NL West Recap: First Two Weeks Of 2015

We’re officially two weeks into the 2015 MLB season, and while it’s still way too early to award any divisions titles, it’s definitely not too early to break down what we’ve seen so far.

The NL West is a division that could easily turn out to be the most competitive in baseball and judging by the first 12 games or so, it’s safe to say that possibility is alive and well.

So how exactly has each team fared so far?

Note: All stats are as of April 20, 2015.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers currently find themselves in first place in the division and riding a seven-game win streak that includes sweeps of the hard-hitting Seattle Mariners and the even harder-hitting Colorado Rockies, with the former featuring two nail-biting comebacks capped off by walk-off singles.

To what can they attribute their early-season success? Well, for starters, they’re hitting the cover off the ball. The Dodgers currently lead the NL in home runs (17), team batting average (.288), and runs (63), and are second in the league in hits (117).

Speaking of hitting, how about that Adrian Gonzalez? His 23 hits though his first 10 games were the most ever by a Dodger, and he put together an amazing stretch of 11 consecutive games in which he reached base at least twice. He currently leads all of baseball with a .469 average.

And remember that Dodger bullpen that looked to be a huge question mark? That very same bullpen currently has the second-best ERA in the NL at 2.17. Combine that with the early success of youngsters like Yimi Garcia and Pedro Baez and the fact that the entire relief core has yet to surrender a home run, and there’s hope for Dodger fans that the bullpen woes could be coming to an end.

Still, it hasn’t been all good news for the Dodgers. It looks like they may be forced to send right fielder Yasiel Puig to the DL with a hamstring injury right when he appeared to be busting out of an early-season slump.

Also, the rotation is still noticeably affected by the absence of Hyun-Jin Ryu, who remains sidelined with a shoulder injury. It remains to be seen whether or not new additions Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson can perform consistently.

To top it all off, the Dodgers rotation is tied with the Phillies for the most home runs allowed with 14.

San Diego Padres

The Padres dropped their first series of the year to the Dodgers, and then took it out on the Giants, D-backs, and Cubs. All of that has added up to an 8-5 record, putting the Padres in second in the NL West.

New Padres GM, AJ Preller, made a huge splash this offseason with the additions of (deep breath) Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Will Myers, James Shields, Derek Norris and Will Middlebrooks. If you thought he was done just because the regular season is under way, think again.

Preller once again shook the baseball world by acquiring elite closer Craig Kimbrel from the Atlanta Braves, bolstering an already strong bullpen with one of the best arms in the game. Not only that, but the rotation, lead by newly acquired James Shields, has posted a 2.57 ERA through its first 12 games, the second best in the NL, and leads the NL with 82 strikeouts.

What about offense? The new guys are getting it done there, too.  The top four RBI men for the Padres so far this year: Matt Kemp (9), Will Middlebrooks (9), Justin Upton (8) and Will Myers (7).

Still, the offense is far from perfect.

One thing the Padres are already doing that many expected them to do this year is strike out … a lot! The Padres’ 104 whiffs are the third worst in the NL. Not only that, but their 30 walks are the fourth-lowest total in the league.

And then there’s the defense. Or rather, there’s a lack of defense. The Padres have 12 errors as a team, the second highest mark in the majors.

Colorado Rockies

Despite being swept out of Dodger Stadium this past weekend, the Rockies are 6-3 on the road this year. That may not sound like much, but considering how much this team has struggled to win on the road in recent years, that’s a VERY encouraging statistic.

Thanks to that mark, the Rockies are 7-5 and sitting in third, just 2 games behind the Dodgers.

It should go without saying, but the Rockies can hit, and they hit hard. Their team OPS of .744 is second only to the Dodgers in the NL, as are their 32 doubles. And if you’re thinking “Well that’s Coors Field for you,” then you are wrong. Again, most of the Rockies games so far have been on the road.

And yet it could still be the same old story for the Rox in 2015.

The pitching just doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. The rotation has been underwhelming to start the year, pitching to a 3.76 ERA (7th in the NL) and a 1.55 WHIP (Last in the NL). Bottom line, the Rockies have an average rotation at best, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better anytime soon.

The bullpen has been a bit better, posting the third-best WHIP in the NL at 0.97 and the sixth-best ERA at 2.83. Still, with the way the rotation has looked, it’s hard to believe that the bullpen will be able to keep up its limited success when it inevitably will be called on more often as the season wears on.

And even though it’s still VERY early in the season, this is worth noting: Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki are healthy, and that’s very good news for Rockies fans. As for how long they can stay that way, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Arizona Diamondbacks

It’s been a solid first two weeks for the D’backs. Their 7-5 record puts them just 2.5 games off the pace in the division, and to this point all of their success has come against division rivals.

Lead by All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, the D’backs offense has rattled off 60 runs so far this young season, second in the NL behind the division rival Dodgers.

Speaking of the Dodgers, five of those runs came off of the 2014 NL MVP, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. The D’Backs touched up the three-time Cy Young Award-winner for 10 hits in his April 11th start at Chase Field.

So what’s the secret to the D’backs offensive success? Well, for starters, they’re getting on base to the tune of a .318 OBP (3rd best in the NL).

And while Goldschimdt may be the big name in the lineup, he’s certainly not doing it on his own. Rookie 3B Jake Lamb has been off to a blistering start, with a slash line of .414/.514/.690, and CF AJ Pollock has done an excellent job of getting on base (.431 OBP) and scoring runs (11, which is 2nd on the team).

Trouble is, the pitching has been as ineffective as the offense has been effective. D’Backs pitchers have allowed a .273 BA, the second worst in the NL ahead of only the Milwaukee Brewers. The rotation has been particularly bad, allowing a .292 BA and a 1.44 WHIP.

For many, the D’backs came into the season as the long shot in the NL West. And if they can’t improve their pitching, it looks like their fortunes aren’t going to change much.

One more note: The offense could get a boost from the recent call up of Cuban third baseman Yasmani Tomas.

San Francisco Giants

You can say it’s because it’s an odd-numbered year. You can say that it’s too early to make assumptions. You can say that they’re going to turn it around.

None of that changes the fact that the San Francisco Giants are off to an absolutely abysmal start in 2015.

After starting the season 3-1, the defending World Series champs went on to drop 9 of their next 10 games, including an 8-game losing streak.

They currently sit at 4-10, 4.5 games out of first.  And when you start looking at the numbers, it’s pretty easy to see how it all happened.

To put it simply, nothing is going right for the Giants.

The rotation is still without Matt Cain, who suffered yet another setback after being put on the 15-day DL for a flexor tendon strain. What was supposed to be a two-week recovery may now be extended indefinitely.

And if that’s not enough, they’ve now lost Jake Peavy to a back strain.

It’s not like the rotation has even been keeping its head above water despite these injuries. Collectively, Giants starters have allowed 42 runs, the second worst mark in the NL and the fourth worst in baseball. The bullpen hasn’t been much better, allowing 20 runs of their own (second worst in the NL).

But let’s not put all the blame on the pitchers. The Giants are averaging just 2.64 runs per game, the third worst mark in the senior circuit. As a group, they’re hitting just .233 and managing just a .299 OBP.

On the other hand, this is the same Giants team that has won 3 of the last 5 World Series. And, once again, it’s very early in the season. There’s plenty of time to turn things around and get back into a top spot in the NL West.

Still, the Giants are digging themselves a pretty big hole, and if something doesn’t change soon, they’re going to find out just how deep it goes.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply