Fierce competition exists in the National League West in 2017. Three teams, separated by less than three games, are fighting for their place atop the division standings by the time the postseason rolls around. The possibility of three teams, from this division, reaching the playoffs is very real. The west is not all peaches and cream. This division, however, has still been the most exciting thus far.
The Colorado Rockies look like a legitimate division championship team.
For the past seven seasons, the Colorado Rockies have been nothing short of irrelevant in the baseball world. The Rockies’ performance in 2017 has been a completely different story, thus far. This team is playing at a high level. Their growing momentum is convincing people of their legitimate shot at winning the National League West.
The Rockies’ offensive production is not surprising. This team is consistently productive at the plate. The 2017 season is nothing less. Several key contributors provide stability for the Colorado lineup.
Most notably, Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon quickly became a force in the National League. Blackmon currently boasts a .325 batting average (90 hits on 277 plate appearances). He also boasts 15 home runs and 53 runs batted in. A very good defender, as well, Blackmon stamped his case for National League first-half MVP honors with his outstanding performance on the field and his leadership in the dugout.
Blackmon is not the only one carrying this lineup. First baseman Mark Reynolds is having a career resurgence in 2017. Third baseman Nolan Arenado is putting together another all-star caliber season. Second baseman D.J LeMahieu has been a steady force at the plate. Colorado’s signing of versatile infielder/outfielder Ian Desmond has proven to be a stroke of genius.
Two other elements to the Colorado Rockies are the most impressive. First, the Rockies play very good baseball away from Coors Field. Notoriously known as a disaster on the road, Colorado turned their misfortune around this season. They boast one of the best road records in Major League Baseball, thus far.
Finally, the pitching staff has been stellar. The Rockies rank eighth in Major League Baseball, in overall team ERA, at 4.03. The young starting rotation is proving their worth, especially on the road. Colorado currently leads baseball in converted saves. The bullpen has been consistent; led by the returning closer Greg Holland. Holland found his past form which made him masterful in Kansas City for several years. He currently leads MLB with 23 saves and a perfect conversion percentage.
The Rockies currently sit atop the National League West with a 42-26 record (.5 games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers). If this franchise can bring in an experienced postseason pitcher by the trade deadline, their chances of making noise in October will be much greater.
Year two of the “Dave Roberts Era” is going well for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were projected to win the National League West in 2017. The Dodgers are perfectly capable of achieving this goal, once again. That said, they have to be surprised at how difficult it could end up being.
Manager Dave Roberts has done an excellent job of reconstructing the roster, with the help of the front office, without the need for a complete rebuild. The young talent is showing off their skills on a daily and nightly basis. At the plate, on the mound, and in the outfield, the Dodgers display talent that ranks among the best in Major League Baseball.
The pitching staff currently leads MLB with an overall 3.39 team ERA. The Los Angeles bullpen transformed from leaky to concrete over the last four seasons. Closer Kenley Jansen is competing with Colorado’s Greg Holland for the title of “best closer in the west.” Jansen boasts a 0.98 ERA, a perfect save conversion percentage (13 for 13), and 45 strikeouts in 27.2 innings pitched with zero walks allowed. He is currently a must-see reliever.
The starting rotation gets the job done. Starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw consistently leads the rotation with his stellar regular season performances. 2017 is nothing different as Kershaw leads the National League with nine wins in his first 14 starts. He also boasts a 2.23 ERA over 97 innings pitched, thus far. His 105 strikeouts, opposing batting average of .206 and 0.92 WHIP are among the best in the league. Needless to say, Kershaw is likely on his way to another Cy Young Award in 2017.
The Dodger lineup seems to have a new unsung hero each game. Young shortstop Corey Seager quickly became one of the best at his position, at the plate. At age 23, Seager currently leads the team with 68 total hits (.285 batting average) and 17 doubles. Young outfielder Cody Bellinger leads with 18 home runs and 44 RBI. Bellinger is 21 years old. Third baseman Justin Turner recently returned from injury. Turner’s presence in the lineup refines the stability of the offense as he’s become one of the Dodgers’ most critical position players.
The race to the National League West’s finish line is not going to be easy for the Los Angeles Dodgers. That said, the Dodgers are certainly talented enough to clinch the division for the fifth consecutive season.
The Arizona Diamondbacks completely flipped the script this season.
The Arizona Diamondbacks had a disastrous 2016 regular season. The Diamondbacks completely turned their misfortunes around this season. Arizona’s struggles at home, last year, are now a thing of the past. The D-Backs currently boast the best home record in baseball (26-9). The baseball fans in Phoenix have a reason to cheer, once again.
Offensively, the D-Backs are among the National League’s most formidable units. Arizona ranks fifth in baseball in team batting average (.264). They rank third in the NL in runs batted in, as a team (327). They rank fifth in team home runs (90). Finally, they rank third in team stolen bases (56). This lineup has the contact ability, power and speed on the base paths to be consistently dangerous.
First baseman Paul Goldschmidt is having an MVP-caliber regular season. Goldschmidt is the catalyst for the Arizona lineup. His 76 total hits, 17 doubles and .323 batting average lead the team. He also boasts 15 home runs and 53 RBI to go along with a team-leading 13 stolen bases. This man can do it all.
The Arizona pitching staff turned the corner from their underwhelming 2016 season. Starting pitcher Zack Greinke is having a strong second season with the D-Backs. Greinke leads the staff with eight win as he anchors this young rotation with his veteran experience. He boasts a 3.00 ERA through 90 innings pitched, 104 strikeouts and an opposing batting average of .222 and WHIP of 1.03.
Greinke’s statistics do not immediately jump out as overpowering. His consistency still provides the necessary spark for the rest of the starting pitchers. Fellow starters Robbie Ray and Taijuan Walker followed in the veteran’s footsteps. Both Ray and Walker are having strong seasons of their own.
The Arizona bullpen is shaky, at best. This unit needs to establish consistency, yet the team keeps winning. Closer Fernando Rodney’s ERA is sky high at 5.11. Rodney still converted 18 saves in 21 attempts, thus far. The fortification of this bullpen will further fortify the D-Backs as a legitimate playoff contender.
At 40-26, the Arizona Diamondbacks are showing what they are capable of. The one-year turnaround is certainly impressive.
The San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres are BEYOND terrible.
The San Francisco Giants (26-41) and San Diego Padres (27-40) are competing for fourth place in the west, at this point. The Giants’ dismal 2017 season has been a surprise, but maybe it should not have been. The Padres have been rather competitive, so far, but their expectations were very low from the start.
Injuries and age quickly caught up with San Francisco. Following the 2016 season, the warning signs should have been more obvious; turns out they were not. Starting pitchers Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Matt Moore are having disastrous second seasons with the Giants. Ace pitcher Madison Bumgarner is out of action until August, due to a motorcycle accident. The bullpen led baseball with 30 blown saves in 2016. It is not much better in 2017.
Offensively, San Francisco is terrible. The Giants rank dead last in baseball in runs batted in, as a team (232). The offense ranks 27th in team batting average (.236). Catcher Buster Posey and third baseman Eduardo Nunez are both having strong performances at the plate. They are both overshadowed by the overall horrific team performance.
Manager Bruce Bochy is in a tough spot. The franchise is on the verge of a rebuilding period. Bochy and the front office might pull the trigger and start selling off players by the trade deadline. Only time will tell.
There is very little about the Padres to be optimistic about. San Diego boasts one of the worst offenses in baseball. They are dead last in team batting average (.230). The team ranks 28th in runs batted in, as a team (238). Despite being middle of the road in home runs (80), San Diego cannot score runs.
The San Diego pitching staff is embarrassing. The worst in the division, the Padres rank 28th in team ERA (4.89). The starting rotation and bullpen boast very little consistency. In fact, Padre fans cringe every time a pitcher takes the mound for San Diego. Actually, they cringe at anyone who wears a “San Diego Padres” uniform (just being honest).
These two teams are utter disasters.
The National League West is not all peaches and cream. This division is still the most enjoyable and entertaining, so far. The Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks are poised for an interesting second half. Baseball fans should be excited for this race to the finish line.