The Wild Wild NL West.
September is officially here. Football has started, the weather is still blistering hot, the political campaign ads are on and the MLB playoff race has begun. There are few divisions in the MLB that have been as unpredictable as the National League West. First place has been a constant revolving door since July 30, with the Rockies, Dodgers and Diamondbacks seeming to switch spots daily.
Nobody saw this coming. Significant sports outlets such as Bleacher Report predicted that last year’s NL champion Los Angeles Dodgers would easily run away the division with an eight-game lead and ESPN predicted, with a unanimous decision, that they would win as well.
They were both wrong. What the seemed to forget was last year’s NL wildcard teams: The Rockies and the Diamondbacks. Out of both teams, the Rockies surprised me the most. They seem to be the team that every TV network and newspaper seems to forget. With players such as Nolan Arenado (you know, that third baseman that everyone forgets about?), Trevor Story and Charlie Blackman they can surely hit. Pitching is a problem for the Rockies though averaging a mediocre 4.31 ERA which ranks them 13th in the National league and 22nd in the entire MLB.
Now, take those stats with a grain of salt. The Rockies do play at Coors Field which is a notoriously known “hitter’s park.” This works both ways for the Rockies. They can hit, and when they hit, they are deadly. Trevor Story has a total of 31 home runs and is leading the team with a .297 batting average. Not to mention, Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackman are right behind Story with a .297 average (Arenado) and a .282 average (Blackman.)
The Rockies may be in first (as of writing this), but I would not forget about the Diamondbacks. Led by six-time all-star Paul Goldschmidt and a pitching staff that has been consistent throughout the entire season, the Diamondbacks are liable to get hot at any moment. Even though their team average is mediocre (.238, 27th in the league) their bullpen and starting pitchers have been the saving grace for the team. Led by Zach Greinke, Patrick Corbin and Zach Godley, the Diamondbacks will be contenders for first place at the end of the season. With a division this close, two games can feel more like five in the position where the Diamondbacks are. They must hope that the Rockies and the Dodgers both lose while they continue to win.
Personally, I’d rather see the Dodgers not make the playoffs (as a Cubs fan I can be quite biased), but they do have an excellent chance. They have been the buyers of this season adding 3B Manny Machado and picking up OF Matt Kemp in the offseason. The biggest problem with this team is the constant threat of injuries. Starter Ross Stripling has no definite timetable to return, reliever Erik Goddel is finished for the season and Kenley Jansen will not play in a crucial series in Colorado on Friday and Saturday but their hitting has been consistent with Manny Machado, Max Muncy and Matt Kemp highlighting this lineup. Their hitting will help them this weekend when they play the Rockies for first place. It will be important for Dodgers to at least take two out of three and take control of first place. After they play Colorado, they have an easy series against the struggling Cincinnati Reds where they should be able to sweep. The Rockies on the other side have to play the Diamondbacks right after in a four-game series.
To be honest, I have a better chance of predicting the weather for the entire month of November than picking a real winner for the west at this moment in time. Based on prior experience and the last two years, I would have to choose the Dodgers to at least be in first by the end of next week.