For the past few seasons the Dodgers have had a firm hold on the NL West, with the San Francisco Giants consistently making it interesting and taking second place and a Wild Card slot, and the Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres all vying to win more than just the 83 games required to be respectable in the competitive division.
But this season the NL West picture has been a little different. The Diamondbacks and Rockies both are the current holders of Wild Card playoff berths in the National League, and the Dodgers have 13 wins more than any other team in their league as of Aug. 3, at 76-32.
Just a few years ago, it seemed the Dodgers were not in a position to win, but now, after a few years of disappointing finishes, the team is poised to make their deepest run since Kirk Gibson raised his fist.
The Dodgers lead baseball in ERA and WHIP, sit atop the National League in strikeouts and are top 5 in the NL batting average, walks, home runs, doubles, RBIs and runs scored. This team is teetering on the verge of complete dominance. Or at least they were until the consensus best pitcher in baseball Clayton Kershaw was placed on the disabled list concerning his problematic back. However, the Dodgers have slogged on.
Their pitching staff features July’s pitcher of the month in Rich Hill, who had a 1.45 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning during that span, All-Star lefty Alex Wood and of course, the gem of the trade market, the former Texas Ranger Yu Darvish. The Dodgers have the best starting rotation in baseball sans injuries, and even without Kershaw cannot be stopped.
But their opponents, the Diamondbacks and Rockies, both with new managers, are sprinting towards October as well.
The Rockies had a sort of breakout offensively last season with big years from outfielders Charlie Blackmon and Carlos Gonzalez, a batting title for second basemen D.J. LeMahieu and another 40-homer season from SoCal native Nolan Arenado. But now a bad season by CarGo has led to increased playing time for veterans Ian Desmond, Gerardo Parra and Mark Reynolds, who have helped the team to lead the division in runs, RBIs and batting average. But pitching still has been their tether, as it was in 2016.
While last season the team had an ERA of 5.08 before the All-Star break, as of June 3, their collective ERA was down to 4.28. However since that point this season, struggles from young pitchers Jeff Hoffman and Antonio Senzatela have caused their shiny sub-4.50 ERA to jump to 4.68, which is last in the West.
While they didn’t go out of their way to make any moves at the July trade deadline, they may look to add a bullpen arm before the August waivers– trade deadline comes and goes.
For the Diamondbacks, a solid combination of hitting, speed and good pitching have led them to a 62-46 record as of Aug. 3, only a half a game ahead of the Rockies. On June 3, the Diamondbacks boasted a 21-8 record at home and have been able to propel that record all the way to 36-18 as of Aug. 3. Helped tremendously by rebound seasons from starters Zach Greinke and Robbie Ray, and a new look Zach Godley, the D-backs have a 3.53 team ERA, second only to the Dodgers in all of baseball.
Last season, the team finished in the top 3 in stolen bases and batting average in the NL, first in triples, and second only to the Rockies in hits. This season, the speed is still there even with the loss of 20/20 threat Jean Segura, as they lead their division in triples and in steals, but some power has also started to come.
Strong campaigns from Paul Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb and David Peralta have boosted their team to be in the top 3 in the NL in walks and RBIs and to lead the West in doubles. At the deadline, the Diamondbacks acquired bullpen arm David Hernandez from the Angels to bolster their already dominant pitching, but most significantly only a few days before, the D-backs parted ways with a group of middling prospects for a few months of All-Star outfielder J.D. Martinez.
Martinez, acquired from the Detroit Tigers, is a powerful right-handed bat that should continue to reap the benefits of facing National League pitching and playing home games in a hitters haven in Chase Field. The team’s newest outfielder has hit .281 with 21 homers this season between the Tigers and the Diamondbacks, and looks to add another formidable weapon to a talented run-scoring lineup.