The National League West truly is the wild west.
We're now past the halfway point of the season for most teams and every NL West ballclub is within three games of first place. The Dodgers had been mocked relentlessly by many amidst their early season struggles, but they're playing the best baseball of the five NL West teams right now and are in third place, only 2½ games out. Can it continue? Let's assess each team and its playoff chances.
The Diamondbacks have to figure out their pitching. Aside from soon-to-be All-Star Patrick Corbin, no one in the rotation has been reliable and only the Cubs have blown more saves. If solutions on the hill are found, the D-Backs have a good shot at winning the division.
The Rockies need starters behind Jorge De La Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin and Tyler Chatwood. They also desperately need Troy Tulowitzki back -- and for him to stay healthy. Still, my feeling is that there has been some overachievement from Michael Cuddyer and the three aforementioned starting pitchers -- not to mention the Rockies have been pretty bad (28-39) since a blazing 13-4 start. I don't like the Rockies' playoff chances at this point.
Are the Padres the team that started 5-15, the one that went on a 31-19 run after that or the one that has gone 4-10 since? They'll get healthier, but the inconsistency -- both offensively and in the starting rotation -- wouldn't leave me confident in a playoff run.
It's hard to know what to make of the Giants. They are in such a bad way right now, but they have close to the same team that won the World Series last year. Losing Angel Pagan hurt, but if Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong -- once he returns from injury -- start pitching more like they have in the past, the offense could be good enough to get this team back to October. But, man, they just don't seem right.
And that brings us to the Dodgers. They have tons of high-priced talent, are getting healthier (Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Zack Greinke, etc.), have stopped using Brandon League to close games and have a brand new sparkplug in Yasiel Puig. They'll be active in shoring up holes at the trade deadline, too. Amazingly, if I had to predict an NL West champion right now, I'm going with this team -- one that was 12 games under .500 on June 21.
The thing is, I could be completely wrong on all this. The Dodgers could finish last with the Rockies winning the division. The Padres could win it with the defending champions bringing up the caboose. Or anything in between. It's a wide-open field and it's going to be an incredibly fun race. Hopefully all five teams stay together in one giant amoeba into late September. Can we even imagine how intense a five-team race would be in the last week or two of the regular season? Insanity. The fun kind, at least.
Please feel free to contact me with comments either on Twitter (@MattSnyder27) or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. These were posted the morning of Wed., July 3. Any action coming after posting wasn't included here -- a fact that seems to escape many people later in the week.