
|Left hamstring strain||May 13|
|Right elbow strain||March 28|
|Sprained left thumb||April 28|
|Sprained right thumb||April 19|
|R shoulder tightness||May 30|
|R elbow inflammation||May 19|