As we head into the second half of the season, time to look at how the five teams in the NL West stack up. I did so at the start of June, when the D-backs were clinging to a half-game lead over the Giants. Those two teams have swapped spots, and the Dodgers have dropped to fourth, behind the Rockies. While the Rockies could make one of their usual patented second-half runs, it looks like the Giants currently remain favorites to take the NL West, with the Diamondbacks hanging on in the rear-view mirror. With the next milestone in the season the trade deadline at the end of July, we look at where the five franchises stand before the war recommences.
[Pre-season projection is the average of CAIRO and BP. WAR from Fangraphs. Playoff odds by CoolStandings.com]
Pre-season projection: 72 wins. Pace: 86 wins
Since last time: 19-18
Playoff Odds: 36.0%
MVP/CY: Justin Upton (3.2 WAR), Daniel Hudson (3.3)
Batting WAR: 17.9. Pitching WAR: 8.9. Total: 26.8.
DL: Geoff Blum (IF), Juan Gutierrez (RHRP), J.J. Putz (RHRP)
Arizona's hot streak that carried them to an unexpected first place didn't sustain itself through June, but the overachieving D-backs are still only three back. The schedule helps them the rest of the way, as 40% of their remaining games (28 of 70) are against either the Padres or Dodgers. The bullpen hasn't been a lights-out as earlier, but Arizona are still 36-4 in games where they lead after six, which is about 100 points better than the NL average record in such games. 1B is still an obvious weak spot offensively, so the team may look to upgrade that toward the trade deadline, and they have some room to take additional salary on board - a rental, that won't require significant prospects in return, seems most likey. Adding another pitcher to bolster the back of the rotation is another possibility. Buyers or sellers: Buyers, in cash.
Pre-season projection: 83 wins. Pace: 77 wins
Since last time: 18-19
Playoff Odds: 8.8%
MVP/CY: Troy Tulowitzki (3.6), Ubaldo Jimenez (2.2)
Batting WAR: 12.5. Pitching WAR: 9.0. Total: 21.5.
DL: Charlie Blackmon (OF), Jorge De La Rosa (LHSP), Esmil Rogers (RHSP)
As last year, the main problem has been the Rockies' inability to score runs on the road. They are averaging over two runs per game less, when they play away from Coors, and are hitting a feeble .229 out of state. Hmm, maybe I need to blow that dust off that dormant "humidor" article. Since last time, they have got Carlos Gonzalez back into credible form, and were fortunate his wrist injury was not a lot more serious. As Jeff Aberle pointed out, they have wasted a lot of good pitching performances, going 24-14 when their pitching staff has held the opposition to three runs or less. As a yardstick, the Diamondbacks are 30-5 in such contests. First couple of weeks could push them into sell mode. Buyers or sellers: listening to both.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Pre-season projection: 84.5 wins. Pace: 72 wins
Since last time: 15-21
Playoff Odds: 2.8%
MVP/CY: Matt Kemp (4.4), Clayton Kershaw (3.9)
Batting WAR: 12.0. Pitching WAR: 8.8. Total: 20.8.
DL: Rod Barajas (C), Casey Blake (IF), Jonathan Broxton (RHRP), Jon Garland (RHSP), Vincente Padilla (RHRP)
Right now, the Dodgers quite probably have the National League MVP in Kemp, and the division Cy Young in Kershaw... And are still battling the Padres for last, which just goes to show how sucky the rest of the team is, with very few exceptions. Between them, the two stars and Andre Ethier have been worth 10.9 WAR; every other player on the LA roster has combined, for 9.9 WAR. The current 90-loss pace has been exceeded only twice since the team left Brooklyn, and 2005's 91-loss total wouldn't require much additional suckage. They just picked up Juan Rivera from Toronto, and will have to pay him over $2.2 million the rest of the way; seems like an odd move for a team so far out to add payroll? Buyers or sellers: Make an offer.
San Diego Padres
Pre-season projection: 81 wins. Pace: 70 wins
Since last time: 16-21
Playoff Odds: 1.4%
MVP/CY: Cameron Maybin (2.3), Tim Stauffer (1.8)
Batting WAR: 8.5. Pitching WAR: 8.7. Total: 17.2.
DL: Mike Baxter (OF), Brad Hawpe (OF), Nick Hundley (C), Clayton Richard (LHSP), Joe Thatcher (LHRP)
The Padres briefly climbed out of the cellar at the end of June, but finished the first half by getting swept in LA, scoring one run in the series, and are back in last. Their pitching and Petco will keep them in games; they have a collective 3.24 ERA at the break, Taco Bell would save a lot of money if they switched to the Padres: they have reached six runs only once in the last 28 contests, ending in a ten-game road-trip where they were held to one run or less seven times. They'll need to do rather better in the second-half, if they're going to avoid dropping back into last place. Relievers Heath Bell and Mike Adams will likely draw interest at the trade deadline, but Ryan Ludwick and Aaron Harang could go too. Buyers or sellers: everything must go!
San Francisco Giants
Pre-season projection: 89 wins. Pace: 92 wins
Since last time: 23-15
Playoff Odds: 58.1%
MVP/CY: Pablo Sandoval (2.5), Tim Lincecum (3.3)
Batting WAR: 10.7. Pitching WAR: 15.3. Total: 26.0.
DL: Mark DeRosa (IF), Bill Hall (IF), Buster Posey (C), Freddy Sanchez (IF), Jonathan Sanchez (LHSP)
For all the weeping and wailing from some quarters about Posey, you couldn't tell from the standings or offensive numbers that There Will Never Be A Perfect Storm Like This Again!!! The Giants won at a.562 clip before losing him, .568 since - they scored 3.54 runs/game to that point, compared to 3.68 after it. They haven't been more than half a game out of first for over two months; it's the pitching, of course, which has helped give them a 25-12 record in one-run games. That's probably not sustainable, but those wins are in the bank. The return of Sandoval, who has batted .295 since coming back mid-June, has helped a lot. If he can keep that up, they'll not be far from the front. Buyers or sellers: Got any bats?